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Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is having its moment in education. SEL and CLASS program developers and practitioners would be well-served to better understand how SEL and CLASS initiatives are intricately intertwined, and how they can help drive positive outcomes in each area.
In preparing summer professional development for teachers, my district knew we wanted CLASS to play a larger role in our trainings. But how were we going to do that?
Once we began writing our training on centers we decided to videotape some of our model teachers to highlight interactions in each specific center—in essence, we wanted to create our own internal version of the CLASS Video Library.
Research has long examined the different ways in which students gain from early childhood education, but two new studies from Tulsa have shown some new areas of gains in Head Start Programs, as well as school readiness gains being closely predicted by the CLASS tool. While variation between classes and schools continue to be a problem in early childhood education outcomes, CLASS is driving schools towards greater success.
As anyone who has been to a CLASS training can attest, we are all about incremental growth, resisting the urge to promise a “quick-fix.” But, it can be hard to resist the urge to promise overnight changes, even though many indications point to slow, steady improvement being more likely to lead to lasting change.
Research shows many early childhood educators feel ill-equipped to meet the needs of children who display problem behaviors (Fox & Smith, 2007; Kaufmann & Wischmann, 1999; Perry et al., 2011). They describe aggressive behaviors as one of the greatest barriers they encounter in providing quality instruction and emphasize the need for training on how to deal with aggressive behaviors as one of their highest priorities.
While teachers grapple with this challenge, principals, supervisors, and the public focus tend to focus on the ability to prevent and manage aggressive behaviors when assessing effective teachers (Zuckerman, 2007).
What is quality in early education classrooms, and how can we make sure that more children—especially those from low-income families—experience it? Our own and others’ research shows that classroom interactions between teachers and their students provide the strongest indicators of quality.
I was quite taken aback recently when an intern completing her first semester with a group of young toddlers told me, “My goal when I started the semester was to use more self-talk and parallel talk, but the toddlers are now talking, so that’s no longer needed.”
How to respond? Clearly she assumed that the self- and parallel talk supported language for very young children, and the effectiveness ended there. But that's not really true.
Personally, I get tired of the knee-jerk teacher bashing that often occurs when people compare U.S. student achievement to that in other countries. It is true that by many measures, U.S. education results lag behind those of other developed nations. But, guess what? There are good reasons for that, and those reasons suggest tangible, attainable solutions for education leaders.
Early educators are prepared for transitions in a child’s life. Whether it’s introducing them to solid foods, teaching them how to paint within the lines, or even toilet training, it’s important to help children ease into new responsibilities by instilling confidence in them. One of the more significant transitions is from a child care setting to kindergarten. As children get closer to five years of age, it’s vital toprepare them for a smooth transition into kindergarten, but depending on where they are coming from— a family child care, their own homes, or a center-based setting—their transition might be more noticeable and/or challenging.
If you’ve ever been to a CLASS training, you’ve probably seen a graph showing a sort of “state of the union” for CLASS scores, the range of scores in each domain that we typically see in pre-K to third grade classrooms across the country. The peak of the curve for Emotional Support sits proudly right between mid and high quality. Classroom Organization is not too far behind it, on the high side of mid. But the Instructional Support curve looks like a sad little turtle in the race to high quality, smack dab in the low range. You can see this in the graph below which shows the average CLASS scores in Head Start pre-K classrooms.