At Teachstone, we are all in on early learning. The research shows us that, with the help of effective educators, there is so much potential to build a strong foundation for children’s learning well before elementary school. But some research, including the Head Start Impact Study and the research on Tennessee’s voluntary pre-K, has complicated the story. Researchers found that in some cases, gains made in early childhood education seemed to fade out by around third grade.
Follow-up research has added to the narrative.
It found that the perceived fadeout doesn’t happen when children continue to have high-quality learning experiences year after year.
That’s among the reasons that Teachstone founder and CEO Bridget Hamre recently authored an article in The Learning Professional, the Learning Forward journal.
In it, she calls for a shared vision across the early grades that can lead to quality and sustained child outcomes.
It may seem obvious that children who more often have excellent teachers are more likely to succeed. What’s less obvious is that the ways we systematically define “excellent” and our instructional priorities vary greatly, even just within the preschool to third-grade continuum.
Recent research cited by our CEO compares the time devoted to different content areas (literacy, math, science) and methods for instruction (whole group, small group, individual work, free play) in pre-K and kindergarten.
The idea that these massive changes take place over just one year of a young child’s life is shocking to consider.
But despite these differences, Dr. Bridget Hamre offers a way forward.
She identifies three components of great teaching in the early years:
Educators and leaders can orient around these shared ideas across age levels with tools like the CLASS®. When they do so, they create the alignment that children need -- that our entire education system needs -- to succeed for the long haul.
“What I think I’m most proud of as a professional in the field is our ability to show up, our ability to still do it, to still roll with the changes… We have to adjust. That is what educators did the entire year. We show up. We have a strong why. We love what we do.” This is a quote from Colleen Schmit from our recent webinar, Celebrating Great Teaching. She’s talking about how hard the last couple of school years have been for teachers. Teachers faced a similar difficulty 20 years ago when the United States faced a national tragedy.
Shared physical presence is a large part of how we’re used to connecting with each other. Strong connections and relationships are important for children who may have recently experienced loss, high stress, or trauma. As teachers connect with children in a virtual setting, it can be more challenging to think about how to create a safe space for learning, sharing experiences, and taking risks.
When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But after more than 18 months, it’s clear that the pandemic is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about COVID related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.
There’s no sugar coating it - the 2020-21 school year was tough. Teachers, schools, and child care workers shouldered a massive burden, taking work that was already challenging and turning the difficulty up to 11. Well, maybe 12 or 13. Or 15. Who’s counting?
So, as you, educators, prepare for the upcoming school year, Teachstone wanted to recognize all the creativity, flexibility, and impact that teachers have demonstrated. We brought together Teachstone’s Kristin Valdes, Senior Instructional Designer, and Colleen Schmit, CDA Facilitator, in a recent webinar to celebrate the great and important work of teachers and to explore how the smallest moments make big impacts.
Here’s what our hosts shared with and heard from participants.