This post was contributed by Dr. Mike Jacobs, Principal, AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School.

Have you ever wondered how to get results using CLASS® all year long? Too often we use the CLASS tool only as a method to give observation and feedback for a specific moment in time right before an observation cycle begins. If we know anything about educators, they have many observations and receive feedback regularly. The observations are often a snapshot and do not take into account all the work educators are doing on a daily basis. There are three specific areas that will help you, as a school leader or coach, create a school culture of CLASS from the start to the end. 

A culture of CLASS is infused with a shared vision, collective responsibility, and passion. 

3 Steps to Building a CULTURE of CLASS all year long: 

1. Focus on the PEOPLE 

Unfortunately, we forget that leading starts with Us. As the leader or coach, you have to be clear on what the vision for success is for your team. Emotional intelligence is critical when leading teams. However, being well-versed with the knowledge of CLASS helps you better create a vision that is attainable for your team. 

After you have fully studied and understood the impact of CLASS, you are ready to bring your team into the process. 

It is important to: 

  • Launch CLASS from the beginning of the school year 
  • Focus on the strength of your team and know what areas of CLASS they do really well by creating spaces to share best practices 
  • Discuss why CLASS is important and discuss how they might already be doing some of the work 
  • Creative a culture of celebration and positivity 

2. ReTHINK Professional Development 

No brainer, right? Of course we need professional development! As educators, we are lifelong learners. Although when many educators hear professional development, they cringe and immediately put up a wall. As a result, they are not open to learning new strategies that can potentially improve their practice. It’s time that we shift our mindset around professional development as leaders and coaches. Take the time needed to evaluate your team and their needs so that you can make the most of their time in professional development. 

Start with a designated time to meet with educators. Most schools have grade band meetings for professional learning communities (PLCs) where they meet on a regular basis to review data and share information. Create a safe space where educators can focus on building their toolbox and in smaller teams. It will help build accountability and focus on the educator as a subject matter expert. It will be beneficial to restructure your PLC where educators get exactly what they need in a quick and efficient way. 

Here is the PD framework that works for our school: 

  • Pick an indicator or domain to focus on
  • 10/10/10 Model: 
    • 10 minutes - Direct instruction and skill model the skill 
    • 10 minutes - Practice 
    • 10 minutes - Feedback and celebration 
  • Separate cohorts of educators (lead educators are separate from teacher assistants)

3. Process of Evaluation 

The final step in the framework is to develop a process of evaluation. The framework is designed to cover all bases and to ensure it can be replicated as many times as needed. The only way to see the results is to: 

  • Know your data and study your scores (if applicable) 
  • Focus the skill practices in PLC’s (pick your focus with the highest leverage)
  •  Design observation sprints
    • 2 week cycles 
    • Observe 
    • Give direct feedback 
    • Follow up 

CLASS is a proven framework that supports educators with improving their teaching practice which has a direct link to student outcomes. When CLASS becomes a part of an organization's culture and the focus is on the educators who are the subject matter experts, the classroom becomes a place where educators and children feel safe and happy.

Dr. Mike Jacobs is currently an enthusiastic instructional leader and principal in Washington, D.C. serving children in PreK 3 and PreK 4. He is an advocate for early literacy instruction and believes that when children are in a safe learning environment they can achieve new heights.