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.
We’ve written before about the discipline disparities between children of color and their white peers. (Since that post was published last year, the Department of Education has released updated - but not improved - statistics on the topic.) But discipline is not the only school arena where children from different backgrounds have different experiences. There’s also evidence that racial bias affects teachers’ academic and behavioral expectations, even in early childhood.
One of my biggest takeaways from the childcare calculator we talked about recently was how much it would cost to increase early childhood educators’ wages. It wasn’t shocking—if you’re looking to get some laughs, ask any teacher you know if they’re in education to make big money—but it was a disappointing reminder of just how little we pay those who are shaping our future. The recently-released 2018 Early Childhood Workforce Index gives us some specifics around compensation in early childhood education and care.
All across the world, researchers and educators are working on ways to help students learn. Some are small tweaks or classroom “lifehacks.” Some are big, expensive programs with huge ambitions. Some (like CLASS!) are paradigms about learning. When something works, you want it to be accessible to other practitioners. The problem is, many of the programs that are most effective also take a lot of time, money, or resources.
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.