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Building positive relationships through community and student engagement is one of the core values for the education department at Blue Ridge Community College, a community college located in Flat Rock, NC, with NAEYC-accredited education programs. Faculty in the early childhood and school-age education programs support their students’ success by modeling professionalism, ethical standards, collaboration, and community involvement. Since building positive relationships has been a core value of the program, faculty encourage students to develop positive interactions with children in classroom observations, volunteer work with children, as well as in their practicum experiences.
I once gave a cohort of student teachers each a magic wand as they approached their graduation. My colleague Maggie and I told the soon-to-be-teachers that their wand wasn’t a tool for summoning a fairy godmother to their respective new classrooms (although they were instructed to keep in touch). The wand was intended to serve as a reminder that there is no magic formula in teaching; however, there is a sound, scientific recipe for success, which they had already become very familiar with: the CLASS tool.
Our QRIS (Quality Rating and Improvement System) journey began in 2004 in a small office with just three staff. Just like many organizations, we contracted with a consultant to guide us in the implementation of our pilot QRS (Quality Rating System). We assembled quality indicators and requirements galore into eight domains, including ratios, screening and assessment, program operations, learning environment, curriculum, etc. Documents, documents, and more documents were reviewed to assign a star rating for a child care center.
When asked “What do children need for optimal growth and development?” most of us will reply “high quality care.” While this answer is correct, it is definitely not simple. With these three words, we refer to a complex system involving multiple partners, skills, knowledge, and challenges. Predictable routines, hands-on learning experiences, language-rich environments, positive interactions with caregivers, and parent engagement are just a few components of high quality care. In addition, all of these components are built on the foundation of a healthy, knowledgeable, well-trained and compensated work force.
Following the course of my 30+ years in the profession, I clearly recognize that not all early childhood educators have a “common core” of knowledge or experience about how best to work with young children and their families.
In her last blog post, Carol Bolz introduced a research project on coaching with CLASS Instructional Support and the Project Approach. There were many great examples about how the teachers used what they had learned to engage their students. We’d love to hear from you. How have you helped a teacher build these Instructional Support interactions? How have you, as teachers, encouraged these types of learning experiences?
It seems that every time I sit down to write a blog post I am traveling via plane, train, or automobile to a conference. Today I am headed to National Harbor, Maryland for the QRIS National Meeting to join 850 state and national leaders to discuss moving the QRIS conversation from compliance to continuous quality improvement. My journey (literally and figuratively) started with a cup of coffee and Debi Mathias’ Build blog post BUILDing Strong Foundations. In the post, Debi highlights the message that my colleagues at Teachstone and I push forward everyday—to truly move the needle on quality and impact the future for ALL of our country’s youngest children, we must move beyond simply checking a box noting compliance and change practices through an embedded, ongoing, quality improvement process. The CLASS system is an integral part of this process. By linking observations with professional development, programs can move the needle on quality.
As part of the recent federal Early Head Start–Child Care Partnership grant initiative, Early Learning Ventures (ELV) was awarded an annual grant of $3.1 million to serve 240 children and families in Arapahoe, Garfield, Mesa, and Pueblo counties in Colorado. ELV will combine the comprehensive nature of Early Head Start services with our shared services model, which uses networks of independent child care centers and family child care providers to promote business efficiencies and quality among small providers in each community. Approximately 30–40 licensed child care centers and family child care homes (approximately 60–70 classrooms) will participate in this innovative model to increase program quality as well as school readiness for all children and families. With the idea that school readiness is a shared responsibility and that quality improvement is much broader than what occurs in the classroom or by any one individual, the ELV Partnership model affords an equitable distribution of resources for participating child care providers. The ELV Partnership model supports programs in five areas that are key to program quality:
Recently, I attended the NHSA conference in Washington DC, and if you’re like myself and many educators that attend conferences, you want to mingle and network with other educators. I’m always curious to ask these top three questions to fellow attendees when mingling:
In an environment where data is becoming more prevalent and influential in the decision-making process of programming, funding, professional development and career decisions, it is important to maintain a balance between valuation and conversation.