Take heart! For too long, one of the least heartening perspectives on the federal government budget came from early childhood education advocates, who, year in and year out, felt left out of the political dialogue during budget talks. They were either ignored or, worse, the recipients of unwanted attention as federal spending on education was slashed or level-funded as costs increased. However, during a time when we see much division in our country, especially coming out of Washington, D.C., it actually is a bit –just a bit – encouraging to look at early childhood education programs which are garnering more and more bipartisan support.
The statistics around exclusionary discipline practices, like suspension or expulsion, are grim. Kids who get kicked out, especially repeatedly, are often already behind academically, become less engaged in school, and are monumentally more likely to drop out of high school. And while exclusionary discipline affects all students, it’s essential to keep in mind that children of color are suspended and expelled at rates disproportionate to their white peers.
You’ve heard it said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I would propose this addition: “Except in teaching!” Of course, we know the first moments of the first day of school are critical to establishing a tone for the year ahead, and we put a lot of energy into those first moments. It’s always fun to prepare our classrooms for the new school year because we are full of renewed hopes and dreams.
Teachstone has been working hard for the past few months to provide you with case studies about various organizations who have transformed their classrooms through the use of the CLASS tool. We hope they help readers like you make informed decisions about some of the products we offer and introduce you to different ways you can impact teacher-student interactions.
Early childhood folks are a special breed. We know how great an impact our work can have (Perry Preschool Program! Abecedarian! Heckman!), and we’re proud of it. At the same time, we’re aware that when children leave our classrooms, we have no control over the rest of their educational experiences. The fadeout effect—when children’s gains from preschool diminish in elementary school—has shown up in several large studies, including the Head Start Impact Study and a randomized control trial in Tennessee.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve interacted with teachers, coaches, and administrators as the “new” year begins for the adults and children in their care. What I am hearing has a common theme—frustration, disappointment, hope. What is going on? Well, maybe we can use the CLASS to think this through.
On August 1 I joined Teachstone as Chief Impact Officer. If my name sounds familiar, it may be because I am one of the authors of the CLASS and a co-founder, with Bob Pianta, of Teachstone. For the last 20 years, I’ve spent my days researching ways teachers can best support children’s and adolescents’ development and learning. I’ve conducted many studies, written many papers, and trained doctoral and post-doctoral candidates who have gone on to do even more and better work in this area. Most of those 20 years I’ve worked at the University of Virginia’s Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) and have had the privilege of working with incredible colleagues at UVA and elsewhere. Honestly, it’s a dream job: getting paid to think, write, and travel to talk about our work and find inspiration in the ideas of others. So, not surprisingly, when I tell people about my new job, I get a lot of quizzical looks.
So, it’s June and you have just wrapped up the year with your students. They have made tremendous progress over the course of the year. The routine of the day flows naturally, the expectations about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior is fairly clear to all of them (and to you), and you leave the school year feeling confident that they are ready for the new challenges that lie ahead. You go into the summer months looking forward to a much needed break, but also looking forward to your new group of students in the fall.