Amy Sofka Mountz, MEd, has over 16 years of experience in early childhood education. In addition to her role as Director of Partnerships and Outreach at Teachstone, Amy also serves as a Pre-K and K-3 CLASS trainer and Making the Most of Classroom Interactions (MMCI) instructor trainer. Amy earned a BA in history from Gettysburg College and an MEd in social foundations and education policy at the University of Virginia. Prior to Teachstone, she managed Virginia’s Reading First project, developing, delivering, and organizing professional development seminars and workshops focused on enhancing teachers’ knowledge of fostering young children’s emergent literacy skills, facilitating reading development, and practicing differentiated instruction. Previously, Amy directed a federally funded study designed to measure the impact of a language and literacy intervention on children’s kindergarten readiness skills. The CLASS tool was used as a measure in this study. Amy co-authored the book Engaging Children with Print: Building Early Literacy Skills through Quality Read-Alouds with Laura Justice. Amy loves all creatures great and small and is raising a small menagerie—which will soon include a colony of bees—at her home in rural Connecticut.
Recently I overheard someone say they were going to “do CLASS.” This caught my attention, mostly because it's not the first time I've heard this phrase—or the first time I found it confusing. Hearing it again made me realize that a conversation on “doing CLASS" might be useful.
We’re heading down an unfamiliar sidewalk with a multitude of other pedestrians. Never having been in this part of the city, we reach the four-way intersection with some trepidation. The tangle of roadway, traffic lights, and swift-moving vehicles is intimidating. Should we even cross? It doesn’t seem to be the best idea to put our heads down and blindly dodge and dart across the roadway as we see others attempting. And then, voilà, a crosswalk! A place of authority for those on foot. Now with a clear sense of direction and purpose, we look left, right, left and then step out onto the street. Like magic, cars stop and wait while we make our way across, able to now move rapidly toward our destination.
Remember the "Fifty Nifty United States" song—that staple of elementary chorus? I cannot help but sing it when I review any article or document discussing applications for the Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grants. The lyrics sprang to mind again when I read about the latest states, along with the District of Columbia, submitting applications for these funds. It’s so exciting to see the list of new applicants pursuing funds to improve and impact their early learning communities.
Often, there is a collective shudder when we hear the word “data." Number-crunching can be a dry, tedious task, sometimes resulting from concerns over the implications for teachers/providers and programs. But data is power. We need to embrace it. Data drives critical decision making, creates efficiencies in time and money, and turns those dry numbers into thoughtful, dynamic action. Data also allows us to be nimble. With a careful plan for quality CLASS data collection, professional development can be designed to dovetail with teacher/provider growth in critical areas of quality teacher-child interactions.