School Readiness

Children outdoors with teacher examing vegetables.

The Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) (45 CFR §1302.102(a) and 45 CFR §1304.11(b)) require all programs, including those that serve infants and toddlers, to develop school readiness goals. These goals describe the program’s expectations for children’s status and progress across the five central domains of the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF) that will improve children’s readiness for kindergarten: approaches to learning, social and emotional development, language and literacy, cognition, and perceptual, motor, and physical development. Programs should develop school readiness goals in consultation with children’s families and align the goals with the ELOF, state early learning guidelines, and expectations of local education agencies to the extent they apply to infants and toddlers (as well as preschool children).

A defining feature of these school readiness goals is that they are developed at the program level and address all children who participate in the program. They are also unlikely to change over time. At the individual child level, teachers, home visitors, and family child care providers may develop goals for each child that link to the program’s school readiness goals. These individual goals come from a variety of sources, such as input from families, staff knowledge of child development, Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) for children with identified disabilities, and information from ongoing child assessments that determine children’s progress in acquiring skills and concepts. Individual child goals inform ongoing individualized care and are likely to change often to reflect the rapid growth of infants and toddlers.