On a hot summer day in July 2016, I had the good fortune of being the one not on vacation on our small policy and research team. Instead, I went to DC to serve as Teachstone’s representative for a convening of policymakers, researchers, and ECE practitioners. They were gathering to discuss if and how exemplary Head Start grantees might be identified for Leading by Exemplar, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Bellwether Education Partners.
As we sought to identify the ways in which exemplary programs could be identified, the relationships between the teachers and the children in Head Start classrooms bubbled up repeatedly in our small group discussions of quality factors to consider.
Strong, healthy relationships with children, effectuated through discrete, identifiable interactions between the teachers and children, are at the core of great teaching, and no one in that convening raised any question about that. One need not be a CLASS advocate to find it difficult to imagine an exemplary ECE program without an explicit focus on high-quality teacher-child interactions!
Following the convening, Bellwether reviewed Head Start “exemplars,” meaning those programs with significant learning gains for the children served. Five of these were selected for more in-depth study of their design and practice: Acelero, CAP Tulsa, Educare Miami-Dade, Fairfax County Public Schools, and Utah Community Action.
These Head Start grantees, like all grantees, are familiar with the CLASS as their classroom quality is monitored with it. However, as you will read in the briefs linked below, each of the exemplars integrates the CLASS in their professional development, going beyond the use of CLASS only as a monitoring tool, and linking CLASS data to powerful professional development!
I’m thrilled that Bellwether has published four reports reviewing the methodology, analysis, and program highlights of the Leading by Exemplar initiative:
A few takeaways from my initial reading:
Perhaps the most important lesson is that while the core focus on teacher-child interactions as measured by the CLASS does not vary in these exemplary Head Start programs, the implementation may look different, and we must continue to support programs as they determine the best practices for their specific program and setting.
I’d love to know what you find in your reading of these comprehensive briefs!
Decades of evidence indicate that high-quality early childhood education positively affects children. Yet studies reveal that too few programs implement high-quality programming. To date, improvement efforts have primarily focused on what occurs within the classroom. The Ounce of Prevention Fund (Ounce), in partnership with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (UChicago Consortium), strives to broaden the focus of improvement efforts beyond the classroom to organizational conditions that support teachers and the relationships among staff, children, and families.
If you’ve been following the news lately, a lot is going on in North Carolina for young children and families! Leaders across the state—from businesses to state government to county municipalities—are leveraging partnerships that use research-based assessment and professional development models (like CLASS) to guarantee more of the state’s youngest residents have access to the high quality care they need and deserve.
Since I joined Teachstone as Chief Impact Officer a few months ago, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about opportunity gaps in education. In a great op-ed from 2013, Prudence Carter and Kevin Welner, co-editors of Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance, wrote: