Community Assessment

Incorporate the Community Assessment Process into the Program's Ongoing Planning

a toddler girl smiles over adult's shoulder

Program planning is an active and dynamic process, and the community assessment is an essential data source for that process. Effective Head Start programs engage in a cyclical planning process. As the graphic of the program planning cycle shows programs use the five-year and annual planning process to develop, monitor, and evaluate the effectiveness of program, school readiness, and training and technical assistance plans.
The community assessment process requires programs to:

  • Gather internal and external data about the needs of the children, families, and communities in the service area
  • Analyze and interpret the data
  • Make decisions based upon the data
  • Establish strategic goals and measurable objectives

Program planning is informed by goals, which are based on information gathered during the community assessment process. These long-term goals set the course for continuous improvement and innovation. On an annual basis, programs review progress toward their goals to ensure they are effectively meeting the needs of children, families, and their community throughout the five-year project period. Each year, the program planning team uses its planning process to affirm goals set in the first year. The team may also use its annual planning process to set new goals as needed in response to incoming data that reflects an emerging child, family, or community need.

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Check out the appendices for a wealth of information, worksheets, tools, and other resources to help you implement your community assessment. Remember, a community assessment is not a one-time event in the life of your program but part of your annual planning cycle and continuous improvement process.