A Summary of the Newly Aligned Monitoring System

I’m sure that you’ve heard about the Newly Aligned Monitoring System. You may have reviewed the Virtual Expo or listened to the webinar. You’ve probably seen the new terms that have been introduced – HSKI-C, Differential monitoring, MEC, RFL, Review events. While it’s important to take time to explore the Virtual Expo, we thought that a summary of the key points of the Newly Aligned Monitoring System would be helpful.

General information

  • As grants have transitioned from indefinite grant periods to 5 year grants, the monitoring process has also changed, from receiving a Monitoring Review every 3 years to receiving separate and focused Review events in Years 1 through 3 of your 5 year grant.
  • The Office of Head Start will use a multi-year perspective to evaluate grantee performance – using the data to determine if your program will re-compete at the end of the 5 year grant cycle.
  • Programs with a history of compliance will receive a differential monitoring; programs with a history of findings will receive a comprehensive monitoring.
  • Programs that have a history of compliance have met the following criteria: No findings in the last Federal Monitoring Review, no fiscal findings in the last 2 Fiscal Reviews, clean audits, no significant changes in your program, and positive input from the Regional Office. Programs that do not meet those criteria have a history of findings.
  • The differential monitoring process consists of a HSKI-C (Head Start Key Indicators – Compliance) which is made up of 27 compliance measures. If the program passes the HSKI-C, they will receive an Environmental Health & Safety Review event and a CLASS review. If the program does not pass the HSKI-C, they will receive a comprehensive Monitoring Review.
  • The comprehensive monitoring process consists of an Environmental Health & Safety Review event (in years 1 or 2), a Management Systems/Program Governance Review event (in years 2 or 3), a Fiscal Integrity/ERSEA Review event (in years 2 or 3), a Comprehensive Services/School Readiness Review event (in years 2 or 3) and a CLASS Review (in years 2 or 3). Year 4 is an evaluation and determination year. Year 5 is a non-Monitoring year.
  • Programs who receive a differential monitoring in this 5 year grant cycle will receive a comprehensive monitoring in the next 5 year grant cycle.
  • When the new Head Start Program Performance Standards come out, they will be incorporated into the newly aligned monitoring system.

Preparing for Review Events

  • Instead of one big Review, there are now content-specific Review events.
  • Programs will receive a customized grantee letter that indicates if you will receive a differential or comprehensive Monitoring Review as well as the projected Review schedule for the 5 year grant cycle.
  • Programs will receive a separate letter for each Review event and may receive multiple Review events in a year. Programs will continue to receive a 30-day letter for announced Reviews – and unannounced Reviews will continue as well.
  • A Monitoring Event Coordinator (MEC) will be assigned to each program for the 5 year cycle.  The MEC will be your primary point of contact pre-site, will schedule the planning session, will schedule activities and coordinate logistics, and will connect you with your Review Field Lead (RFL).
  • While the Reviewers are at your program, the RFL will work with you virtually, as he/she will not be on-site. The RFL will be an expert in the area of your content-specific Review event.
  • Programs will receive a report at the end of each Review event.  If you have findings, a follow-up Review will be conducted to ensure that all non-compliances have been corrected.


  • This is an opportunity to recognize grantees with a history of strong performance – and award them with a reduced monitoring process. The intention is to incentivize grantees to quality.
  • The 27 compliance measures of the HSKI-C predict grantee performance.
  • Programs who qualify for a HSKI-C will receive it in the 1st or 2nd year of their 5 year grant.
  • The key indicators of the HSKI-C protocol include fiscal integrity, management systems, program governance, and comprehensive services/school readiness.
  • Programs can expect 2 on-site Reviewers who will interview staff, Policy Council and the Board of Directors; review staff files; and review financial transactions and other documents.
  • The results of the HSKI-C are used only to identify if a comprehensive monitoring is needed.
  • The Office of Head Start will send a letter if the HSKI-C is successful (a successful HSKI-C means that you were compliant in all 27 compliance measures).

Fiscal Integrity/ERSEA Review Event

  • The key indicators of the fiscal integrity protocol include financial management systems, reporting, procurement, compensation, cost principles and facilities & property.
  • The key indicators of the ERSEA protocol include eligibility, enrollment and attendance.
  • Programs can expect 1 on-site Reviewer for 4 days who will conduct interviews with fiscal and ERSEA staff as well as review fiscal and ERSEA documents.

Environmental Health & Safety Review Event

  • Reviewers will visit every classroom in every center.
  • The Environmental Health & Safety Review entails 4 key areas – safe & clean facilities, healthy learning environments, safe learning environments & supervision, and safe transportation.
  • Programs can expect at least 1 on-site Reviewer for an average of 3 days. The Review will include observing facilities and interviewing staff.

Essential Tips: Support for New Head Start Directors & New Content Area Managers

Tip #1:  Take time to build a foundation.

As a new Director of a new Manager, take time to learn the ins and outs of Head Start as it pertains to your new position. For a new Head Start Director, initial training should include topics such as Head Start Performance Standards, Policy Council and Board of Directors requirements and compliance monitoring. For a new Content Area Manager, initial training would include topics such as content area requirements, written plans as well as required staff and parent training topics.

Tip #2:  Establish systems and a visual timeline.

One of the most important things to do as a new Director or a new Manager is to create systems. Policies and procedures as well as an ongoing monitoring system are two essential pieces. In addition, many new Directors and new Managers also find a visual timeline helpful – a document that lists when all required items are due in Head Start. Since there are so many moving parts in Head Start, having this timeline is a key piece of the puzzle.

Tip #3:  Create a network of resources and support.

A wealth of resources at your fingertips and ongoing support are important assets for a new Director or a new Manager. There are many Head Start resources available that provide guidance on key areas. It’s also important to develop an internal and external support system that will assist you in your new position. It is very helpful to have someone with whom you can discuss issues, ask questions and brainstorm.

We are experts in 1-on-1 training for new Head Start Directors or new Content Area Managers. Please give us a call at (704) 451-3255 or email us at kristinecortina@hsessentials.com, if you are interested in our services.