Head Start, created in 1965, is designed to prepare low-income preschool children for school by providing a comprehensive set of early child development services primarily through communitybased organizations. Over the last decade there have been a number of changes in Head Start's operating environment, including a decrease in the number of poor children; an increase in the number, size, and scope of other federal and state early childhood programs; and an expansion in Head Start spending and enrollment. Given this environment, GAO was asked to determine (1) what is known about the extent to which Head Start programs are underenrolled, (2) ACF regional officials' and Head Start grantees' views on what factors contribute to underenrollment, and (3) what actions ACF and grantees have taken to address underenrollment.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Health and Human Services||1. The Secretary of HHS direct ACF to take steps to ensure the accuracy of enrollment data reported in its annual nationwide survey of grantees.|
|Department of Health and Human Services||2. The Secretary of HHS direct ACF to develop a standard criterion for regional offices to use in identifying grantees whose underenrollment merits monitoring or corrective actions.|
|Department of Health and Human Services||3. The Secretary of HHS direct ACF to develop an additional measure of aggregate services other than total enrollment that takes into consideration the different levels of service provided by full-day and part-day programs.|
|Department of Health and Human Services||4. The Secretary of HHS direct ACF to work with regional offices to develop a more systematic process for them to collect reliable enrollment data during the program year so that they can address underenrollment more quickly.|