As I began to delve into the results of our first-ever State of CLASS survey data, I thought, “Am I about to be out of a job?”
Immediately I noticed that our users are “doing CLASS” the right way. Not only do they have lots of experience—both in early childhood and with the CLASS tool—but they’ve taken that experience, paired it with what they know to be best practice, and are implementing CLASS just as it was intended: as a tool to measure the effectiveness of classroom interactions and as a way to improve teacher practice and drive children’s learning.
A recent report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), Examining Teacher Effectiveness Between Preschool and Third Grade, examined inequities between children from poor and higher income families on key features of programs, but may have inadvertently confounded the field’s understanding of the forms of program quality that are structural in nature (e.g., teacher credentials) and those that reflect the actual classroom processes (e.g., teacher-student interactions) that more directly contribute to student learning. The CAP report argues that because process measures require a substantial amount of human capital to administer, this may outweigh the value of their use at scale.
The commentary on the TNVPK evaluation continues. Study authors Farran and Lipsey wrote a pushback piece addressing critics’ claims that the study findings are due to the poor quality of TNVPK programs. They also laud the TNVPK program as being among the nation’s highest quality models. Now we’re on my favorite topic: quality.
I spent last weekend on a cabin trip in the mountains with a few family members, including my four-year-old nephew. We planned so many activities (kayaking! board games! frisbee!), but once he got his hands on dad’s iPad, I could barely get a word out of him (let alone entice him with a game of Go Fish). As an aunt, I understand how technology can discourage effective interactions—and sometimes I just want to throw the iPad out the window! But I also know that we have just as much chance of curbing kids’ fascinations with hand-held devices as we do of getting the average adult to turn off their cell phone. Given this reality, I think we need to work with, rather than against, technology by taking advantage of children’s natural curiosity for all things electronic.
I grew up in Plymouth, Michigan, and the first day of school was always the Tuesday after Labor Day. As I moved south, I was surprised that the first day of school could range from August 1 to September 7. My children started eighth (gasp!) and fourth grade last week, and I must admit that I am struggling with the end of summer! I am sure many of you are going through a similar transition, but one thing I have learned about transitions is that they are a perfect time to reflect and plan for what is to come. Therefore, I am dedicating today’s blog to school administers—principals, center directors, Head Start directors—the leaders who pull everything together and make the buses run, the clocks tick, and the copy machines whirl.
In our earliest implementations, when Teachstone was just being formed, we often heard that teachers were caught off guard by CLASS-based professional development. Trainers were hearing questions like “What am I doing here?” “Why was I asked to attend?” and “How does this relate to my other professional growth activities?” We quickly learned that teachers and professional development providers need to be on the same page about goals. Sometimes goals for teacher-child interactions are set at the program level; sometimes they are set for individual teachers. Either way, everyone needs to be clear on what they are reaching for.
When we were in Chicago in July, 2015, we caught up with Vanessa Rich, the President of the National Head Start Association and the Deputy Commissioner, Family & Support Services for the City of Chicago. I had the opportunity to ask her about how she leverages data to make decisions about professional development for teachers. Vanessa believes that in Chicago, and across Head Start, reflection is the most important link between data and improvement efforts.
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.