Last week, U.S. Judge Collen Kollar-Kotelly–whose name is the apex of alliteration, and who is also presiding over the case against D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray–upheld the Head Start Renewal Designation System. The plaintiffs in the case against the Department of Health and Human Services had argued that the “single-deficiency trigger” “(1) is impermissibly retroactive; (2) deprives Plaintiffs of protected property and liberty interests without due process; and (3) is arbitrary and capricious.” Judge Kollar-Kotelly upheld the system against all of these claims.
Head Start redesignation basically causes a brouhaha whenever it’s discussed. The original groundwork for this was actually laid during President Bush’s time in office–as HuffPo reported, the Improving Head Start for Kindergarten Readiness Act called for HHS to write rules for offering the grants of low-performing grantees through a competitive process. The Obama Administration has done so, but there’s been a lot of concern from a number of voices: centers are worried about losing their grants, parents are scared of losing services at a center they’re familiar with, and those of us in the data world worry that the grants may be jeopardized due to infractions that may not actually affect program quality.
In the end, this debate boils down to the big question of “how do we measure success?” which constantly throws its shadow over the field of early childhood education. There’s also the follow-up question of “what do we do when we don’t see success?”
You can read more about this ruling in NIEER’s e-news (and subscribe, if you haven’t already. We’ve got some good stuff in there!) and in a blog post from the New America Foundation. New America has had great coverage throughout the recompetition process, if you’re looking for more background.