The Research Origins of CLASS
Research leading to the current version of the CLASS tool began in 1991 as a part of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, which examined the influence of early environments and classroom processes on the development of children from a variety of family backgrounds. Study findings clearly indicated that classroom processes impact student outcomes (NICHD EECRN, 2002; Pianta et al., 2005).
With this knowledge, the research team further refined the initial observational tool (the Classroom Observation System: COS) for use in the National Center for Early Development and Learning (NCEDL) study. This large-scale study examined the quality of publicly funded preschool programs to learn how variations in quality impacted children’s academic and social outcomes.
Over a Decade of CLASS Studies
Data from both the NICHD and NCEDL studies clearly show that students who attend classrooms with higher CLASS scores have better social and academic outcomes (Early et al., 2008; NICHD EECRN, 2002). However, research on the CLASS did not stop with those two studies. Indeed, the CLASS tool is the most highly researched assessment tool for measuring the quality of teacher-child interactions.
Later this year, Teachstone will be releasing a meta-analysis of over 100 studies affirming that effective-teacher student interactions, as defined by the CLASS, lead to improved outcomes for students. Before we release it, we wanted to give you a sneak peek at some of the findings. (For you researchers out there, I’ve included citations at the end.)
Sneak Peek: Meta-Analysis of 100+ CLASS Studies
Multiple research studies indicate that students who attend classrooms that are rated higher on the CLASS have better social and academic outcomes. This holds true across the three domains of Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, and Instructional Support.
Students in pre-k classrooms with high levels of Emotional Support display higher social competence and positive engagement with their teachers (Burchinal et al., 2010; Curby et al., 2009; Mashburn et al., 2008). Furthermore, students enrolled in classrooms that provide a high level of Emotional Support demonstrate higher achievement in language and literacy (Curby & Chavez, 2013; Guo et al., 2010), as well as mathematics (Burchinal et al., 2014).
Effective Classroom Organization leads to better executive functioning (Hamre et al., 2014), improved inhibitory control (Hamre et al., 2014; Weiland et al., 2013), and increased behavior competence (Burchinal et al., 2014). In addition, higher levels of Classroom Organization are associated with better language and literacy skills (Hamre et al., 2014; Maier, et al., 2012; Xu, 2014;) and mathematics skills (Keys, et al., 2013).
Instructional Support is positively associated with behavior competence (Burchinal et al., 2014) and teacher closeness (Hamre et al., 2014; Howes et al., 2008). Students in classrooms that provide higher levels of Instructional Support demonstrate increased skills in language and literacy (Hamre et al., 2014; Mashburn, et al., 2009). Moiduddin, et al., 2012).
I hope you enjoyed this preview of things to come. If you have any questions about the research behind the CLASS tool, feel free to contact us at Teachstone!
Burchinal, M., Field, S., López, M. L., Howes, C., & Pianta, R. (2012). Instruction in Spanish in pre-kindergarten classrooms and child outcomes for English language learners. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(2), 188-197.
Burchinal, M., Vernon-Feagans, L., Vitiello, V., Greenberg, M., & Family Life Project Key Investigators. (2014). Thresholds in the association between child care quality and child outcomes in rural preschool children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29(1), 41-51.
Curby, T. W., & Chavez, C. (2013). Examining CLASS dimensions as predictors of pre-k children’s development of language, literacy, and mathematics. NHSA Dialog, 16, 1-17.
Curby, T. W., LoCasale-Crouch, J., Konold, T. R., Pianta, R. C., Howes, C., Burchinal, M., Bryant, D., Clifford, R., Early, D., & Barbarin, O. (2009). The relations of observed pre-K classroom quality profiles to children's achievement and social competence. Early Education and Development, 20(2), 346-372.
Guo, Ying, Piasta, S. B., Justice, Laura M., & Kaderavek, Joan N. (2010). Relations among preschool teachers’ self-efficacy, classroom quality, and children’s language and literacy gains. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(4), 1094–1103.
Hamre, B., Hatfield, B., Pianta, R., & Jamil, F. (2014). Evidence for general and domain‐specific elements of teacher–child interactions: associations with preschool children's development. Child Development, 85(3), 1257-1274.
Howes, C., Burchinal, M., Pianta, R., Bryant, D., Early, D., Clifford, R., & Barbarin, O. (2008). Ready to learn? Children’s pre-academic achievement in pre-Kindergarten programs. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(1), 27–50.
Keys, T. D., Farkas, G., Burchinal, M. R., Duncan, G. J., Vandell, D. L., Li, W., ... & Howes, C. (2013). Preschool center quality and school readiness: Quality effects and variation by demographic and child characteristics. Child Development, 84(4), 1171-1190.
Maier, M. F., Vitiello, V. E., & Greenfield, D. B. (2012). A multilevel model of child- and classroom-level psychosocial factors that support language and literacy resilience of children in Head Start. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(1), 104–114.
Mashburn, A. J, Justice, L. M, Downer, J. T, & Pianta, R. C. (2009). Peer effects on children’s language achievement during pre-kindergarten. Child Development, 80(3), 686–702.
Mashburn, A. J., Pianta, R. C., Hamre, B. K., Downer, J. T., Barbarin, O. A., Bryant, D., & Burchinal, M. (2008). Measures of classroom quality in pre-kindergarten and children’s development of academic, language, and social skills. Child Development, 79(3), 732–749.
Moiduddin, E., Aikens, N. Tarullo, L., West, J., & Xue, Y., (2012). Child Outcomes and Classroom Quality in FACES 2009. OPRE Report 2013-37a. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (2002). Early child care and children’s development prior to school entry: Results from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care. American Educational Research Journal, 39, 133-164.
Pianta, R.C., Howes, C., Burchinal, M., Bryant, D., Clifford, R., Early, C., et al. (2005). Features of pre-kindergarten programs, classrooms, and teachers: Do they predict observed classroom quality and child-teacher interactions? Applied Developmental Science, ((3), 144-159.
Weiland, C., Ulvestad, K., Sachs, J., & Yoshikawa, H. (2013). Associations between classroom quality and children's vocabulary and executive function skills in an urban public prekindergarten program. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(2), 199-209. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.12.002
In the wake of the widespread civil unrest after the killing of George Floyd, the national conversation about the inequities in the educational opportunities provided white students and students of color has been amplified. Due to racial and socioeconomic segregation, Black students, and other students of color, are more likely to attend poorly funded schools. EdBuild, a non-profit focused on fair and equitable school funding, reports that high poverty school districts that predominantly enroll children of color receive on average, $1,600 less per student than the national average. By their calculations, there is a $23,000,000,000 gap between funding for schools that primarily serve high poverty Black students and those that predominantly serve white students. Schools that predominantly serve high poverty white students, only receive $1440 less per student (EdBuild, 2019).
A few years into teaching early childhood, I applied to work at a school that does incredible work in the local community. I was thrilled to get an interview but realized very quickly that, even though the environment was supportive and the students were wonderful young people, I was much too intimidated to work there.
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.
We’ve written before about the discipline disparities between children of color and their white peers. (Since that post was published last year, the Department of Education has released updated - but not improved - statistics on the topic.) But discipline is not the only school arena where children from different backgrounds have different experiences. There’s also evidence that racial bias affects teachers’ academic and behavioral expectations, even in early childhood.