Funny Thing Happened

In 2007 a federal law was passed to increase the focus on school readiness among Head Start funded programs. Chicago Commons totally supports the growing focus on school readiness.

But a funny thing happened on the way the forum.

Part of the 2007 law focused on the idea that under-performing programs should be made to re-compete for their funding. Who can argue with that? Sounds great.

But what many people don’t know is that the federal government’s process for reviewing and judging program performance can be erratic and arcane. Today, some strong programs are being found as “deficient” because they temporarily fell out of compliance with a single regulation among a 3 inch binder full of them.

As a result, 10 Head Start programs are suing the federal government because the process seems unfair and inconsistent. Head Start programs suing the government? This was unheard of until now.

Fortunately, Chicago Commons passed its recent federal review, but we were nervous. Why? Because we were hiding something? Not at all. We were nervous because we know that even the strongest programs run the risk of an expected event or problem that could derail a review. We were also lucky to be assigned a very experienced review team.

We are all for high stakes pressure on programs to drive performance. But if you are going to put programs under the microscope, you need a precision lens that can truly distinguish between systemic problems and isolated trip-ups.