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Describe the Plan to Maintain Ratios in Your DRS Grant

As a Head Start and/or Early Head Start recompetition applicant competing in the Office of Head Start’s Designation Renewal System (DRS), you will be tasked to describe your plan to maintain ratios.

It seems straightforward enough, so why then, do so many DRS applicants receive weaknesses and miss the opportunity to be awarded full points in this section?

In my experience as a Recompetition Reviewer and independent DRS consultant, there are 2 blunders that DRS applicants generally make that can result in weaknesses and fewer points being awarded.

2 Blunders to Avoid in Your Plan to Maintain Ratios

Blunder #1

When it came to describing their plan to maintain child-to-teacher ratios, applicants generally presented a thorough plan.

However, the evaluation criteria also asks applicants to describe their home visitor, family child care provider, and family service worker ratios/caseload, and that is where some applicants fail.

While there are no specific regulations regarding family service worker caseloads at this time, applicants must still address this criterion.

The evaluation criteria also asks how these numbers reflect best practices. Again, many times applicants fail to finish answering the evaluation criteria. They don’t describe how they reflect best practice or how they even know what best practice is. Thus, they don’t always get the points they are hoping for.

Blunder #2

The other blunder I see DRS applicants make, is failing to discuss the plan for maintaining ratios during staff absences or vacancies.

We all know that turnover occurs, and unfortunately it can occur mid-year when children are enrolled.

So how do you assure ratios are maintained while still providing services to children and pregnant women?

• Do you have a procedure or process in place to deal with  absences?
• What about vacations?
• How about unexpected absences?
• Worse yet, how do you address unexpected long-term absences?
• How do you ensure continuity of care?

In sum, be specific in your recompetition responses and thorough. Take the time to answer all the criteria and describe your practices/procedures.

If you need help understanding the required ratios, please visit the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center for help. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc

This information is meant only to help you start thinking about providing a very explanatory description—one that is easy to follow and meets all the required Performance Standards and regulations. Each program must assess the best way to respond to the Office of Head Start evaluation criteria.

Need Help? Gain an Advantage Over Your Competitors!

As an OHS vetted, trained, and experienced recompetition reviewer, I can help you assess your response to the evaluation criteria before you submit it to OHS.

I will evaluate your responses line-by-line against the evaluation criteria so that you can strengthen your grant before you submit it.

I can assess whether you’ve answered the questions thoroughly, as well as answer questions you may have about the process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

To your success,
Kimberley
Kimberley@kcoachconsult.com

About the Author

Kimberley Seitz, Ph.D, is an experienced, OHS vetted, recompetition grant reviewer with a 12-year history of supporting Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Whether it was working as a Deputy Director in an Early Head Start program, providing Program Design and Management Training & Technical Assistance, or consulting, coaching, and training staff, Kimberley is committed to quality improvement and program success!

Explain & Justify Budget Expenses in DRS Applications

As a Head Start and/or Early Head Start applicant competing for one of the available grants in the Designation Renewal System (DRS), you will be asked to explain and justify how your budget supports your proposed program. In other words, you need to describe what the budget costs are and then validate why you need them. Doing so helps the Office of Head Start and the Recompetition Reviewers assess whether your costs are allowable and reasonable.

Here’s an example of how you might begin answering the evaluation criteria related to your proposed budget:

Explain Budget Costs

The Project Director, Jane Doe, will oversee a total operating budget of $1,782.504. This amount includes base funding of $1,760,030, which will be used to support program operations including personnel, materials, administrative, and facilities costs, etc. (see below for full description/justification). It also includes T/TA funding of $22, 474 that will help us improve the quality of our staff, ensuring they continue to meet degree and qualification expectations as well as help our children prepare to succeed in school (see figure 2 below). Rounding out the budget is our 20% non-federal share in the amount of $445,626 (see figure 3). We will use GAAP and OMB guidelines to ensure we administer the budget is a cost effective and compliant manner.

5 Tips in Preparing the Budget

1. Review the information in the FOA overview on the budget section as well as the evaluation criteria BEFORE you begin
2. Pay attention to the required formatting rules and page limits for the budget, including requirements relating to the floor, ceiling, and start-up budget (if applicable)
3. Be concise but descriptive. Remember, you may know why you’re doing it but Reviewers won’t, so be clear in what you’re doing and why
4. Describe all figures, tables, charts, etc. Draw conclusions about what they mean
5. Gather 3rd party letters from vendors contributing non-federal share EARLY—even before your FOA is released as this often takes a lot of time to collect

These examples are meant only to help you start thinking about providing a very explanatory description—one that is easy to follow and meets all the required Performance Standards and regulations. Each program must assess the best way to respond to the Office of Head Start evaluation criteria.

Need Help? Gain an Advantage Over Your Competitors!

As an OHS vetted, trained, and experienced recompetition reviewer, I can help you assess your response to the evaluation criteria before you submit it to OHS.

I will evaluate your responses line-by-line against the evaluation criteria so that you can strengthen your grant before you submit it.

I can assess whether you’ve answered the questions thoroughly, as well as answer questions you may have about the process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

To your success,
Kimberley
Kimberley@kcoachconsult.com

About the Author

Kimberley Seitz, Ph.D, is an experienced, OHS vetted, recompetition grant reviewer with a 12-year history of supporting Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Whether it was working as a Deputy Director in an Early Head Start program, providing Program Design and Management Training & Technical Assistance, or consulting, coaching, and training staff, Kimberley is committed to quality improvement and program success!

Create Impact in Your Head Start/Early Head Start DRS Grant

Creating Impact

Using impact sentences in your Head Start and/or Early Head Start recompetition grant has advantages.

First, impact sentences immediately create a strong claim that cues Reviewers that you are about to describe something related to the evaluation criteria.

Second, they save you space because they cut to the chase. If done well, they make a bold claim about how you are meeting the evaluation criteria and then they are substantiated through a robust description and/or supporting evidence.

What is an Impact Sentence?

An impact sentence states accomplishments and answers the question, “so what, who cares…”
Impact sentences state how your work is resolving a problem or accomplishing a goal. It shows outcomes or benefits.

Examples of How to Use Impact Sentences

• You can start the sentence by using the same language in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to make your claim and then introducing specifics of how you do it thereafter

For example: “In order to ensure that we meet the needs of children with disabilities, we have developed a comprehensive system that includes procedures to identify them, plans to provide trained personnel, and services to assist them in making meaningful progress. Specifically, our procedure begins by…(then continue explaining)”

• You can also summarize information and then substantiate it immediately

For example: “The following three examples are evidence of how our community engagement strategies have resulted in higher quality outcomes for children and families, our community, and our agency. For example, we increased access to services for our families by…, We focused on improving efficiency of service delivery through…., and we avoid duplication of services and ensure we maximize our funding by….” (then provide the examples and descriptions)…

• You can use impact sentences to show quality

For example: “Our previous 23 years of providing Head Start services to preschool children has not only resulted in our ability to administer a complex program but also resulted in national recognition for our…. “

 

If you are part of the Designation Renewal System, and you want to create a stronger Head Start and/or Early Head Start recompetition grant, you may want to learn how to use impact sentences.
These examples are meant only to help you start thinking about providing a very explanatory description—one that is easy to follow and meets all the required Performance Standards and regulations. Each program must assess the best way to respond to the Office of Head Start evaluation criteria.

Need Help? Gain an Advantage Over Your Competitors!

As an OHS vetted, trained, and experienced recompetition reviewer, I can help you assess your response to the evaluation criteria before you submit it to OHS.

I will evaluate your responses line-by-line against the evaluation criteria so that you can strengthen your grant before you submit it.

I can assess whether you’ve answered the questions thoroughly, as well as answer questions you may have about the process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

To your success,
Kimberley
Kimberley@kcoachconsult.com

About the Author

Kimberley Seitz, Ph.D, is an experienced, OHS vetted, recompetition grant reviewer with a 12-year history of supporting Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Whether it was working as a Deputy Director in an Early Head Start program, providing Program Design and Management Training & Technical Assistance, or consulting, coaching, and training staff, Kimberley is committed to quality improvement and program success!

Demonstrate that Salaries Match Qualifications in DRS Grant

Salaries Commensurate with Qualifications

Head Start and/or Early Head Start applicants participating in the Designation Renewal System (DRS) will be tasked to answer evaluation criteria in the Budget section of their recompetition grant demonstrating how teaching staff salaries are commensurate with qualifications and experience.

This seems pretty straight forward in terms of the evaluation criteria being asked; however, it’s surprising how many applicants struggle with their response.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons they struggle is because they know that their salaries are not well matched with the degree and experience required. Program budget cuts over several years left many Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) programs unable to keep up with competitive salaries. As a result, they are often well below current market rates in their communities, which can have a devastating impact on staff retention.

So how do you demonstrate salaries are commensurate with expectations when they’re not? One way might be to raise them!

Raising Salaries to Meet Qualification Demands

If you read the Funding Opportunity Announcement, you will see that DRS applicants are encouraged to re-envision their program from the ground up in order to ensure they are providing the highest quality services possible. This might mean evaluating whether your staffing structure is appropriate or whether you need to redirect resources to raise salaries and keep your best staff. This is a time of renewal, so dare to dream!

Just be sure that your dreams are founded in reality! What do I mean by that? Specifically, be certain that you have the data to back up any changes you propose. You will need to provide evidence that salaries identified in your wage comparability study correspond to teacher degree qualifications and experience required of HS and EHS programs.

If your wage comparability study demonstrates that your staff are underpaid compared to other similar positions in your community, then what needs to happen to bring it back into alignment? What is your data telling you?

This is your opportunity to make all the necessary changes you need to ensure you have a competitive program, one that is administered by staff who have the expertise and qualifications to help you be successful.

It’s also the time to show how you use data to make informed program decisions to raise quality and achieve program goals and outcomes.

Do you have to raise salaries? Of course not. Is it always appropriate to raise them? Perhaps not. Again, it just depends on what your data is depicting and how you plan to redesign your program. Whatever you decide, just be sure that you justify your decisions.

These examples are meant only to help you start thinking about providing a very explanatory description—one that is easy to follow and meets all the required Performance Standards and regulations. Each program must assess the best way to respond to the Office of Head Start evaluation criteria.

Need Help? Gain an Advantage Over Your Competitors!

As an OHS vetted, trained, and experienced recompetition reviewer, I can help you assess your response to the evaluation criteria before you submit it to OHS.

I will evaluate your responses line-by-line against the evaluation criteria so that you can strengthen your grant before you submit it.

I can assess whether you’ve answered the questions thoroughly, as well as answer questions you may have about the process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

To your success,
Kimberley
Kimberley@kcoachconsult.com

About the Author

Kimberley Seitz, Ph.D, is an experienced, OHS vetted, recompetition grant reviewer with a 12-year history of supporting Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Whether it was working as a Deputy Director in an Early Head Start program, providing Program Design and Management Training & Technical Assistance, or consulting, coaching, and training staff, Kimberley is committed to quality improvement and program success!

Tips to Help Meet Children’s Needs in Your DRS Grant

One area that Head Start and/or Early Head Start recompetition grant applicants struggle with in their DRS applications is describing how they will meet the needs of children, such as their health, mental health, nutrition, and oral health needs.

3 Reasons Why Applicants Struggle To Describe Their Plan to Meet Children’s Needs

In my experience as an Office of Head Start recompetition reviewer, there are 3 common reasons that Designation Renewal applicants struggle:

1)      Because the evaluation criteria asks you to address multiple sub-criteria (e.g. health, mental health, nutrition, oral health, etc.), it’s easy to lose your place and think you covered your plan to meet the needs of children thoroughly. This is especially true if you’re providing birth to five services, as you will have to describe how you meet children’s needs for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers across each of those sub criteria.

2)      Sometimes applicants do address all of the required sub-criteria ,but then they don’t provide a clear and descriptive plan that addresses their system for providing screenings and services.  It’s easy to say what you’re going to do, but much harder to describe it in a way that depicts a clearly defined system for screening and assessment that meets the required Performance Standards.

3)      Finally, sometimes recompetition applicants fail to describe how they work in partnership with community providers who provide these types of services for children. For example, they may state that they have a partnership with the local Health Department or Part B agency to screen children, but then not adequately address how that partnership works. It’s not clear the types of support they receive from their partners or how it helps to meet children’s needs.

Tips to Describe How You Meet Children’s Needs In Recompetition

  • As you write, think about telling a story. Each piece of the criterion should have its own beginning and end to the story with lots of detail in the middle describing how it’s actually carried out.

 

  • Consult your policies, procedures, and work-plans as you write because it will help you depict your system in a way that naturally flows and makes sense to the recompetition reviewer. You may even want to include one or more of your documents in the appendix to help substantiate your response.

 

  • Clearly define your partnerships with agency providers you refer to for these services. For example, who are they? Do you have a formal Memorandum of Understanding or Interagency Agreement with them that you can include and describe? What are the time frames for referral and follow up?  How do you help assure that children have access to continuous ongoing health care? How are services coordinated and not duplicated? How do you assure confidentiality?

 

  • Don’t forget to address the different cultural needs of your children.  For example:
    • Do you have screenings or assessments in different languages?
    • Do certain providers specialize in a serving children from a particular culture?
    • What about children who have disabilities?

 

These examples are meant only to help you start thinking about providing a very explanatory description—one that is easy to follow and meets all the required Performance Standards and regulations.  Each program must assess the best way to respond to the Office of Head Start evaluation criteria.

Need Help? Gain an Advantage Over Your Competitors!

Recompetion-readyI can help you assess your response to the evaluation criteria before you submit it to OHS. I will evaluate your responses line-by-line against the evaluation criteria so that you can strengthen your grant before you submit it.

I can assess whether you’ve answered the questions thoroughly, as well as answer questions you may have about the process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

To your success,

Kimberley

About the Author

Kimberley Seitz, Ph.D, is an experienced, OHS vetted, recompetition grant reviewer with a 12-year history of supporting Head Start and Early Head Start programs.  Whether it was working as a Deputy Director in an Early Head Start program, providing Program Design and Management Training & Technical Assistance, or consulting, coaching, and training staff, Kimberley is committed to quality improvement and program success!