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Head Start Program Performance Standards

Title I Preschool Programs handout for Web site.

Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 45, Volume 4, Parts 1200 to End]
[Revised as of October 1, 2000]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 45CFR1304.21]
[Page 178-179]

Title 45--Public Welfare

Chapter XIII--Office of Human Development Services, Department of Health and Human Services

Part 1304--Program Performance Standards for the Operation of Head Start Programs by Grantee and Delegate Agencies

Sec. 1304.21  Education and early childhood development.

Child Development and Education Approach for All Children

In order to help children gain the social competence, skills, and confidence necessary to be prepared to succeed in their present environment and with later responsibilities in school and life, grantee and delegate agencies' approach to child development and education must:

  • Be developmentally and linguistically appropriate, recognizing that children have individual rates of development as well as individual interests, temperaments, languages, cultural backgrounds, and learning styles;
  • Be inclusive of children with disabilities, consistent with their Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) (see 45 CFR 1308.19);
  • Provide an environment of acceptance that supports and respects gender, culture, language, ethnicity and family composition;
  • Provide a balanced daily program of child-initiated and adult-directed activities, including individual and small group activities; and
  • Allow and enable children to independently use toilet facilities when it is developmentally appropriate and when efforts to encourage toilet training are supported by the parents.

Parents must be:

  • Invited to become integrally involved in the development of the program's curriculum and approach to child development and education;
  • Provided opportunities to increase their child observation skills and to share assessments with staff that will help plan the learning experiences; and
  • Encouraged to participate in staff-parent conferences and home visits to discuss their child's development and education (see 45 CFR 1304.40(e)(4) and 45 CFR 1304.40(i)(2)).

Grantee and delegate agencies must support social and emotional development by:

  • Encouraging development which enhances each child's strengths by:
    • Building trust;
    • Fostering independence;
    • Encouraging self-control by setting clear, consistent limits, and having realistic expectations;
    • Encouraging respect for the feelings and rights of others; and
    • Supporting and respecting the home language, culture, and family composition of each child in ways that support the child's health and well-being; and
  • Planning for routines and transitions so that they occur in a timely, predictable and unrushed manner according to each child's needs.

Grantee and delegate agencies must provide for the development of each child's cognitive and language skills by:

  • Supporting each child's learning, using various strategies including experimentation, inquiry, observation, play and exploration;
  • Ensuring opportunities for creative self-expression through activities such as art, music, movement, and dialogue;
  • Promoting interaction and language use among children and between children and adults; and
  • Supporting emerging literacy and numeracy development through materials and activities according to the developmental level of each child.

In center-based settings, grantee and delegate agencies must promote each child's physical development by:

  • Providing sufficient time, indoor and outdoor space, equipment, materials and adult guidance for active play and movement that support the development of gross motor skills;
  • Providing appropriate time, space, equipment, materials and adult guidance for the development of fine motor skills according to each child's developmental level; and
  • Providing an appropriate environment and adult guidance for the participation of children with special needs.

In home-based settings, grantee and delegate agencies must encourage parents to appreciate the importance of physical development, provide opportunities for children's outdoor and indoor active play, and guide children in the safe use of equipment and materials.

Child Development and Education Approach for Infants and Toddlers

Grantee and delegate agencies' program of services for infants and toddlers must encourage (see 45 CFR 1304.3(a)(5) for a definition of curriculum):

  • The development of secure relationships in out-of-home care settings for infants and toddlers by having a limited number of consistent teachers over an extended period of time. Teachers must demonstrate an understanding of the child's family culture and, whenever possible, speak the child's language (see 45 CFR 1304.52(g)(2));
  • Trust and emotional security so that each child can explore the environment according to his or her developmental level; and
  • Opportunities for each child to explore a variety of sensory and motor experiences with support and stimulation from teachers and family members.

Grantee and delegate agencies must support the social and emotional development of infants and toddlers by promoting an environment that:

  • Encourages the development of self-awareness, autonomy, and self-expression; and
  • Supports the emerging communication skills of infants and toddlers by providing daily opportunities for each child to interact with others and to express himself or herself freely.

Grantee and delegate agencies must promote the physical development of infants and toddlers by:

  • Supporting the development of the physical skills of infants and toddlers including gross motor kills, such as grasping, pulling, pushing, crawling, walking, and climbing; and
  • Creating opportunities for fine motor development that encourage the control and coordination of small, specialized motions, using the eyes, mouth, hands, and feet.

Child Development and Education Approach for Preschoolers

Grantee and delegate agencies, in collaboration with the parents, must implement a curriculum (see 45 CFR 1304.3(a)(5)) that:

  • Supports each child's individual pattern of development and learning;
  • Provides for the development of cognitive skills by encouraging each child to organize his or her experiences, to understand concepts, and to develop age appropriate literacy, numeracy, reasoning, problem solving and decision-making skills which form a foundation for school readiness and later school success;
  • Integrates all educational aspects of the health, nutrition, and mental health services into program activities;
  • Ensures that the program environment helps children develop emotional security and facility in social relationships;
  • Enhances each child's understanding of self as an individual and as a member of a group;
  • Provides each child with opportunities for success to help develop feelings of competence, self-esteem, and positive attitudes toward learning; and
  • Provides individual and small group experiences both indoors and outdoors.

Staff must use a variety of strategies to promote and support children's learning and developmental progress based on the observations and ongoing assessment of each child (see 45 CFR 1304.20(b), 1304.20(d), and 1304.20(e)).

[61 FR 57210, Nov. 5, 1996, as amended at 63 FR 2313, Jan. 15, 1998]

Prepared by the California Department of Education Title I Policy and Program Guidance Office

Questions:   Mindi Yates | | 916-319-0789 
Last Reviewed: Thursday, June 16, 2016
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