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Adopting the CLASS Measure: Providing Supports for Teachers in Head Start Programs

31 Jan 2014 by Beth Rawls

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:

  • I spent some of my ARRA dollars on increasing coaching capacity (two coaches for 40 teachers wasn't going to be enough).
  • I shifted fiscal resources and refocused our T/TA plan so that we could build the infrastructure to support teachers.
  • I added classroom coaches and had them trained as observers and trainers of the CLASS measure.
  • Those observers and trainers went on teach me and all of the teachers everything they had learned about effective interactions.

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.

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