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How to Prepare for a Successful Head Start Focus Area 2

Are you a Head Start Director preparing for your Focus Area 2 Federal Review? If so, you know it can be a daunting and overwhelming task. During these reviews, Head Start programs must demonstrate they are meeting the Head Start Performance Standards, making progress towards program goals and, ensuring positive outcomes for children and families.

Focus area two reviews are on-site assessments that include document reviews, classroom observations, in-depth interviews, and file audits. The Focus Area 2 review protocol is a comprehensive guide that covers six core areas essential for successful Head Start programs. These areas include program management, education and child development services, health services, family and community engagement, fiscal infrastructure, and enrollment processes.

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To ensure a successful review, we recommend starting by reviewing the monitoring protocols and watching the OHS-provided video as a team. For an even more comprehensive approach, we suggest creating scripts with specific details to practice for interviews. The review focuses on program design, management, quality education and child development, health program services, family, and community engagement, and effective ERSEA strategies and fiscal infrastructure.

Data tours are an essential part of the FA2 process. Present your data visually with bar graphs, pie charts, colorful illustrations, and infographics. This not only draws attention to program outcomes but also highlights its strengths and impact on communities. There are free resources for data visualization; several organizations specialize in nonprofit data management, while Early Intel is especially helpful for Head Start programs.

FA2 Leadership Team

Focus Area 2: Your Leadership Team and Governance

Prepare your management team for success! The upcoming FA2 evaluation will assess their ability to provide quality services, meet program goals, and deliver desired outcomes. To ensure your team is ready, involve your Fiscal Officer, Human Resources Director, and Quality Assurance team in the interview process. The governing body and Policy Council will also be interviewed separately to assess their level of involvement.

The FA2 process kicks off with an introduction to the leadership team. Have each participant introduce themselves, describing their position and years of experience, and their leadership strength in 60 seconds or less. Practice until everyone is confident and polished.

Use visually appealing graphs and infographics to demonstrate your program's success, including progress towards your five-year goals. Highlight program-wide child and family outcomes and improvements to teaching practices and family services. Describe your process for responding and tracking children’s challenging behavior. Don’t forget to include data on employee recruitment, retention, and professional development.

Make sure your governing body and Board of Directors are fluent in your program's goals and can showcase your positive outcomes. Get ready for FA2 evaluation success!

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Focus Area 2: Demonstrating Effective Early Childhood Education

The federal reviewers evaluate quality education and child development services in the second section of the focus area 2 protocol. The FA2 review concentrates on children’s school readiness, classroom interactions, effective implementation of the curriculum and teacher professional development. Interview participants should include education management, mental health consultants, educators, disabilities managers, and Human Resources.

Your program should analyze child outcomes by classrooms and centers. Additionally, child outcomes data needs to be analyzed by subgroups. Child outcomes data should be analyzed by language status and presence of a disability. Child outcomes data should also be analyzed by age, gender, and race/ethnicity.

You will also want to highlight patterns of strength and areas for improvement in teacher interactions and performance. Correlate professional development data with teacher/child interactions for a comprehensive view of teachers’ skills.

Visual aids such as bar graphs and infographics, supported with classroom practice videos, illustrate your program’s progress and impact. A great video, "Data: What Is It Good For?", was created by Teachstone to illustrate best practices in using and visualizing data.

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Focus Area 2: Discovering Health

The FA2 team will evaluate the quality of health, mental health, oral health, and nutrition services provided by the program. Additionally, they will examine the program’s classroom monitoring and safety practices.

Prepare for your health team’s interview by gathering the data and creating visual representations. Such data includes health outcomes, chronic conditions, and medical treatments. Other health data would include the percentage of children up to date on preventative care and immunizations. Chronic conditions such as asthma or anemia will be noted and compared to treatment percentages.

Finally, health and safety classroom practices and monitoring processes should be documented. Show compliance with health and safety practices by comparing data across classrooms and centers. Also, present data on compliance for specific indicators. OHS publishes multiple resources for analyzing and presenting data within the health component.


Focus Area 2: Supporting and Engaging Families

The FA2 reviewers assess family engagement strategies and monitor support systems. To ensure the success of family services, it is crucial to measure family outcomes effectively. Measuring family outcomes with bar graphs across the different domains is effective. Pie charts on the types of family services provided are significant as well.

Data on a welcoming environment is equally important, including family satisfaction surveys and center-level observations. Compliance bar graphs at the center level and specific items should also be presented. It is recommended to illustrate charts with photographs.

Providing data on family services and outcomes will enhance your success with the aligned monitoring system, as outlined in the OHS publication “Measuring What Matters.”

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Focus Area 2: Illustrating Fiscal Data and Reports

The FA2 fiscal monitoring examines how your budget is in collaboration with the governing body and the Policy Council. You should demonstrate and connect financial data to grant accomplishments. Use bar charts to illustrate your program’s return on investment and demonstrate your program’s success.

Use a pie chart to illustrate your programs investment in child and family outcomes and broader program goals. Additionally, use bar graphs to compare staff wages to community wages.

The protocol emphasizes the importance of aligning budgeting with goals and showcases the roles of the governing body and Policy Council. Use data-based evidence to support your decisions and demonstrate compliance with program and fiscal regulations. Remember, your program's success is in the numbers!


Focus Area 2: Showing Your Compliance with ERSEA

THE FA2 monitors compliance with ERSEA regulations. The FA2 review team checks the accuracy of child files for determining eligibility. Providing data from internal monitoring of child files, with compliance data analyzed is impressive.

Use data tours to effectively showcase enrollment and attendance. Average daily attendance data can highlight which areas have transportation concerns. Attendance data can also demonstrate program strengths. Classrooms with high attendance rates often have nurturing teachers.

Data on full enrollment, eligibility categories, and recruitment efforts can also be displayed in a data tour.

FA2 - Preparation is Key!

Participating in the Head Start Focus Area 2 review can be a daunting task. Being prepared is the best way to ensure success. First, understand and practice for the in-depth interviews. Second, present your data in visually appealing data tours.

Sunshine Nonprofit Solutions team has an excellent track record when it comes to helping organizations prepare for their review

If you are still overwhelmed by all of this or need any help at all, don't hesitate to call Sunshine Nonprofit Solutions! We provide training and have insightful tips on preparing a successful accreditation occurrence. As you set out on this journey, may success follow close behind you!

Focus Area  2 Success

Dr. Cathleen Armstead, the founder and president of Sunshine Nonprofit Solutions, has over 20 years of experience with successful Federal Reviews. I have coached clients for their own success in both Focus Area 1 and Focus Area 2 reviews. I am happy to share information and strategies with an initial (free) conversation!