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NHSA 2014 Conference Reflections

07 May 2014 by Emily Doyle

After trekking from various cities throughout the country, my colleagues and I finally made it to the 41st Annual Head Start Conference, held last week in Long Beach, CA. I’m happy to report that Teachstone truly made the most of its time throughout the week—delivering presentations (5 of them, whew!), attending presentations, and hosting two events.

One of the most rewarding activities of all was spending time at our booth in the exhibit hall, where we had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of Head Start professionals. I’m not exaggerating when I report that at least a dozen people approached me and said something to the effect of: “CLASS is the main reason I came!” I bring this up not to boast about Teachstone or the CLASS tool, but to say that these are people who get it. They understand that no matter how you slice it, interactions not only matter, but they matter most when it comes to our most vulnerable and promising resource—children.

With Head Start programs now accountable for meeting seven performance criteria, including meeting minimum thresholds on the CLASS measure (this article from The Atlantic provides more detail), it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that people care about the CLASS tool because they are now accountable to it; however, after speaking to hundreds of educators, I can tell you that accountability is only one small piece of the puzzle. People care about the CLASS tool because it supports a foundational idea that most educators have always known—interactions matter!

In a disappointing and often disheartening world, I left this year’s conference hopeful. I am hopeful that those out in the field—whether they be program directors, education managers, teachers, or assistants—are motivated and eager to focus on what matters most and make improvements that can change the world. This year’s conference was titled “Driven to Make a Difference”—and that’s exactly how I would describe nearly everyone I met. An aptly named conference, indeed!

Did you attend the NHSA Conference? What was your most rewarding experience? Use the comments below to share your reflections.