On Wednesday, September 23, the Office of Head Start (OHS) announced that it will be suspending CLASS reviews for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. We sincerely hope this news relieves some of the stress our Head Start partners have felt as they grapple with new challenges related to pandemic conditions.
It is also our hope that programs will use this time to provide specific CLASS support to staff in order to strengthen interactions, regardless of the delivery model in which they are serving children.
With the increased presence of virtual schooling, parents and educators of young children, including myself, are finding themselves stressed. Are children getting the content they need? How do I engage children in learning virtually? How do we help children develop essential skills such as curiosity, attention, and emotion regulation in a virtual setting? In a recent New York Times op-ed, entitled “Kids Can Learn to Love Learning, Even Over Zoom”, psychologist Adam Grant shared ways that teachers can promote curiosity in a virtual classroom. He discussed the importance of including “mystery, exploration, and meaning.”
Due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools and programs are limiting the number of people who can enter classrooms during the 2020–2021 school year. In many cases, only essential workers are allowed in classrooms, which may prevent in-person CLASS® observations from taking place. For this reason, some programs may choose to conduct CLASS observations through a video conferencing platform.
At Teachstone our mission is to help every child reach their full potential by measuring and improving the interactions that matter most. For the last decade our measurement tool, the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) has been used in the Office of Head Start’s (OHS) Designation Renewal System (DRS). The use of CLASS in the DRS has helped to drive important improvements in children’s classroom experiences—but we are incredibly excited by recent changes to the DRS rules that will enhance the use of CLASS not just as a measure, but as a tool to support teachers and leaders as they work to improve quality—ensuring that every child in their program has access to the powerful teacher-child interactions that drive development and learning.
One of the initial directives from the COVID-19 pandemic was shelter-in-place. To fuel this approach, life as we knew it changed immediately. Many of the venues that were a part of our normal lives were no longer available to us. We could not eat out in restaurants, go to movies, enjoy fellowship in churches, attend plays or concerts, and the list continued to grow. Suddenly, we found ourselves confined to our homes simply because there was nowhere else to go. Shelter-in-place limited the opportunities to spend time together. For educators, our relationships with our students and colleagues were snatched from us without any warning. They were just gone.
Back-to-school season looks very different this year, as districts adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic by adopting new policies and procedures. Many localities have turned to virtual or hybrid models of teaching, requiring teachers to learn new ways of engaging with children and, perhaps just as importantly, children’s families. Effective interactions, such as those described by the CLASS® tool, are at the core of teaching, and these same interactions can be a model for productive relationships with children’s families.
So much has changed in the world of early childhood education since a global pandemic became part of our reality. School districts, families, child-care centers, home centers, state agencies, and federal agencies have been scrambling to keep up with what caring for young children looks like under new regulations. The statewide agency I work for consists of both federal (Head Start) and state-funded programs, and I’d like to share what guidance we’ve created for staff around changes in the day-to-day routine.*
The spread of COVID-19 has led many schools to move to online or hybrid learning for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. The widespread adoption of virtual learning environments has led many teachers to ask how they can maintain effective interactions when they are not in the same physical space as their students. It’s true that shortened class sessions, audio lags, and children’s lack of familiarity with technology present challenges for the frequency, duration, and depth of teacher-child interactions.
As a classroom teacher, I always viewed the start of a new school year with a lot of excitement and a bit of trepidation. Excitement because I loved meeting a new group of children and looked forward to getting to know them and supporting their learning. Trepidation because I was never quite certain what curveballs might be thrown my way.
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.