On today’s episode of Impacting the Classroom, we have a fascinating conversation with Kris Meyers, the Director of Quality Measurement and Improvement at the Virginia Department of Education. Kris sheds light on the Virginia Quality Birth-to-Five System (VQB5) and the transformative role of the CLASS tool in early childhood education. Listen in as we explore the substantial changes brought by Virginia's 2020 state law, which unified childcare and early childhood systems under the Department of Education. 

Kris walks us through the development and implementation of Virginia's comprehensive quality early childhood system. We discuss the importance of classroom observations by familiar observers supplemented by external quality assurance checks, the critical importance of early childhood education, and the impactful shift toward focusing on meaningful interactions. We also touch on the upcoming public quality ratings designed to raise awareness among families about the importance of quality interactions in early development. 

Topics Discussed in This Episode

  • [00:00:00] Introduction
  • [00:00:28] Kris’s role and work at VDOE
  • [00:01:16] The beginning of Kris’s career as an elementary school teacher 
  • [00:02:28] Kris’s first impression of CLASS
  • [00:04:08] Why CLASS is about more than just skills
  • [00:05:23] Where CLASS fit in with the QRIS system
  • [00:07:08] The values that guide Virginia’s quality early childhood system
  • [00:09:39] How CLASS observations are implemented
  • [00:12:38] The features of an external observation system 
  • [00:15:40] Who's responsible for collecting the data in Virginia and who coordinates classrooms
  • [00:18:51] What decisions are influenced by CLASS data
  • [00:20:45] Impacts Kris has seen since the implementation of CLASS
  • [00:22:39] Whether classrooms are moving away from focusing on the easy things and focusing on the things that matter
  • [00:24:13] Why families should be excited about public ratings and the implementation of CLASS 
  • [00:27:39] Helping families understand what can do at home to build on what children learn in school
  • [00:29:03] What Kris would like to have known from the beginning of the CLASS implementation 
  • [00:32:38] What professional development opportunities and coaching cycles might look like
  • [00:35:17] Surveying the educators to find out how the implementation and rollout are working for them
  • [00:38:38] Kris’s plans for the summer


Marnetta Larrimer

Kris Meyers


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Marnetta: Hello, listeners. It’s me, Marnetta Larrimer, host here at Impacting the Classroom. As always, we like to kick off our conversation by asking, what’s impacting the classroom? Well today, we have with us Kris Meyers, to chat with us about the Virginia Department of Education and their implementation of CLASS. Welcome, Kris.

Kris: Glad to be here. Hi, Marnetta.

Marnetta: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work at the VDoE, which is what I’ll call Virginia Department of Education throughout the rest of the podcast.

Kris: I’m the Director of Quality Measurement and Improvement. I lead our unified Virginia Quality Birth to Five System, which is a mouthful, so we call it here VQB5. It’s basically our quality rating improvement system, but we intentionally call it a quality measurement and improvement system because we do frequent measurements and we use that measurement for a lot more than just a rating system.

Marnetta: Nice. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It’s summertime, a long way.

Kris: Yes, it is.

Marnetta: We’re in the K-2?

Kris: The first half of my career in elementary school, I started as a kindergarten teacher, actually 30-something years ago, which I frequently go back to thinking about those first 20 minutes when I could already tell which children were walking in the door socially, ready to learn and other ones that were not, and just how that impacted their trajectory after that. 

Then I was a second grade teacher, a reading specialist for third through fifth grade, coach teachers out in Colorado for a while. Then had my own children, and in a roundabout way, came back to Virginia and got connected with some of the early childhood organizations here. That’s just when it really all came together. We have to do something in these first five years so that more children are walking in that door ready for kindergarten.

Marnetta: I was going to ask you a fun question, but I have to pump all on these wonderful things, these nuggets that you gave me already. You talked about that as an educator, those first 20 minutes and that we’re making these assessments on how we’re going to support these children individually to be successful in the classroom, your journey with all of that. That brings me to my first question. What was your first impression of CLASS?

Kris: I remember it well. That was probably now 15 years ago, right after the pre-K tool came out. I had moved back to Virginia and was looking for some part-time work. I was actually hired as one of the mentors for our initial quality rating system back then that was a voluntary system. They had us go to some training, and we had this overview of this new tool called CLASS.

I just instantly thought that’s the key. I have been coaching K-5 teachers for several years, doing professional development training for teachers. I felt like I understood good teaching, but I didn’t always know exactly how to label it, how to point out to teachers what they were specifically doing well, and specifically where they could improve. 

When I saw that pre-K tool, it reminded me a lot of what I used to coach kindergarten—first and second-grade teachers on as well—and just getting down to those really individual interactions to say, you’re really strong at positive climate and not seeing a lot of concept development, so let’s work on that. 

It really just clicked for me. That became the focus of the reason I stayed with the quality rating system and moved from the local level to the state level work that I’m at now.

Marnetta: Your story parallels mine. When you were talking about those first 20 minutes—I’m probably going to reference that a couple of times through here—you’re thinking about meeting children where they are that aligns with the behaviors that CLASS looks at. When I learned about CLASS, it was like this aha moment for me, going oh, my goodness. Okay, I’m not crazy. This is important. I’m doing the right thing, and really supporting children in the way that really moves the needle in a positive direction.

Kris: And it’s much more than about skills because when I started teaching, I thought I had to teach the alphabet and the numbers, and I did, but what I love about CLASS is it’s much more about how you’re teaching it, how you’re encouraging that language and that thinking, and just your routines.

When I think back to kindergarten teacher, I don’t remember all the skills I necessarily taught children, but I do remember a lot more about trying to encourage them to talk, have conversations, and think. That’s the part of CLASS that just really gets me excited. 

When you all introduce the infant and the toddler version, it just was fascinating to me to then even think about my own baby, watching some of those early skills, understanding what CLASS was talking about but in a way that makes sense with six-month-old babies, and what we’re already doing with them to encourage that brain development.

Marnetta: Wonderful. Thank you. Again, a lot like my very similar path there. You circled back to Virginia. Where did CLASS fit in with the QRIS System, and how did you guys determine that this was the thing that Virginia was going to do?

Kris: I wasn’t involved when they first decided where to include and how to do the points, but in our very first QRIS that I was hired to be a mentor, there were six different aspects of quality that we measured. CLASS and interactions was one of those, but it was also environment, ratios, kindergarten transition practices and things like that. 

At that time, though, the State of Virginia did decide that out of all the points that were earned, that the interaction points would count for the highest number of points. 

However, what we saw was because there were so many other ways for programs to get points, we found that what programs tended to do between their two-year rating renewal, was they got points doing a lot of the easier quick fixes, like adding more books to their shelves, or maybe slightly reducing their ratio, which some programs have the luxury of doing, and others don’t have the luxury of doing. Or they go to more conferences and get more PD points. We just didn’t see what we wanted to be the focus of our quality system, the interactions were happening. 

We did a big revision, and I was involved in some of that work, giving my voice at the local level to the state leaders. But now, I get to hear from the local voices that we need to put more of an emphasis on CLASS. In our second version that was still a voluntary version, we did try to emphasize that to get to those higher levels, you had to have minimum levels and certain benchmark levels of interaction quality.

 I love that. I love hearing about that. I think this has to be one of my favorite series across the podcast is just hearing everybody’s journey, and the implementation of our tools. Can you tell us a little bit more about your state’s quality early childhood system and the values that guide it?

Kris: We are now in this phase where a couple of years ago—again, because of all the work that was happening around looking at school readiness, looking at our voluntary quality rating and improvement system that grew in participation but never really grew to more than probably 20%–25% of all our programs, then just looking at some needs like all States were doing—a state law was passed in Virginia back in 2020. That state law did a couple of really important things. 

One, it unified all of the early childhood systems working the state under one roof. We used to have the child care licensing division and some of the quality improvement work at the Department of Social Services and then other state-funded pre-K programs at the Department of Ed. We unified all of that. 

Now, the Department of Education oversees licensing, subsidy, our quality system, and that really allowed us to have more of a unified vision. 

The second thing the state law did was it established an Early Childhood Advisory Committee, because again, at the department the focus was primarily K-12. This new committee represents all the different aspects of the field here in Virginia, and they advise the Board of Education on matters related to early childhood. That’s the second important piece.

Then the third was the establishment of the required participation of publicly-funded programs in our quality measurement and improvement system. After a couple of years of practice, we are in full implementation, and every single early childhood program that accepts any type of state, local, or federal public funds is required to participate in our system. Programs that don’t have public dollars can still opt-in to participate as well.

We’ve grown hugely. We are now over 3000 sites that are participating, 10,000 classrooms, and we get down to every classroom to give them that feedback about their interactions that we need to.

Marnetta: Louisiana did a similar thing with Act 3 in 2012, that we went through when we made it a mandate in our state as well. 

My next question would be around observations. We’re learning about CLASS. We’re helping teachers to identify what those behaviors are and putting them into practice. Obviously, we’re going to have to observe to see how that’s going. How are CLASS observations implemented? Who all decide on this approach?

Kris: In Virginia, right away we realized that we needed to do this down to the classroom level, and we needed to do CLASS observations in every classroom, not just in a random selection of classrooms. And we didn’t want to do it every three years.

What we found from our other system is if we waited multiple years, people didn’t really use the feedback in an ongoing way for professional development, and if we only did it in some classrooms, then some teachers got the benefit of getting that feedback but not other classrooms. It also didn’t help us understand the experiences that all children were having. 

Through some different pilots, we had some different preschool development grants. We really saw the impact of getting to every classroom. We knew we wanted to do that. 

We also knew we wanted to have frequent opportunities for feedback, and that that feedback would probably be most beneficial if it was someone who was familiar with the program, who actually was local, understood the culture, the context, and could support those teachers really more on an ongoing basis. 

We used a lot of what was learned in Louisiana, and established the primary source is these local CLASS observations that are typically done by local leaders. It could be the site director, the principal, other regional local staff, or contractors who (again) know more about the context and stay in touch with those programs. 

Our ready regions are nine different regional lead agencies around the state. They cover every corner of our state. We at the department fund them to coordinate and conduct these local CLASS observations, and to help ensure that they’re being done appropriately to support observers with strengthening their skills. 

Those happen now, these local observations in every single classroom, twice a year so they get an observation in the fall, and then they get an observation in the spring so that they can measure growth, see the impact as well.

Then probably as folks can imagine, if we only relied on local observations, we need a quality assurance check, and the Board of Education wants us to have that. We do have a third party, what we call external observation system, where we do some random selection, where we have external observers who have more rigorous training standards, and they go in and observe. 

We have a comparison process where we look to see if the scores are consistent. Or if they’re inconsistent, we might replace some certain domain scores that are not consistent. That’s helping strengthen the overall system, too, and it gives us that quality assurance check.

Marnetta: Most definitely, and supports like you said the observers, the educators feel understood in their practice, because if you’re doing those quality checks, then it’s not happening to them, or a consequence. It is actual data that is collected, and they can believe that what’s been seen and observed is true and accurate.

Kris: Yeah, and sometimes we’ve also heard from folks that it’s good to have that outside view. Although we really love when site leaders do their own observations because they’re the ones who truly know their teachers. They know what their teachers have been working on or struggling with, and they can put it into context. But at the same time, when you know somebody really well, sometimes it’s hard to have an objective view. 

We have found that some people will also really find it beneficial. They may not completely agree on their scores, and that’s fine, we’re not looking for 100% agreement, but that it’s helpful to sometimes have that outside viewpoint as well.

Marnetta: Most definitely. Bias is tricky because it can be a positive, but it can also be a negative. They don’t even like me. That’s why my scores look like that, so definitely always ground us in what’s true in those classrooms. You see a lot of fluctuation between the scores?

Kris: No. Actually, this is our first year of doing a full score comparison. We did see overall in our practice years, local scores did tend to be higher, which is probably to be expected again when you know and are familiar with sites. But what we did this year is we compare scores that are done in the same windows, in the same classrooms (local and external), and a little over half of the time there was one domain that was replaced, but not the whole score. 

In general, we end up keeping more of the local scores, the domains. If we do replace them, probably not hugely surprising, it tends to be in the instructional support domain. That’s the one that’s most frequently out of whack a little bit. But that’s a sign for all of us as a system to revisit, instructional support, and engage support for learning and the toddler tool. Just really make sure we’re all really clear on what that is, and how we are all viewing that in our classrooms.

Marnetta: Great opportunities for some PD, and we’re going to circle in. I have a question for that. But I’m trying to—

Kris: Actually, can I add one more thing there? With those consistency, what was so interesting is that the emotional support domains, and even relational climate in some of those dimensions, were tremendously consistent. It’s pretty fascinating that someone who knows sites really well and is there all the time, and an outside person comes in, those scores, in fact our teacher sensitivity scores were almost identical between the local and the external. 

Again, it’s just showing us different trends, like where is a field? Are we more consistent? And where’s the field again? Could we get stronger at overall understanding?

Marnetta: I love that you added that, and we know that that social, emotional piece is the basis of learning. Those things are consistent across observers is amazing. Definitely the right direction we want to be going in.

When you say ‘we,’ who’s responsible for collecting the CLASS data in Virginia?

Kris: That’s a complex system. We have what we call our LinkB5 data portal. Each year all the sites register in this portal, and they fill out site profiles, educator profiles, and classroom profiles. The local CLASS scores get entered in that LinkB5 data portal. 

The ready regions might help them, but the observers themselves can enter the scores. All of those 10,000 observations in the fall, and another 10,000 in the spring are all housed in our LinkB5 data portal.

We at the Department of Ed have access to those. We run reports. We send reports back out to the field. Sites can export their own data reports. Once those scores are in and verified, we just conduct ongoing analysis. 

The external scores are captured by our external vendor, our Virginia Teachstone external team, and they house those scores. Again, we have a data sharing agreement set up, so that every two weeks we get those scores as well. 

The sites for their external scores get emailed back a feedback report 10 days after their external observation, and that has their scores on it. That’s how the sites get back their external scores as well. 

We house all those two files together, merge them together. We have a separate data team at the department who we call our data wizards, and they help us along with our LinkB5 team to do all the comparisons and analysis. 

Our job actually starts next week. Our observation window ends on May 31st. This summer we will be compiling all those results, cross-checking them, doing a lot of data verification to come up with the overall quality ratings.

Marnetta: Okay, 10,000 classrooms. Who’s coordinating? How are you planning those?

Kris: It’s a lot because back when we used to do this at the local level, I thought it was a lot when we had 30 classrooms to do. This is primarily what we fund the ready regions and what they’re responsible for. Again, the 10,000 classrooms are broken into the 9 regions, and they’re similar in size. 

Obviously, some of our regions that are more populated, have more sites and more classrooms, but they are funded by classroom level, or by the number of publicly-funded classrooms in their region. Again, their job is to help make sure that there are enough local observers to cover all those classrooms, and then they help monitor to make sure that they’re happening. Again, they can hire some contractors to help do that. 

Really, what they are mostly doing is trying to build that local observer capacity because again, to really get to that scale we need to have some local leaders who are doing this themselves and that are responsible for getting those scores entered at their own sites and for their own programs.

Marnetta: Absolutely. We started talking about this before about the data and informed professional development. I want to [...] about that and talk about what decisions are influenced by your CLASS data. Then I’d love a specific example that we could share with our listeners.

Kris: In general, when we get back our CLASS scores, we—probably everyone does—look at the ranges of low, mid, and high range scores. We also use a total CLASS average score here in Virginia that’s similar to what they used in Louisiana, where instead of having benchmarks by the domains, we average all the dimensions together. 

We take that total CLASS score, and we say if it’s a 3.99 or lower, we prioritize those classrooms for our state-funded coaching supports. And if it’s a 4.0 or higher, we try to encourage the use of other types of PD supports. 

We gather different types of resources. There are webinars, there are trainings that some of our partners do, or that we just compile different resources. We have about four or five different state-funded coaching partners who, again, then take that list of any classroom that’s getting a 3.99 or lower, and they provide the outreach to say, these coaching services are offered to you, and we encourage you to take advantage of them. 

They’re not required to do that unless their overall site gets a needs-a-support rating, which is our very lowest in our point system. Those sites are actually required to work up with a DoE quality consultant and a state coaching partner, but the other classrooms are offered the coaching services. 

Again, the idea is it might be with our infant toddler network if they’re an infant, toddler, or a family child care provider. If they’re a special ed classroom, it might be with our training and technical assistance centers. We try to match up who can support them based on their needs as well.

Marnetta: Wonderful. We’ve been doing CLASS for a while in Virginia. Can you share with us some of your stories around impact? What have you seen happening since you’ve implemented CLASS?

Kris: It’s so fascinating because some of the things that I saw early on when I was saying when I first was a mentor and learned about CLASS and those aha moments that people were having about, oh, my gosh. You can do concept development with young children, and you can have back and forth conversations with them. 

You can talk to babies. I love when we would hear stories about infant teachers who are like, I didn’t know I was supposed to talk to them, and just see those changes happening. But again, it was such a small scale.

What we’re really starting to see now is those same things, but it’s such a larger scale. Everyone is talking about CLASS now. People have different thoughts and different opinions, and people are at different stages of learning about it, but we’re all talking now about interactions, what interactions mean, and how do we now explain that to families, is because we’re about to start having our first public quality ratings. 

It’s just really exciting when I see leaders who are really bought into it. We were talking the other day with a site leader. She’s an assistant principal and she had some questions about our scores, so we met with her and we were talking about it, but she was saying, I think every principal or every assistant principal should be doing their own observations, because it’ll really help them understand what’s appropriate for young children, what’s developmentally appropriate, and how intricate it is. It’s not just play. 

When we start to see site leaders that are really buying into it and seeing the value of it, encouraging their teachers, that’s I think what’s been most exciting for me to see, and the evolvement of that over the year.

Marnetta: I love that. Earlier on you were talking about people doing the easy things. Would you say that classrooms are now moving away from focusing on the easy things and are more focused on the things that matter?

Kris: It’s interesting. We do have a small curriculum component to our quality system as well. But one of the things we’re trying to help folks understand is that the way you use your curriculum or the way you might want to support the materials in your classroom depend on your CLASS scores. 

We’re not going to say everybody has to do the same thing in their classroom and use the same curriculum, or have the same types of this number of books on the shelf. Let’s look first at the interaction scores. Let’s look first at which domains you’re strong or need support in. Then let’s think about, is there something in the environment that could support that? Is there something in the curriculum that could support that? 

We do still talk about environment curriculum, sometimes even ratio, because obviously ratio alone doesn’t certainly guarantee good interactions, but it sometimes can help if the ratios are too high. Those things come up, but they tend to come up when we say, let’s first look if there’s a need with those CLASS scores. Then let’s delve deeper and better understand what those needs are, and if there’s something else that’s impacting that.

Marnetta: My next question might be a loaded one. You said you’re going to start having your first public ratings. For someone who’s not in education like the families that are out there or just the communities we’re existing in, why should they be excited about this, not just these public ratings but also your implementation of CLASS?

Kris: I love this part of the work because it feels like we’ve been building up to this with all our practice years. I think that this is a chance for us to shout from the rooftops about how important early childhood is in Virginia, and that those first five years matter. They matter just as much, if not more, than those K-12 years. 

The K-12 system, I have older kids now much older. They have issues and challenges that they’re working on, but a lot of the funding, a lot of the focus gets on K-12. We need that attention and that focus to also be on what’s happening with our infants, our toddlers, and our preschoolers.

We really want our ratings, and we’re calling them profiles, to add in more than just the rating. We’ll have some resources for families on it to again, partly just to help recognize and help families understand how important those infant toddler preschool years are. 

It’s not just looking for somebody to babysit your child. But it’s somebody who can really be emotionally supportive and help your child start to learn. I think that that’s one piece that hopefully will just help families better understand what quality looks like, and that it’s building on health and safety standards. Not replacing it, but it’s building on those as well.

When it comes to explaining CLASS, I think that part’s really fascinating, too, because we do probably get more questions, like what’s the curriculum? And does it matter what curriculum my child’s program is using? 

I think it’s also an opportunity to help parents understand that sometimes it’s just that emotional feel you have when you walk into a classroom. I know I used to feel that when I had to drop my own little 18-month-old off at a childcare center. 

There were places where I didn’t feel like he was going to be emotionally supported, and that was hard. Then there were other classrooms I’d take him in, and the teacher was so loving and energetic. I want families to know that that’s an important skill, and that’s partly what we’re helping them look for, because families don’t have a chance to sit there and watch the teachers for an hour and gather information.

I think, too, helping them understand that we’re not just watching for teachers that smile and love your kids. We’re also watching for teachers who know how to engage that early brain development, and that you can trust that these scores are capturing these really important interactions.

We are still playing around with how to explain that to families. If you all want to help us with that, that would be great. I just want families to understand that emotional responsiveness that’s important, and then what’s happening to support your child’s early brain development. That’s really what our system is intended to do.

Marnetta: I love that. We have this webinar. It’s an hour. It’s called meaningful interactions at home, and it really ties.

Kris: I think we’ve pulled one of the handouts that we’re going to reference in some of our materials for families.

Marnetta: It’s been really wonderful to connect those ideas for families. This CLASS is what interaction looks like. This is what you are doing at home, which is what we’re also doing here with your children. How to get more of those things in and how it impacts children and their growth and development. Really wonderful little webinar.

Kris: That would be ideal, wouldn’t it? Sometimes, I think of families when I was teaching kindergarten that would tell me they’d do flash cards with their kids. Again, that’s fine a little bit. But I would love, as families start to learn more about CLASS, to think oh, maybe I need to ask more how and why questions. Or maybe I need to introduce bigger words to them and point things out. If we can, by partly influencing what’s happening in the classrooms, then also help families understand what they can do at home to build on that, that would just be ideal.

Marnetta: It also emphasizes that it’s not an extra thing, just like you tell the educators, like not adding another thing. It’s how to make the most of your time, like if you’re cooking in the kitchen or you’re driving to the grocery store. It doesn’t have to be this whole set amount of time.

Kris: You don’t have to buy a fancy toy that makes a bunch of noise. You can just walk and talk and point things out like in your yard.

Marnetta: This is what serve and return looks like with infants, all those things. Yeah, wonderful resource for anybody who is listening.

Kris: Awesome.

Marnetta: What do you wish state or organizational level systems would know about CLASS when getting started? What do you wish you would have known from the beginning of your implementation that would be important for them to know?

Kris: The first thing that pops into my mind is, we were really nervous back when we first started this to ever share raw scores with programs. We just felt like programs weren’t going to understand why they got a two or a three or a six. We talked about ranges and we gave descriptions, but we didn’t share the actual scores with programs in our first two versions of our voluntary quality system. 

That was a shift when our new leadership came to Virginia. They were like, not only do we want you to share scores. We want you to share scores a lot. We want to put those numbers and that data in the hands of program leaders. We want teachers to understand it. 

Sometimes, folks don’t understand why they don’t get all sevens—everybody naturally wants all sevens—but that’s part of the learning process by giving people and empowering them to have their own data, and to understand how to use it, that comparing that to average scores in our state what all that means.

Really (I think) just anybody who’s nervous about sharing those data with folks, just lean into it. It may not go perfectly initially, but having those conversations about the numbers, about the data, and what they mean is where you start to see real understanding about how to then use those scores. 

The second piece I would just add is that if you’re going to do that, you need to follow-up with frequent observations so that teachers and site leaders can see the growth. If we only did observations once a year, even if they got their scores, they’re not going to see growth for even a whole nother year. 

By us doing it in the fall and spring, it gives them really measurable growth. They can actually see teacher sensitivity improved by a point from the fall to the spring. That’s really impactful that we celebrate that growth with teachers and highlight where that happened.

Marnetta: I don’t know how many conversations that I’ve had to explain to people, any move forward is celebratory. We’re not just looking at whole numbers. Every room permits that just moves forward is a positive thing.

Kris: Yeah. In fact, we’re trying to think about that with our first year. We’ll publish our ratings, but in future years we also want to recognize sites that improved by a certain amount, so that it’s not just saying that we’ll recognize these top-performing sites. But if you’ve improved a certain increment, how do we recognize and celebrate that as well? 

Marnetta: That’s a lot of work. Moving those numbers takes levels of consistency across the day. Definitely needs some celebration. I appreciate you guys recognize that and that’s going to be happening. Love that.

Earlier you mentioned—I’m just piggybacking on what you just said—when they’re at a 3.99 or below, there’s coaching that happens as optional depending on if their sites need support, or not. And then at a 4.0 or higher, you have these PD supports, webinars, things like that. 

Can you lay out what some of those things look like? As people listen to this, they’re really wrapping their head around what this looks like and what things they could do to support their programs, what some of those professional development opportunities are, and what those coaching cycles might look like.

Kris: Besides the coaching, some of the most common things that folks use, again these are typically facilitated by either local leaders, school division leaders, or possibly our ready region staff, or some of our improvement partners that do a variety of types of PDs like peer learning communities, if there are groups of either family child care providers that want to come together and talk about maybe a certain domain of CLASS that they want to all work on together, they can come together, talk, and share ideas with each other. 

Or maybe it’s instructional support. That’s an area that a lot of pre-K classrooms want to focus on. By bringing them together to maybe listen to a podcast or read an article, then come together and talk about that and share ideas. We’re really encouraging a lot of peer learning when those scores are more on that higher end to celebrate what’s working. 

We are trying to capture more video examples and have more exemplars that really focus down to those dimension and domain levels.  

Probably like everybody, we’re trying to get a more diverse selection of videos so that folks see themselves in those videos, so more video examples in family childcare homes and dual language settings.

That, again, there are just great examples out there for folks to see as well.

Marnetta: Oh, wonderful. Thank you so much for adding that.

Kris: And did you want me to talk more about the coaching? 

Marnetta: I want all things. Whatever you want to give us, sure.

Kris: With coaching, it depends. We have some different coaching partners, and they can establish their own coaching models, but they come together and talk and share as well. We do require that all of them have some practice-based coaching, training, and implement some of those strategies in their coaching approach. 

Some do virtual coaching, some do in-person coaching, some do a hybrid approach of coaching, some meet four sessions, then review results and it may just be four sessions of coaching, and some coach all year long. We really are trying to have our coaches look at the data, develop coaching plans based on what those scores are saying and where they need to improve, and then check in on those scores to see how progress is being made to determine additional coaching.

Marnetta: For the sake of data collection, is there a time in which you surveyed the educators to see how this implementation and this rollout, the services things like that are working for them?

Kris: We actually have a partnership, too, with our University of Virginia partners, our evaluation team, and partly through our work with our preschool development grant. We did annual workforce surveys. In those workforce surveys, there are some questions specific to CLASS training, whether they got introductory training, did they participate in coaching, did they participate in other types of training, and if so, what were their feelings about whether that was enough or sufficient.

Overall, we also ask some questions just in general about curriculum supports, and then supports for PD in general, how is the field feeling. We take those results and we look for trends. Our regions get those back so they can see their regional results to these workforce surveys. We look at trends like family childcare versus public school versus head start programs, to see if we can identify some unique needs. 

Right now, I think we are really trying to focus in on our family childcare needs, trying to help them understand how to use CLASS in mix stage settings and supporting them, and a more personal touch, just knowing that again, having someone in your home who’s observing you is a little different than having your own site leader observe you. Trying to find more resources and support for family child care is one of the things we’ve taken from some of our workforce surveys and feedback from the field.

Marnetta: That makes sense. When you have such a mixed age group, it’s a challenge for the observer as well. If they’re not super seasoned like what does this look like. So you have to have a protocol for that and what those observations are going to look like specifically, because of that space almost similar to early head start because [...] has that mixture of ages in it.

I love that you’re paying attention to that and really supporting that, because in supporting that, again, you’re supporting the educator in the space because you’re able to see all the things. It is again a true, accurate depiction of what’s happening in that learning setting.

Kris: The other thing is that we’re just in some ways, it feels like even though we’ve been practicing and getting these observations done, we’re really now at the point where we finally have data on 100% of our publicly-funded classrooms since this was our first required year. 

In a lot of ways, we are still really looking at the data that tell us what else is needed, like where are we seeing needs and trends. That’s actually something we’re really excited about this summer to do a lot more analysis and break down the data, compare it to how classrooms that are using curriculum or not, what are we seeing in those trends to help inform future ideas for our improvement supports as well. So really excited to take this data into the next level, let’s come back a year from now, and we’ll probably have a whole list of some more different types of improvement supports that we want to provide and help support the field with.

Marnetta: Do I hear that you want to come back in a year, so we can do some… That’s what I heard when you do that.

Kris: I think that’s what I said, yup.

Marnetta: Yes, I would love it. Earlier I mentioned that it was summer. As an educator, it used to be my favorite time of year because a school year is a long year. Still, very short. People think it’s so big, it’s really not. You only really have a month because then you go back into planning and preparing for your next year or whatever. Do you have any big plans for the summer?

Kris: Well, now that I’m not a classroom teacher, we don’t get a summer break. Actually at the department, in a lot of ways our work starts in the summer because we now have to take those actually close to 30,000 observations. By the time we have the fall, the spring, and the external, we have to get these ratings calculated and go through a data verification process and launch our new public quality profiles for the fall. 

A lot of my summer actually be doing that. I do have a couple of different conferences and events that I’m looking forward to getting out and about in our state, and even a national conference to talk to more folks, hear from them about their experiences, and really promote these quality profiles. 

Then my [...] are a little older. They’re 16 and 21, so they’re at that stage where their work schedule interferes with us taking nice long vacations, but we’re going to squeeze in some time here in Virginia. My father is retired. It’s a lake here in Virginia, so we try to get there as much as possible, too. 

I have a sweet little dog that I like to take with me. She’s my buddy as my boys are now older, so I want to get out with her and just relax and enjoy the summer where I can.

Marnetta: All right. What kind of dog is she?

Kris: She is a beagle pointer mix. Her name is Misty, so brown and white. Anybody familiar with the book, Misty of Chincoteague, the old storybook, she’s the color of the horse Misty from Chincoteague. That is where she got her name.

Marnetta: I’m going to have to look that up. Well, it sounds like you have a great summer planned. Even though you have 30,000 observations to go through and aggregate data for, you were smiling when that happened. You can tell that you just love this work and serving the people you serve. Thank you so much for that work and being that [...] your community.

Kris: It’s part of a huge team, so shout out to all our ready regions, my VQB5 team here and our data team at DoE. It’s amazing how much our own teams are growing, but it is. It’s super exciting and we’re all really excited to have this data and to be able to use it.

Marnetta: I’m here for it. I cannot wait to circle back.

Kris: Sounds good.

Marnetta: Any final thoughts, Kris?

Kris: No, it just all comes down to those interactions. Again, I’ll go back to maybe that first 20 minutes in the classroom, and how it wasn’t the children that necessarily came in knowing their alphabet or not, but it was the children who, you could tell came from emotionally-supportive backgrounds, were able to get along with their peers, and we’re ready to talk, learn, and engage. 

I want all children to have that when they walk in. I just feel like this work is going to impact the field. If anything, maybe before I retire, I’ll go back, be a kindergarten teacher again, and watch the changes that hopefully will happen.

Marnetta: I don’t even know if I need to say anything else. We could just end here. Thank you so much for coming. I’m going to take you up on us getting together again. Enjoy spending time. Thank you for making time. I know you’re busy. Everyone, give an applause for Kris Meyers.

Kris: It was wonderful being here. I love talking about this, so thanks for inviting me.

Marnetta: No worries. Anytime. I’m not joking. You’re going to get so sick of seeing [...]. You can find today’s episode and transcript on our website, teachstone.com/podcasts. Do you enjoy our conversations? Let us know by dropping us a like or a comment on Apple Podcast or whatever platform you are listening from. 

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