In an environment where data is becoming more prevalent and influential in the decision-making process of programming, funding, professional development and career decisions, it is important to maintain a balance between valuation and conversation.
"CLASS is not about the number. It's about what the number represents and the conversation it generates."
There is magnetism to the numbers section of the CLASS observation report. When sitting down with teachers to review the results of an observation, the line of vision seems to pass by the written documentation directly to the circle around the assigned numeric value.
For some teachers, the number has the power to stop or at a minimum limit the conversation that occurs following an observation. The tendency to look at results lower than the highest achievable score as failure obstructs the ability to find a conversational starting point. The finite and quantitative characteristics of the numbers can overpower the range of success it indicates. The perspective can be:
It is comforting to know teachers are working to achieve perfection in their observation results. The conversation about supportive research and appropriate measurement of quality should take place prior to beginning assessment and the assignment of numeric values to the teacher’s level of understanding and implementation. As is proven in teaching children about numbers and mathematical aspects of the environment, their understanding of the process, steps, factors, and “ness” of the numbers is critical to their ability to make connections and develop an understanding of math within their world. Teachers should also be given the opportunity to understand the factors that make up the whole in the assessment and the range of meaning as it applies within their work in the classroom.
CLASS numbers represent the whole of a dimension made up of indicators (factors). Helping the teacher understand this by focusing on the documentation explaining the number can support the teacher’s ability to accept the score. Just as the “ness” of number 1 can be described as “only,” the “ness” of a CLASS score of 5 can be described as “sometimes,” “occasionally,” or “mostly.” I was sharing this information with a teacher, where she was able to begin to see her scores did not mean there was no quality within her classroom, but rather a mid-range with many positives. This conversation helped the teacher realize she needed a fine tuning rather than a total overhaul.
Conversations that start with acknowledgement of the teacher’s area of success create the stage for a positive tone and build a framework for healthy relationships of open communication and cooperation. It is in this context, conversations can lead to a better understanding of the parts to the whole. Too often, in a rush to get to the end result, the focus is directed toward the bottom line rather than the starting point. By engaging in conversations and providing information about the pieces that combine to make a whole, teachers can be empowered rather than overwhelmed. The focus of our conversations in utilizing the strategy of a research-based quality assessment tool needs to drive a more effective method of supporting a teacher’s increased awareness and knowledge and the ability to implement best practice.
Since August of 2008, Ruth Tierney has been the Manager of Education Services for the Chemung County Head Start program in the Southern Tier of New York. For as long as she can remember, she has been fascinated by the curiosity and energy of young children as they discover and learn. Ruth's professional experience is a mixture of working in both public and private early learning centers; including 16 years in college or university lab schools. Initially, she was a Curriculum Specialist with the Palm Beach County Head Start program. Her work also includes partnering with many community agencies in working with the Chemung County School Readiness Project. The comprehensiveness of Early Childhood Education is truly a partnership with school, community and families.
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).
When I first learned about CLASS Group Coaching—a training for early childhood professionals about building relationships with children—I was more than a little interested. This, I thought. This is what teaching is all about. It seems to be an obvious concept, but once we dig deeper, we are able to identify the whys and hows of our interactions. CLASS Group Coaching allows us to identify the benefits of our classroom relationships with our students and helps us be intentional in our daily practices. It allows us to utilize each moment we have with our students to deepen our understanding of their perspectives and genuinely connect with them as people. It helps us see the world from their view and guide their learning in a way that is relevant to them.
Since the coronavirus has disrupted many of our in-person plans, you might be trying to figure out how you can transition in-person coaching to online coaching. Online coaching can open a number of doors for coaches and teachers that might not be an option in face-to-face work.
Even top athletes rely on the support of a coach to improve their game. Players need coaches to help identify their unique strengths and grow their talents while increasing their skills in areas of challenge. To do all this, coaches spend lots of time observing athletes while they practice—giving real-time feedback based on current efforts, breaking skills down as needed to cultivate mastery, and encouraging players to keep trying in pursuit of their goals.