The Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development (OECD) has worked with the Head Start State Collaboration Office to implement an aligned process for Head Start program participation in ExceleRate Illinois, with the transparency and equity required of our state's cross-sector Quality Recognition and Improvement System and encouraged by the Office of Head Start. These are:

  • Enrollment in ExceleRate, with presumptive eligibility at the Silver Circle of Quality based only on federal monitoring results, for sites with all early childhood classrooms directly-operated by Head Start grantees.
    • All classrooms must be Head Start-funded, and operated in accordance with E/HS Performance Standards for the full program day.
    • Grantee must be in good standing, as evidenced by its current federal monitoring results, and not subject to DRS.
    • Available for both community-based and school-based sites.  Licensed sites must be in compliance with DCFS Licensing Requirements.
    • This initiative is not available for delegate agency or partner sites of Head Start grantees.
  • Assessment resources for Head Start grantees' directly-operated sites (including schools), which elect to apply for ExceleRate recognition at the Gold Circle of Quality

Head Start grantees may enroll their directly-operated sites in ExceleRate Illinois at the Silver Circle of Quality with the Head Start Enrollment Application (284 KB) . Grantees may also request additional site-level assessment for the Gold Circle of Quality by checking the appropriate box on the enrollment form. Grantees must provide their current federal monitoring results which verify compliance with Head Start Program Performance Standards, and complete certifications to confirm program model, classrooms, enrollment, oversight, and other administrative requirements. Licensed, school-based, and other legally license-exempt Head Start sites are eligible for this initiative, provided all classrooms are Head Start-funded.  

Licensed sites must be IDCFS-licensed for a minimum of one (1) full year, with no substantiated licensing violations. Sites should work with their licensing representative to clear any violations prior to application. Violations can be verified on the IDCFS Sunshine website, or by calling the IDCFS information line at (877)746-0829.

If a licensed site has any classroom(s) not funded by Head Start and not monitored by the grantee, it is not eligible for this initiative. Application for ExceleRate Illinois may be made through either the child care center accreditation or assessment paths.

Please contact ExceleRate at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information about eligibility, instructions for the enrollment process, and required documentation/certifications.

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