Program Planning

Foundations for Excellence: A Guide for Five-Year Planning and Continuous Improvement, 2nd Edition

Foundations for Excellence: A Guide for Five-Year Planning and Continuous Improvement, 2nd Edition, highlights how sound planning practices support effective Head Start programs. In Head Start, the planning system is an essential part of program operations. Use this comprehensive guide to learn what Head Start expects from programs’ strategic planning. Explore a range of planning topics to support programs’ successful completion of the Head Start grant application. Discover ways to ensure that programming is responsive to community needs throughout the five-year grant period.

Select the links below to read the book version of Foundations for Excellence or to download the topics of most interest to you. You can also download the entire guide.

Foundations for Excellence: Electronic Edition

Access the fully responsive electronic edition of Foundations for Excellence from your desktop or mobile device. Use it to link to regulations and training resources. Download and share fillable templates and tools. 

Topic 1

Nuts and Bolts of Strategic Planning explores key elements in program planning. Learn more about the importance of program goals, objectives, outcomes, and action plans in improving child and family outcomes.

Topic 2

Five-Year Planning in Head Start explains the distinction between "plans" and "planning," and their significance in strategic planning. Learn about the different kinds of plans involved in Head Start’s comprehensive planning process. Find tips for establishing strategic long-term goals.

Topic 3

Achieving Program Goals That Support Child and Family Outcomes breaks down the process for setting goals and objectives related to child and family outcomes. Discover the importance of keeping goals alive. Learn how program goals, including school readiness goals, intersect to ensure comprehensive, high-quality services that are culturally and linguistically responsive. Find tips and examples that model how to track progress toward achieving family outcomes.

Topic 4

Pulling It All Together: Program Examples includes four program scenarios, including one for health services, that further clarify the Head Start planning process. Each scenario shows how programs integrate goals, objectives, expected outcomes, and action plans into the planning process. Review samples of strategic goals and measurable objectives, and learn how each connects to a program’s action plan. The scenarios include sample data tools and methods for tracking progress.


Each appendix offers more insight on data-informed decision-making in Head Start. Explore training strategies on using this resource, a glossary of program planning terms, and sample tools and templates.

Topic:Program Planning

Keywords:Program management

Resource Type: Article

Audience: Directors and Managers

Last Updated: October 3, 2019