I just had the opportunity to spend two days with Head Start leaders at the National Head Start Association’s Leadership Institute in our nation’s capitol. I grew up in the DC Metropolitan area, so this was like a "coming home" for me. As a former Head Start director, this was also like a professional homecoming, as I mingled with former colleagues, Head Start directors, and executive directors.
During my interactions with leaders at this event, most of whom were program directors, I was asked many questions about the CLASS™ system and heard a number of stories from others. Among the numerous changes in Head Start within the last few years, the CLASS measure seems to draw the most questions and concerns. But everyone I spoke with at this institute agreed that measuring teacher-child interactions and improving those interactions is an overwhelmingly positive game changer in Head Start classrooms.
When I was a Head Start director, I too was afraid for the future of my grant. I also knew that the interactions in some classrooms were less than stellar. The teachers were fearful of the new standards, but together we forged ahead. I grasped early on that, when provided with the right supports like coaching and training, teachers could readily improve their interactions.
Recognizing this, I did the following:
With these steps we became a truly professional learning community. Our results were excellent!
In my new role with Teachstone® as Head Start liaison, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to assist the Head Start community as programs delve deeper into teacher support, coaching, and training. I had a conversation with one leader today who said that if CLASS had not been “forced upon us, then we would probably never had noticed the importance of interactions, let alone made any changes." When another director learned I was from Teachstone, she actually high-fived me. She said that the CLASS measure was the “best thing in early childhood since Goldfish and Cheerios.” It's so encouraging to see so many changes—measurably great changes—for children in these programs.
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).
CLASS allows us to quantify the quality of teacher-child interactions—and that is a powerful thing. But improving child outcomes takes more than just data collection; it’s what you do with the data that really matters.
Here are 4 things you should know about using data to improve student outcomes.
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.