Essential Data to Enhance Your DRS Proposal

Are you a Head Start Director looking for ways to successfully navigate the DRS process and elevate your program to the next level? Crafting an improvement plan can be difficult, but it is essential for refining best practices and achieving lasting success. A well-crafted plan will provide measurable goals, clarify expectations, identify resources, and position staff for success, all while helping maintain compliance with Head Start regulations.

There is a consensus that early childcare can have significant positive outcomes for low-income and other vulnerable children. The quality of the early childhood development center is the single most important factor impacting positive outcomes.

High-quality childcare results in better child outcomes for children. Quality childcare has small groups, a high ratio of adults to children, low staff turnover, family engagement and loving, nurturing relationships with teachers.

DRS: An Overview

The Head Start Designation Renewal System provides Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide the best services to children and families.

The DRS system has quality improvement in Head Start grantees using a wide range of improvement activities. Many HS/EHS programs dread the process. The DRS requires a systematic evaluation of your program, comprehensive improvements, and the writing of a thoughtful, well-crafted grant proposal. Yet, programs can survive, and even thrive during this process.

The DRS is often perceived as a crisis. Rahm Emanuel noted, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” The DRS can be an effective catalyst for improvement.

Let’s get started using data-driven decisions!


5 Advantage of Data Driven Decisions

Data-driven improvements and systematic evaluation can make the difference between a successful and non-successful proposal. HS/EHS programs should emphasize their commitment to program improvement throughout the grant proposal.

The assessment of difficulties, the implementation of data-driven improvement strategies, and a comprehensive discussion of improvement strategies are important.

Using data-driven decisions demonstrates your commitment to effective improvement strategies and is central to the writing of a successful DRS proposal.

1. Collect and analyze data to help you and your team focus your efforts on making changes that will lead to better outcomes.

2. Monitor progress towards goals: Regularly collecting data can help program managers track progress towards program goals.

3. Make data-based decisions: Data can provide evidence to support your improvement plans. Program leadership can make better decisions with data.

4. Allocate resources effectively: Data can help program managers understand where resources are needed most. By allocating resources to the areas where they are most needed, program managers can maximize program effectiveness.

5.Evaluate program effectiveness: Collecting and analyzing data can help program managers evaluate the effectiveness of their program.

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10 Data Sets to Include in a Successful DRS Proposal

What data should you include in your proposal?

Each program is unique, and you should use your data to highlight this. There are ten data sets that help your proposal.

1. Child Outcomes

2. CLASS scores

3. Teacher retention rates

4. Progress towards meeting program goals

5. The return on investment for your innovations – especially technology

6. Family outcomes

7. Structured observations of interactions between family workers and families

8. Behavior incident reports

9. Improvements in children’s challenging behaviors

10. Employee engagement

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Data Literacy

A key to data driven decisions is data literacy among your team. Data literacy is the ability to read, analyze, interpret, and communicate data effectively and requires understanding which data to collect, how to collect, how to analyze, communicate and make decisions about the needs and services for children and families. With data, your team can:

  • Collect, organize, and correlate data, for example is there a correlation between teacher quality and chronic absenteeism of children.
  • Analyze and interpret data. For example, do children who are dual language learners have more challenging behavior?
  • Communicate data insights visually and verbally.
  • With these abilities, your team can make better decisions based on evidence.

Data literacy is not just a technical skill; data literacy is critical thinking. Data literacy involves the ability to think critically about data and to understand its limitations and potential biases. A data literate individual questions assumptions, evaluates evidence, and make informed judgments based on data.

A data literacy coach can help you organize your data and train your staff in effective communication of data.



The DRS can serve as a catalyst for improvement. Head Start programs have adopted numerous strategies to meet and even exceed the Head Start Performance Standards. Programs are more likely to success when they emphasize data-driven improvements when crafting their proposals. Data-driven decisions are a guideline for a successful DRS proposal. Data supports your improvement initiatives and provides a way to measure and these improvements.

Dr. Cathleen Armstead, the founder and president of Sunshine Nonprofit Solutions, has over 20 years of experience with Head Start/Early Head Start programs. This experience includes successful coaching and grant proposal writing for programs undergoing DRS. Our agency is small and provides individualized services to ensure successful re-competition for your grant and proposal. I am happy to share information and strategies with an initial (free) conversation!