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.
Student engagement is crucial for learning. Students who understand the rules and routines of the classroom and have something to do are less likely to engage in disruptive behavior, allowing the teacher to focus more on instruction. Engagement is only heightened when teachers make learning come alive. Warm, caring, and responsive teachers inspire students to focus on classroom activities, be it a read-aloud in an early childhood classroom or a writing activity in an upper grade classroom.
I embarked on my longest trip to date to provide a pre-conference presentation and keynote address at the Early Childhood Care and Education International Rendezvous in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. During my three days at the conference, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend over 15 research presentations by early childhood educators from around the world including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Austria.
Strong cognitive skills in early childhood are associated with later school success. Cognitive skills are the mental processes that help us think, analyze, reason, and solve problems. These mental processes are complex and include a number of sub-skills that include attention, perception, memory, use of language, problem solving, and creativity – a set of skills referred to as executive function.
There are plenty of pre-K skeptics out there. How much can one year of playing on the rug, singing songs, and learning how to share really help kids in the long term? Some recent research supports the idea of “fadeout,” such as the study of Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K. It found that even though students who had enrolled in pre-K entered kindergarten ahead of their peers, this advantage dissipated by the end of their first year of elementary school. By second grade, pre-K completers were actually behind.