“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).
At Teachstone, our driving vision is to ensure every child experiences life-changing teaching. This mission is why we’re making a commitment to restabilize and improve education for every child, and every educator. And, we know that bringing this commitment to life requires providing education leaders with the support they need to not only face the current challenges, but that will propel towards the future of quality and equity.
Nearly two years ago I joined Teachstone with a deep desire and commitment to support leaders and teachers with real-time, practical, and evidence-based strategies and solutions to address the current needs of children, families, and educators. For the 20 years prior, I led organizations working at the national, state, and local levels focused on addressing the needs of children and families, especially those living in marginalized communities. As a practitioner at heart, my passion has been translating research to practice to drive impact and positive outcomes for children. This passion brought me to Teachstone.
The 2021 InterAct CLASS Summit brought together incredible speakers and practitioners from across the globe. It energized us, emboldened us, and excited us about new opportunities - like myCoach Connect.
myCoach Connect, developed in partnership with Torsh Inc., will transform how you view, receive, and deliver practice-based coaching to teachers in your program. It brings together innovative technology from Torsh with Teachstone’s staff of expert, certified CLASS® coaches to drive program improvement, classroom quality, and student outcomes.
Teachstone, developer of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®) included in 23 states' Quality Rating and Improvement Systems and used by Head Start programs nationwide, has unveiled a new, easy-to-use, on-demand platform that will allow experts to provide research-based video coaching to educators seeking to improve their practice—no matter the setting.