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.
The Ounce has created Early Education Essentials, an innovative new framework and measurement system to diagnose and strengthen organizational conditions in early childhood education. The measurement system consists of:
Interactive reports with survey data visualizations.
Data-use and improvement tools.
Early Education Essentials consists of six essential organizational conditions. Five align with the K-12 5Essentials framework created by the UChicago Consortium, and the sixth is a new essential which captures parents’ unique perspective - Parent Voice (see image 1).
Early Education Essentials evolved from the five essentials framework and K-12 5Essentials surveys, building off decades of research by the UChicago Consortium, and demonstrating that schools strong in at least three of the five essentials are 10x more likely to substantially improve student engagement and achievement in reading and math (see graph 1).
Ounce researchers adapted the teacher survey and created a new parent survey for early childhood education settings. A recent validation study confirmed that scores on the Early Education Essentials surveys are directly related to the quality of teacher-child interactions (as measured by the CLASS-PreK) and children’s attendance outcomes (see graph 2 & 3).
In addition, researchers spent time observing and talking with leaders, teachers, and families in early childhood education programs whose survey responses indicated that their essentials were either very strong or very weak. They found that differences in organizational climate and conditions were stark and unmistakable. A recent report described strong organizational environments and how they empower leaders, teachers, and families to aspire to and realize higher-quality practices and better outcomes for young children.
Attendees of this year’s Teachstone InterAct CLASS Summit will have the opportunity to learn more about Early Education Essentials at the following session: The Early Education Essentials: Using Teacher and Parent Survey Data to Strengthen Organizational Climate and Conditions Essential to Improvement. Session attendees will learn how the measurement system can be used in combination with the CLASS to strengthen quality in early childhood education programs. They will hear success stories from the growing number of programs across the country who are currently using the Early Education Essentials to guide improvement.
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.
As the former Vice President of Education and Program Operations, as well as the Head Start/Early Head Start Program Director, of a large Chicago Agency, I am often asked the question, “How did you get your CLASS scores to rise so much?” Our Pre-K Instructional Support scores rose from a 2.65 to a 3.74 the first year, and from a 3.74 to a 4.17 the second year. It wasn’t an easy process. And it was up to us to show our teachers the importance of teacher-student interactions and slowly introduce how CLASS scores could be used to improve these interactions.
Below are three steps we took to introduce the importance of CLASS and interactions to our teachers and, ultimately, raise our CLASS scores.
When my first child was born, I was 30. I was also married, had a master’s degree, and taught in a district that paid pretty well. During my pregnancy, I learned what to look for in high-quality child care and I thought I knew how to find it. What I didn’t know was that even though my husband and I both worked, we couldn’t afford quality child care.