A Head Start or Early Head Start agency will be required to compete for its next five years of funding whenever the responsible HHS official determines that one or more of the following seven conditions existed during the relevant time period under §1304.15:
(1) Established program goals for improving the school readiness of children participating in its program in accordance with the requirements of section 641A(g)(2) of the Act and demonstrated that such goals:
(i) Appropriately reflect the ages of children, birth to five, participating in the program;
(ii) Align with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five, state early learning guidelines, and the requirements and expectations of the schools, to the extent that they apply to the ages of children, birth to five, participating in the program and at a minimum address the domains of language and literacy development, cognition and general knowledge, approaches toward learning, physical well-being and motor development, and social and emotional development;
(iii) Were established in consultation with the parents of children participating in the program.
(2) Taken steps to achieve the school readiness goals described under paragraph (b)(1) of this section demonstrated by:
(i) Aggregating and analyzing aggregate child-level assessment data at least three times per year (except for programs operating less than 90 days, which will be required to do so at least twice within their operating program period) and using that data in combination with other program data to determine grantees' progress toward meeting its goals, to inform parents and the community of results, and to direct continuous improvement related to curriculum, instruction, professional development, program design and other program decisions; and,
(ii) Analyzing individual ongoing, child-level assessment data for all children birth to age five participating in the program and using that data in combination with input from parents and families to determine each child's status and progress with regard to, at a minimum, language and literacy development, cognition and general knowledge, approaches toward learning, physical well-being and motor development, and social and emotional development and to individualize the experiences, instructional strategies, and services to best support each child.
(c) An agency has been determined during the relevant time period covered by the responsible HHS official's review under §1304.15:
(1) To have an average score across all classrooms observed that is below the following minimum thresholds on any of the three CLASS: Pre-K domains from the most recent CLASS: Pre-K observation:
(i) For the Emotional Support domain the competitive threshold is 5;
(ii) For the Classroom Organization domain, the competitive threshold is 5;
(iii) For the Instructional Support domain, the competitive threshold is 2.3 through July 31, 2025, and 2.5 on and after August 1, 2025.
(2) If an agency is determined to have an average score across all classrooms observed below the quality threshold on any of the three CLASS: Pre-K domains, the Office of Head Start will support the program to strengthen its coordinated approach to training and professional development as required in §1302.92(b) and (c), to help promote improvement in teaching practices and teacher-child interactions. The quality threshold for each domain is as follows:
(i) For the Emotional Support domain, the quality threshold is 6;
(ii) For the Classroom Organization domain, the quality threshold is 6;
(iii) For the Instructional Support domain, the quality threshold is 3.
(d) An agency has had a revocation of its license to operate a Head Start or Early Head Start center or program by a state or local licensing agency during the relevant time period under §1304.15, and the revocation has not been overturned or withdrawn before a competition for funding for the next five-year period is announced. A pending challenge to the license revocation or restoration of the license after correction of the violation will not affect application of this requirement after the competition for funding for the next five-year period has been announced.
(e) An agency has been suspended from the Head Start or Early Head Start program by ACF during the relevant time period covered by the responsible HHS official's review under §1304.15 and the suspension has not been overturned or withdrawn. If the agency did not have an opportunity to show cause as to why the suspension should not have been imposed or why the suspension should have been lifted if it had already been imposed under part 1304, the agency will not be required to compete based on this condition. If an agency has received an opportunity to show cause and the suspension remains in place, the condition will be implemented.
(f) An agency has been debarred from receiving federal or state funds from any federal or state department or agency or has been disqualified from the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) any time during the relevant time period covered by the responsible HHS official's review under §1304.15 but has not yet been terminated or denied refunding by ACF. (A debarred agency will only be eligible to compete for Head Start funding if it receives a waiver described in 2 CFR 180.135.)
(g) An agency meets one of two fiscal criteria, if the agency:
(1) Is at risk of failing to continue functioning as a going concern within the current project period. The final determination is made by the responsible HHS official based on a review of the findings and opinions of an audit conducted in accordance with section 647 of the Act; an audit, review or investigation by a state agency; a review by the National External Audit Review (NEAR) Center; or an audit, investigation or inspection by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General; or
(2) Has a total of two or more audit findings of material weakness or question costs associated with its Head Start funds in audit reports submitted to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse (in accordance with section 647 of the Act) for a financial period within the current project period.