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A Look at the Revised Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework & Performance Standards

head startA Look at the Revised Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework & Performance Standards

By: Nefertiti Bruce Poyner, DCRC National Trainer

Earlier this summer, the Office of Head Start released the newly revised Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five (HSELOF). This resource is designed to replace the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework for 3-5 year olds. This new framework is grounded in the latest child development research and represents the continuum of learning for children ages birth through 5 years. Also taking place early this summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed the first holistic revision and complete reorganization of the Head Start Program Performance Standards which were originally published in 1975. Following are highlights from these changes that may be of interest to programs using the Devereux Center for Resilient Children resources.


One of the major changes to the framework is that it now reflects a continuum of learning from birth to five years. Infant and toddler developmental progression is described across three age groups: birth to nine months; eight to eighteen months; and sixteen to thirty-six months. Preschoolers’ developmental progression is described across two age groups: thirty-six to forty-eight months and forty-eight to sixty months. Planning for children from birth through five years of age is critical, considering that almost 50 percent of Head Start programs now operate both Early Head Start and Head Start Programs. The framework is divided into five Central Domains; Approaches to Learning, Social and Emotional Development, Language and Literacy, Cognition, and Perceptual, Motor and Physical Development. Programs are encouraged to use the framework to help guide the selection of curricula, assessments and activities carried out with children.

DCRC resources are appropriate companions to the implementation of the framework and can help programs identify children’s strengths and support learning goals. While the newly revised framework outlines goals specifically for social andemotional development, if one were to read through the entire framework, it will become evident that social and emotional development is present throughout each domain. This is consistent with the mission and approach of DCRC to integrate social and emotional development throughout the day and we are excited to see such a strong presence of social and emotional development throughout the framework.


The need to ensure that children are school-ready is one of the main driving factors behind the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to revamp the Head Start Performance Standards. Complete details of the changes are too numerous to outline in this article, however, we would like to highlight the four main goals of the proposed regulation:

  1. Ensure higher standards for curriculum, staff development, and program duration, based on research and effective practice;
  2. Improve clarity and transparency to support better program delivery for current grantees and to focus on high quality service delivery;
  3. Reduce administrative burden to allow grantees to focus on high quality service delivery; and
  4. Maintain core Head Start principles, including strong comprehensive services, parent and family engagement, serving the neediest children, and respecting diversity.

NOTE: The Office of Head Start (OHS) is accepting comments on the NPRM. The Office of Head Start will use these comments in making decisions for a final rule. Click here for more information.

The newly revised Head Start Standards cement the need for primary prevention, partnerships with families and communities, and effective professional development. As Head Start Programs consider the changes in both the Learning Outcomes Framework and the Performance Standards, know that DCRC is taking these changes into consideration as we work to support programs in promoting the social and emotional health and resilience of children, families, and entire communities.   Our team will update the DECA Program crosswalk documents available on our website to reflect these changes and will continue to update our professional development events, highlighting how use of resilience resources can support programs in adhering to these new policies and procedures.

It’s with excitement that we join the Head Start community in fully implementing these proposed changes.iStock_000051732194_Large




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