One of my favorite parts of InterAct: A CLASS Summit is always talking with people who represent so many different organizations that use CLASS. I was especially excited to sit down with Andrea Zabel of the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood Development, Office of Child Care, Maryland EXCELS branch. Maryland EXCELS is using the CLASS tool in a way that allows programs to truly focus on improvement—not only on their scores.
Maryland EXCELS (EXcellence Counts in Early Learning and School-Age Care) is the state's Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) based on the following standards:
About 5,000 programs are currently participating, including family child care, child care centers, Head Start, school-age programs, and public pre-K programs in elementary schools. It’s a voluntary program open to any licensed child care and public pre-K programs in the state of Maryland.
Maryland EXCELS is composed of five levels. Any child care facility that accepts Child Care Subsidy reimbursement from the state must be participating in Maryland EXCELS. By meeting the requirements and publishing a Level 3, 4, or 5, programs receive higher tiered reimbursement payments for Child Care Subsidy.
At Level 3 in Maryland EXCELS, programs conduct a self-assessment using the Environment Rating Scales (ERS) and/or the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) and upload their assessment to the Maryland EXCELS portal. From there, the programs create a Program Improvement Plan based on the domains/dimensions in which they fell below established thresholds.
At Maryland EXCELS Level 4, programs request a CLASS assessor to conduct CLASS observations.
Something about this system stood out to me. While programs can receive higher subsidy reimbursement rates by doing a self- or outside assessment and publishing a rating of Level 3, 4, or 5, their scores don’t impact their quality rating. Instead, CLASS scores are used to create a Program Improvement Plan.
The child care provider's focus is on continuous quality improvement —not on their scores, not on the numbers. It's a way to get programs to follow the mission of EXCELS, that continuous quality improvement of child care and early education services to children and families, is more important than hitting the right numbers.
I'm excited to stay in touch with Andrea and hope to hear more about the results of their validation study. Until then—best of luck to everyone involved with Maryland EXCELS!
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From coast to coast and around the globe, there’s a common thread that unites teachers: wanting to be better for their students.
Even when things are tough in education, educators are striving to be their best. Their dedication to equitable, ongoing development is what inspires Teachstone’s work. It will take a systematic, data-driven approach to reach the day when all children are afforded excellent education and care. And, we are enthusiastic partners in getting to that goal.
Over the course of nearly a decade, beginning in 2010, the Inter-American Development Bank ran a randomized, longitudinal study in Ecuador called Cerrando Brechas (Closing Gaps), using CLASS to better understand the characteristics or practices of those teachers most successful in closing the achievement gap between the poorest children in their classrooms and their better-off schoolmates (you can read more here).
Closing Gaps found that regardless of a teachers’ age, IQ, or academic or professional credentials, it is teachers’ classroom behaviors and practices – specifically, the way in which teachers interact with students - that is most strongly associated with children’s improved learning outcomes.
The spread of COVID-19 has led many schools and programs to put social distancing practices in place for the start of the 2020–2021 school year. The adoption of masks, physical distancing, and other precautions has led teachers to ask how they can maintain effective interactions with the children in their classrooms.