“Of course!” That was the reaction of many in the field of early childhood when the Head Start Reauthorization of 2007 (Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act) highlighted a critical component of high quality early childhood education by requiring the federal Office of Head Start (OHS) to include a reliable and valid way of observing and measuring teacher-child interactions in its program monitoring. Early childhood educators know, first-hand, how the individual, minute interactions between a teacher and child can serve as the foundation for strong relationships that have the power to change the lives of children at-risk of a host of lifelong challenges caused by poverty.
OHS selected the pre-K CLASS measure as its monitoring tool of teacher-child interactions for its strong research base showing children in classrooms with more effective teacher-child interactions had greater improvements in social skills, language, literacy, and math development than those in classrooms with less effective interactions.
After a training period for staff, as well as a pilot project, OHS began using the CLASS tool in monitoring and collected and published national CLASS data. While we have seen success in raising the field’s focus on the importance of interactions in preschool classrooms, challenges and frustrations exist for a variety of reasons, and we know we must do better at supporting programs in implementing the CLASS tool in all settings.
In December 2014, the federal Office of Head Start (OHS) released the National Overview of Grantee CLASS Scores in 2014 from data collected during on-site CLASS observations in 2013-14. The averages were similar to the prior two years, 2013 and 2012.
The classroom scores for the domain of Emotional Support, which describes the ways teachers’ interactions support children’s social and emotional functioning, steadily increased over the last three years:
Likewise, the classroom scores for the domain of Classroom Organization, which describes the ways teachers’ interactions support and organize children’s behavior, time, and attention, also increased over the last three years:
However, the consistent improvement has not yet occurred in the classroom scores for the domain of Instructional Support, which describes the ways teachers’ interactions support children’s cognitive and language development. Over the three-year period from 2012-2014, we’ve seen:
Where do we go from here? Clearly, these averages are just that: programs exist that have much higher grantee level scores, as well as much lower. So while we don’t sound an alarm bell nor lose our focus on all three domains, we must include additional supports for deeper understanding of how to help children gain usable knowledge and develop persistence in learning to see improvement in the Instructional Support domain scores.
In particular, we need to respond to the requests for more support to help teachers integrate instructional support interactions across the entire day, rather than only during formal learning times. Teachstone offers resources focused on Instructional Support that provide strategies for how to incorporate learning into the “natural” opportunities that arise as children and teachers share a meal together or transition in or out of the classroom, not only during those times of the day scheduled for large/small group or one-on-one activities. Two of Teachstone’s professional development programs are focused specifically on Instructional Support. Instructional Support Strategies Online for Teachers is a one-year online program that provides in-depth exploration of Instructional Support dimensions and the knowledge and strategies needed to strengthen Instructional Support interactions. Instructional Support Strategies for Coaches, offered as an online course, as well as a face-to-face training, helps coaches hone their skills and learn strategies for improving teachers’ support for children’s higher-level thinking.
If you choose to delve deeper into CLASS professional development, you might consider two of our more intensive professional development programs, both with recent results showing improved instructional support interactions. We offer the My TeachingPartner Coaching (read about the effects on instructional support in a professional development program in California here) and the Making the Most of CLASSroom Interactions course (read about the effects on instructional support in a professional development program in Georgia program here).
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On Thursday, September 23, the Office of Head Start (OHS) announced it would not resume monitoring in January 2022 as it had previously stated. Dr. Bernadine Futrell, PhD, director of the Office of Head Start explained during a broadcast that, ”CLASS reviews will not be conducted during the fiscal year 2022 monitoring season...We are following the highest safety precautions possible as we enter in different programs to do the monitoring.”
Teachstone, pioneering developer of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®) included in 23 states' Quality Rating and Improvement Systems and used by Head Start programs nationwide, today announced it partnered with Kaplan Early Learning Company to release toolkits to support the literacy skills of all children, including dual-language learners, in the classroom and at home. The CLASS® Literacy Support Kit and the Literacy At-Home Kit, designed for children in prekindergarten and kindergarten, are now available for purchase and shipping.