The CLASS measure allows us to quantify the quality of teacher-child interactions—and that is a powerful thing. But collecting observation data, alone, does nothing to impact students. Improving child outcomes takes more than just data collection; it’s what you do with the data that really matters.
During my time at Teachstone, I’ve seen too many programs use CLASS observation data solely to provide summative feedback. Although this is certainly a valid use of data, the most successful coaches I’ve spoken with use CLASS data to provide individualized, formative feedback to teachers—and they also use that data to determine what sorts of professional development will be most relevant and impactful to individual teachers. Of course, scheduling regular CLASS observations at the individual teacher level can be both time and cost prohibitive, which leads me to my next point ...
It is critical to establish a systematic cycle for teacher improvement throughout the year in order to achieve incremental gains—Teachstone recommends conducting regular observations that will inform coaching and professional development. Generally, the more formal observations a program conducts, the better; but less formal, anecdotal observations are important, too! Coaches collect anecdotal observation notes in many ways; for example, a coach might offer to watch a particular lesson for the teacher’s use of Language Modeling. For the teacher, this provides an objective, specific, and detailed account of her interactions in this dimension (without the added stress of being assigned a score). This also allows the coach to better provide individualized support.
Let’s be honest—if you’re trying to establish a supportive, coaching relationship with a teacher, that’s going to be really difficult if you’re also planning to use their observation data as a “gotcha” measure or to call out their “problem areas.” When using CLASS data in a formative way—to differentiate support, goals, and professional development plans—it must be associated with achievement, rather than punishment.
The best data tells a story—and when it comes to CLASS data—that is the story of improving interactions, and ultimately, outcomes for children. While data can be used at the individual teacher level to differentiate coaching and professional development, administrators also have stories to tell. For example: How has our new coaching initiative impacted CLASS scores over time? Who are the standout teachers in my organization? How well are we achieving our goals this year? Data is a critical tool from the individual teacher level all the way to highest levels of our educational leadership.
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.
As I entered my 15th year of teaching young children and supporting adult learners, I found myself searching for answers. Answers to why CLASS implementation was so difficult, why teacher buy-in was such a challenge, and why long-term improvement seemed impossible. In my role as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, I’m constantly checking the data. Data drives instruction, instruction drives learning, learning drives comprehension, and comprehension equals success!
One of my biggest takeaways from the childcare calculator we talked about recently was how much it would cost to increase early childhood educators’ wages. It wasn’t shocking—if you’re looking to get some laughs, ask any teacher you know if they’re in education to make big money—but it was a disappointing reminder of just how little we pay those who are shaping our future. The recently-released 2018 Early Childhood Workforce Index gives us some specifics around compensation in early childhood education and care.