Numerous studies indicate that the CLASS is a valid measure of instructional quality. But, what exactly does that mean? Simply put, it means that the CLASS measures those aspects of teaching that lead to student achievement, typically measured with standardized assessments.
Research conducted in classrooms from preschool up to high school confirms that each domain of the CLASS is associated with academic growth. For example, Emotional Support in preschool is linked to oral language, receptive and expressive vocabularies, early reading outcomes, and math achievement. Similarly, effective Classroom Organization in preschool leads to improved academic outcomes, including language and literacy skills, early writing skills, listening comprehension, and tests of early numeracy, while Classroom Organization is linked to gains in reading for students in K-3 settings. Higher levels of Instructional Support are associated with language and literacy skills in preschoolers, and leads to improved vocabulary and letter-word knowledge in kindergarten. We want to highlight two studies in particular that demonstrate these clear links between classroom quality (as defined by CLASS) and student outcomes that have real-world implications.
The first study, conducted by Johnson, Markowitz, Hill, and Phillips (2016), looked at differences in academic achievement in two groups of children, children who attended a publicly funded preschool program and children who did not attend publicly funded preschool. In the spring of their kindergarten years, children were assessed on three subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson: Letter Identification, Spelling, and Applied Problems. Findings showed that children who attended a publicly funded preschool classroom with higher levels of Instructional Support outperformed their comparison peers. Data revealed that a one-point increase in the standard deviation of the IS score led to a 14% average increased impact on Letter Identification, a 12% average increased impact on Spelling, and a 23% average increased impact on Applied Problems. Furthermore, children in this program whose classrooms did not provide a higher level of IS did not significantly outperform those children who did not attend preschool; suggesting that this strong level of Instructional Support contributed to these gains in achievement.
Allen, Gregory, Mikami, Lun, Hamre, & Pianta (2013) examined the link between CLASS scores and academic achievement in a sample of secondary students from six school districts. They found a strong association between CLASS scores and student performance on the end-of-the-year state mandated achievement tests. Surprisingly, while all three domains of CLASS-Secondary were related to improvements in achievement, it was Emotional Support that had the strongest influence. For example, a student who came in with average scores on the previous end-of-the-year test made significant gains when the classroom teacher exhibited high levels of Emotional Support.
These are just a few among the numerous studies that demonstrate the relationship between CLASS and academic achievement. They also illustrate two important points: the quality of classroom interactions is essential for children’s learning, regardless of student age, and CLASS is an effective lens to capture and identify these effective components of learning.
Allen, J., Gregory, A, Mikami, A., Lun, J., Hamre, B., & Pianta, R. (2013). Observations of effective teacher-student interactions in secondary school classrooms: Predicting student achievement with the Classroom Assessment Scoring System – Secondary. School Psychology Review, 42(1), 76-98.
Johnson, A.D., Markowitz, A.J., Hill, C.J., & Phillips, D.A. (2016). Variation of impacts of Tulsa pre-K on cognitive development in kindergarten: The role of Instructional Support. Developmental Psychology, 52(12), 2145-2158.
Most people I know who are invested in early childhood education look at Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address as an important moment. In it, Obama called on the federal government and states to work together to “make high-quality preschool available to every child in America,” and talked about the economic and social impact of such policies. I teared up when I rewatched this speech. It’s powerful stuff. As it so often does, the conversation about early childhood education and care revolved around quality.
Okay, this is a slight change from our usual “What We’re Reading” posts. Instead of highlighting a particular article, we wanted to share an interesting application of research: this childcare cost calculator from the Center for American Progress. You can use it to estimate the impact of improving different parts of structural quality (the infrastructure that surrounds teaching, like teacher-child ratios, the physical space, and materials) on the cost of care.
Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives. Some of it, like deadlines or first date nerves, are good stress. It propels you forward and helps you accomplish goals. Some stress, like the car in front of you slamming on the brakes, is acute, but temporary. But a more concerning type of stress that’s gained a lot of attention in the past few years is toxic stress, long-term, unrelenting exposure to stressful situations. In young children, this stress can alter the development of the brain, creating shortcuts to the parts of the brain that “turn on” stress responses and limiting connections to the parts of the brain responsible for learning and reasoning.
Social-emotional skills are key to student success. These skills include the ability to recognize and regulate emotions and behavior, take others’ perspectives, and make sound choices. Children who have good social-emotional skills have an easier time making friends and maintaining strong relationships with teachers and peers.