How can we as leaders ensure that our early childhood programs are providing the highest quality care to our children?
Even before the pandemic, we asked ourselves this question often. Our search for a way to support teachers and continuously improve the quality of our programs led us on a journey culminating in the implementation of The Essential 0-5 Survey in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.
The Jefferson Parish Early Childhood Collaborative focuses on providing intentional professional development to support teachers and leaders. Our PD typically focuses on day-to-day interactions between teachers and children inside the classroom, and for directors, it focuses on team support, assessment of children, and behavior management strategies. Before we implemented The Essential 0-5 Survey, we did not offer any professional development that focused on the organization as a whole.
The Essential 0-5 Survey, developed in partnership by Start Early and the University of Chicago Consortium, is a measurement system that provides insight into the strength and weakness of organizational climate for individual programs.
At this year’s Teachstone Interact CLASS Summit, we’ll partner with Stuart Lassiter, an early childhood practice consultant at Start Early, to share the innovative research and framework behind The Essential 0-5 Survey, and our experience implementing it in Jefferson Parrish. During our session – Strengthening Organizational Conditions through Collaboration and Data – we’ll show why it is vital to measure both parent and teacher/staff perceptions in order to provide program directors a holistic understanding of their programs’ strengths and weaknesses.
The Essential 0-5 Survey is rooted in decades of research from the University of Chicago Consortium and their 5 Essentials framework focused on K-12 education. Research demonstrates the impact organizational conditions have on program quality: a program strong in three of the five essentials is ten times likelier to substantially improve student engagement and achievement in math and reading (see graph 1).
In Jefferson Parish, we hope that our implementation of The Essential 0-5 Survey will not only provide a greater knowledge of our programs’ organizational environments, but also empower leaders, teachers, and families to collaboratively make improvements so that our children have the best chance to thrive.
Dr. Stricklin serves as the Director of the Jefferson Early Childhood Network supporting leaders of publicly funded programs in south Louisiana. She has worked in early education for over 30 years as a teacher, administrator, trainer, coach, and consultant. Currently, she leads a broad coalition of thought partners who are collaborating to increase access to high quality early care and education across neighborhoods in Jefferson Parish Louisiana.
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When I was a teacher, I can remember taking care to intentionally plan differentiated, or individualized, instruction. And, when I was teaching pre-K I added the same level of intentionality to which materials were available in interest areas, and how I approached transitions throughout the day.
While any level of intentionally, specifically in relation to planning, is important -- I missed a critical opportunity in being more intentional in my interactions with the children in my class.
There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. We know that intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
We’re more than a month into the school year, and many educators and school leaders are feeling tired or burnt out already. That’s normal in any school year, as the newness of back-to-school wanes and the reality of a long year ahead kicks in. But, this year, that tiredness may feel like it has never felt before. Chalkbeat has reported that teacher vacancies are up in 18 of 20 large school districts, and it’s not surprising. Many are exhausted after a difficult year and a half (to put it mildly!). Many are also leaving the profession in droves to find work in competitive environments that provide a substantially larger salary.