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Continuous Quality Improvement and Equity

08 Feb 2022 by Teachstone

So, you’re working to make your teaching practices more equitable in your classroom and throughout your program. Being committed to creating a more inclusive and equitable learning environment is important. How do you achieve this goal? Focusing on continuous quality improvement (CQI) can give you the framework to meet your goals.

Marnetta and Darlene are out this week, so you'll hear a previously recorded presentation we hosted at NAEYC all about CQI as a means to support your equity initiatives. Learn how the CLASS® tool fits into continuous improvement efforts for both policymakers and education leaders, and get strategies that will help you build an environment that ensures success for every child. 

Watch the full episode below. We'll be back with regular programming on the next episode of Impacting the Classroom. Be sure to like, subscribe, rate, and review on your favorite podcast platform!

 


Darlene: Hello, I'm Dr. Darlene Estes-Del Re, your host for Impacting the Classroom podcast. I'm just touching base with you today to let you know that Marnetta and I are off this week. If you're looking for our latest episode, please tune back and check us out in early February. We'll be there and ready to give you a great listen.

In the meantime, we wanted you to have an opportunity to listen to a recorded NAEYC presentation that was put together for the NAEYC's annual conference. For those of you who are looking for great recommendations, strategies, and suggestions, I think you'll find great value there. Or if you have missed, maybe, any of our episodes that we have already recorded, I encourage you to go back and give those a listen. Especially think about episode two with Dr. Rosemarie Allen, who really stretched out thinking around equity as an action word and just the encouragement to conduct equity audits.

I also think of our most recent episode with the folks from Quebec who were successful in scaling up Universal Pre-K with an eye on quality. If you happen to miss that one, I encourage you to go back and listen to that as well. So many great episodes already. Please go back and listen to those. There's one on funding, continuous quality improvement. Take time to give those a listen.

Until then, we'll see you back in early February and look forward to our next session. Take care, continue to make a great impact across our programs, our states, and our nation as well as globally. We appreciate all that you do. See you next time.

Meghan: Welcome everyone to our presentation on building equity with continuous quality improvement. My name is Meghan Cornwell. I'm the Content Marketing Manager here at Teachstone. I'm just joining today as our moderator. With me are our three guests, Marnetta Larriner, Kate Cline, and Suzann Morris, and I'd love for you guys to introduce yourselves.

Marnetta: My name is Marnetta Larrimer. I am a Professional Services Manager here at Teachstone. I do love the stance we've taken with all the things that have been happening in the country. I'm very excited to be part of this team and part of the work that they are doing.

Kate: My name is Kate Cline. I'm a Professional Services Manager also here at Teachstone. My focus is on continuous quality improvement, our efforts within the company and within our department, and how we support that out there in the early childhood world.

Suzann: Hi, everyone. My name is Suzann Morris. I'm the Senior Director of Public Policy and Government Relations at Teachstone.

Marnetta: Let's talk a little bit and frame our discussion today. It's a brief discussion with a lot of things in it. It really just touches on some of the work that we are doing here just to give you an idea of where we are.

When we think about equity, it's about when everyone has what they need when they need it. The core of the work that we do here at Teachstone evolves around equity—helping every child and every educator to be successful.

To be more equitable in the classroom, we have to implement a system of continuous quality improvement. We're going to be talking about what CQI is and how CLASS fits into that framework, and also provides some strategies that you can implement as a teacher or a coach to be more equitable. Let's talk about what CQI is. I'm going to give this over to you Kate because this is your baby. You are so pumped when you talk about this work. Talk to us about CQI.

Kate: Sure. I think a lot of people may already identify with continuous quality improvement as this process of looking at what's going on in programs, identifying what's happening, and this cyclical process. But I want to back up and say that continuous quality improvement is a commitment. It's really a large commitment that everyone on the staff has to make and creates this culture of being vulnerable, of being able to say, I'm not sure what to do next. Let's look at our data, what do we see? How do we move forward? What's one thing we can do? Let's try it out and see what happens.

 

Continuous quality improvement is a commitment. It's really a large commitment that everyone on the staff has to make and creates this culture of being vulnerable...

 

That commitment to creating that culture together is very important because we know that we're trying to impact outcomes for children, so that's a great commitment we can make. Committing to getting better at getting better, as we say, for continuous quality improvement. A lot of people think about this as Plan, Do, Study, Act. Taking a look at what's going on, studying what's happening, try it out, and then that's the do part. Then look back at what happened, that's the study part. Then once we figure out what we find from our data, then we make a new plan and it's a cyclical process.

Really, thinking about continuous quality improvement as it says here on this slide, the intersection of accountability and improvement. I would say, we're all accountable and we're all accountable to making the improvements. It's really figuring out where we fit into that cycle. As I said, making that commitment to the culture of learning to being vulnerable, to trusting each other, but also, knowing that you have good data.

It's really, really hard to know where to go if you don't trust the data that you find. Being data-driven in these decisions that we make is very important. Then not just doing it once, like you were saying, it's a walk, not a run. It's not even a sprint, where you just [...]. It is a systematic thing where we continuously look at what's going on as a cycle.

We build it into our week, our month, our year as looking at maybe different things throughout the year, but not forgetting that there's always a time to step back and look at what's happening. Make a plan, then enact that, and keep it up. That's really what continuous quality improvement is about, but thinking about how does that intersect with equity?

Meghan: Thanks for that overview. Suzann, tell me more about what CQI means for policymakers.

Suzann: That's a great question, Meghan. I think for policymakers at this point in time, CQI really presents a tremendous opportunity to think deeply and thoughtfully about how quality supports are making it into the classroom. I'm really thinking about state leaders, primarily, that are implementing quality rating and improvement systems. We have 44 states in this country that have implemented some form of QRIS. For our audience, most likely you're living in a place that has a QRIS and maybe working through the performance standards that your state's QRIS has.

 

I think for policymakers at this point in time, CQI really presents a tremendous opportunity to think deeply and thoughtfully about how quality supports are making it into the classroom.

 

What CQI offers when it's really embedded and really serves as the foundation for a robust QRIS system is it allows for an iterative conversation of growth in each individual classroom. That means for policymakers, it's really making strategic choices around investments. Having coaches that are trained and have competencies readily available to them and they're supported in their training that is available to classrooms across the board. That you have teachers that have the time to actually participate in the CQI process, have time for reflection, and have time to have the conversation with their coach.

It also means developing mentorship and allowing for that growth to happen within programs. You have these two pieces of the puzzle coming together to support the CQI process. It also probably means some structural changes for QRIS and in how quality is recognized and what that means within an entire system. To have a truly equitable quality rating and improvement system, you have to make room for cultural competencies for neighborhood reflections, for expectations for the population that's being served in a given program. That means you might have some variation in the system.

That's very different for states. States usually, they like to have expectations, they like to know the known. They like to know, basically, what they're getting themselves into. It's a shift in thinking for policymakers when you have true CQI that's embedded deeply in these quality supports. It may be QRIS, it may be through coaching. States are a little bit all over the place in their CQI conversations right now.

There's a lot of opportunity for these conversations. I know that with the pandemic having happened and we're still in the middle of it, it's still very much an uncertain time for the field. But we do have significant federal investments that have given states somewhat of leeway in thinking about their systems. The majority of those investments are going to stabilize the field and hopefully will start to build the foundation for equitable compensation that our teachers so deserve and it's so long overdue.

If we have this strong foundation of childcare subsidy rates and compensation, maybe it's wage scales, however, it comes through from the state, when you have a strong foundation of teachers that are well supported financially, you can start to build that CQI process on top of that because then they're not pulled in so many directions because they know that they're going to be able to put food on the table for their own families. They're able to access health care, and they're able to do all of those things that can really challenge the CQI process in teachers being able to fully participate. Because when they're stressed and under-resourced, that process becomes very, very challenging to implement in the classroom and at the program level.

Marnetta: I love that. Then we talked about biases and making sure that we are doing things in an equitable manner. That's why trust in the data is important because it's objective, it's removed from feelings and thoughts. It's a course of action, a course of things that happen, that gives us an outcome that we can look back on, reflect, and use. It takes the personal out of it and makes it something concrete that we can use to pivot and level the work that we're doing.

Suzann: And being open enough to say—especially when we look at our interactions with children—what am I missing here as a teacher or what am I noticing as a coach? What am I noticing as a leader in my classrooms where inequities are happening? How do we get brave enough to have those conversations so that we really are ensuring that everybody gets what they need when they need it?

Marnetta: And knowing that it doesn't reflect on you as a teacher. It doesn't make you less of an effective teacher. This is another tool, another way for us to reach our children on a whole nother level and provide them with the support that they need in an individual manner.

When we think about that equity and that tie to CQI, it's ensuring that high quality experiences for all children consist of us meeting them where they are, and it really lies when you talk about the Plan, Do, Study, and Act in the heart of the ongoing cycle. We're planning as teachers, we're doing, we're studying, and then we're acting on that data. These changes are supported through those formal, informal data collections that we already have in place in some form or fashion in our environments.

Suzann: So what do we do?

Marnetta: We talked about it a lot. What do we do with that? How do we help people start on this journey, provide more support to continue on, or go deeper into this at any journey?

Kate: I think the first one here on the slide is really what you were starting to get at. That as a teacher, I can't be afraid that something I try out might not work because then I won't try anything new. Teachers are very innovative, usually, people anyway. Really, teachers who care are continually looking for the children to make sure that children are getting what they need in their classroom. What we don't always notice are the times when we're preoccupied with something or we have an unconscious reaction to something or not intentionally.

Trying to create an equitable access, really, that's what, as a teacher, thinking about providing the highest quality environment for my children in my classroom. I need to make sure that everyone in my classroom has equitable access to learning experiences. Those are the materials, the curriculum, and everything that I'm providing, but it's also me as the teacher because I'm important in terms of the facilitator of that learning.

If children have inequitable access to me through a strained relationship, they're withdrawn, I'm withdrawn from them, or whatever the thing might be happening because we're humans interacting in a classroom. When these things happen, then children have less access to learning because these interactions are strained.

First of all, as a teacher, I have to be brave to try to reach out, to try to learn and grow. Then another thing to think about is stepping back to think about who in my classroom am I connecting with regularly, and those are good? They have good access to learning. Who am I missing? Who are the quiet children? Who are the children that maybe had some challenges in the classroom and now we're kind of on this negative spiral in our relationship, where I'm expecting challenges and they're expecting me to react in a certain way.

Our relationship is strained. One of the things I can do is spend more time one-on-one and rebuild trust in that relationship with that child. Banking time is a way to do that. That's something to think about. It's a process of implementing these one-on-one interactions with children, short term like weekly, maybe a couple of times each week. Not forever, but in terms of just rebuilding the trust in that relationship.

The other thing that I can do as a teacher is really making sure that I'm focusing on social-emotional learning. We've heard so much about learning loss during COVID. Wherever children were, they were learning something. They weren't [...] out doing nothing. They were interacting with whoever was caring for them and whatever that situation was.

They were learning something, and so we have this fear that they're behind. We want to dive into the deep end and get them caught up with all their skills. But if we don't have that foundation of the social and emotional skills that they need in terms of relationships, relationships with adults and peers, no matter what they learn in terms of academic skills, they won't be able to really fully utilize that learning without being able to get along with people and manage their own emotions, and all those things.

Marnetta: All of those things. You said so much and I didn't want to interrupt. I'm just like, I don't want to interrupt her. There's so much stuff coming out. You said a lot of key things. You were talking about being a teacher and being in the classroom or recognizing who you're spending more time with, relationships, and things like that.

It's so important to note when we talk about equity, when we talk about trauma and individualizing our care with students, whether it'd be conscious or unconscious because a lot of times like you said, we just move through our course of the day, we don't really think about the things and we may not notice some of the behaviors that we demonstrate. But children are always watching and children are always learning. Those actions that you were doing, that you're not aware of, other children are seeing it.

If you're not spending time with Johnny, for instance, and you're spending more time with Mary, children are going to mimic those same behaviors. Now Johnny is not going to be asked to play because the teacher doesn't like you, we don't like you either. Teachers don't want to spend time with you, so why would we? All of our actions, whether intentional or unintentional, really impact what's happening in that classroom and how children feel about themselves.

We're talking about social-emotional learning. We do, we have to just be very mindful. You're right, that banking time is a great opportunity to be intentional about reflecting on our practices in the classroom or our relationships with the children and how we can make those stronger so that they can learn. Because if you ever think about it, I know that I had a teacher who I was not a fan of. I don't care how smart they were. I know now that they were brilliant, but I knew that they were not for me. They didn't like me or whatever and there was nothing that they could tell me that was of any value to me.

We don't want to be those teachers in the class. For learning to happen, those attachments, those relationships, that trust has to be there.

Kate: Right. Like you were saying, it is compounded by the fact that children are learning from you. Not only are those children not getting as much access to you in the learning opportunities you provide, they're then isolated from their peers and they're not getting those learning experiences either. The gap widens. What we can do in terms of equity is make sure that as teachers, we are going through this process of trial and error, and focusing on continuously improving the quality of what's happening in our classrooms, regularly stepping back to look at that.

Marnetta: Yeah, and knowing your students because just because a child cries doesn't mean they're sad. Some people cry because they're happy. If they hurt themselves, they may not want you to run over. They may need a moment to themselves. It's really observing. Knowing your children, getting to know them, building that relationship so that you can provide the support, any assistance to them that really meets what they need as an individual. I can talk about this forever.

Great strategies for teachers to either start using or add to their tool belts that they already have, so I appreciate you running through that. What about for coaches? Teachers, in order to create an equitable learning environment, you talked about it being an intentional thing that needs to happen. Teachers and students need that individualized support to meet them where they are and develop a plan to reach their potential.

Efforts can be targeted to specific classrooms or practices, or you can find new ways to build teacher skills and mindsets. We talked about the teachers, how can the coaches support those teachers in those efforts?

Kate: Right. In the earlier slide it said, equity is reached when everyone has what they need when they need it. In schools, we often think about the children first, which we should because they're why we are there. In addition to that, as coaches and administrators, we're there for the adults in the classroom, the teachers. Whatever role they have in the classroom, making sure that they have what they need when they need it.

Do they have the support? Do they have the materials and resources to the best of your ability as the coach or leader in that program so that they can provide an equitable learning environment for the children in their classroom? A couple of things to think about around that for coaches is really reflecting. As the coach, we are used to sitting with teachers and reflecting with them, guiding them through [...] process. But also thinking as the coach, what is this community that I work in?

What are the needs in this community? What are the characteristics of this group that I support? How do I take what I know of the people that I support into planning for what these teachers need so that they're getting what they need when they need it also?

The other thing that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle and we talk a lot about self-care for adults and it is important. I feel like my tone was like, oh, we talk about that. The reason why I take that kind of stance is that, who's checking up to make sure that it's happening because staffing issues happen, we have not enough people, people are ill or out under different circumstances, not in the classroom, helping out in other areas of the program. Different things are happening and it feels like just racing to keep up with that.

I think strategizing around self-care to make sure that it's not just lip service because we are losing teachers left and right in our classroom. It impacts coworkers, it impacts the children, it impacts everybody. Really, thinking about what can you actually do rather than just saying, make sure you're taking care of yourself. How do we build it in? What kinds of support can I as a coach provide for teachers' places to gather, talk, think together, laugh together, cry together, [...] together, and strategize?

Support isn't just about like, oh, are you meditating every day or whatever? Support is also really working together to find solutions and to build growth into a program. It's a longer term view than making sure you're taking 10 minutes a day of quiet time or something. But it will help build the confidence in the program. When people are connected, they decide to stay even when things are tough.

Marnetta: When you as an organization protect that time, you say that this is important. This is it above all else, this is what we are doing. That says a lot too because like you said, when you talk about lip service, you can put it on my calendar. You can say that this is what I'm supposed to be doing. But if you overload it with other things or you say, oh, just move that around, that's not telling me that that's important and that you really value the need for me to have that time to get done when I need it to get done.

Kate: Right. As a coach, if my role is to make sure that the people that I support have what they need when they need it, how do I make sure that I'm speaking up on their behalf too about what they need?

Marnetta: Most definitely. That was good. Great strategies. I think you covered a lot of different things. I think in working together with the strategies that we talked about with the teachers and the coaches, we really can start moving and shifting some of the equity issues, not all of them. We have to remember that, again, it's a big thing that we're really battling and trying to get a hold of. We have to be patient and know that it's going to take time, and we have to celebrate all the little steps.

Kate: And committing to that process, for sure.

Marnetta: Most definitely. You have been amazing, Kate. Is there anything that you want to say before I wrap this up?

Kate: I think I just said it. It is the commitment. The commitment because in order to get to equity, we have to commit to doing better every day. Inequities happen because of a variety of reasons, but what are the things that we can control and commit to making those things better each day for ourselves and for our children?

We are building the future. I always say that to people. Teaching is building the future. What kind of future are we building for the world through the relationships that we have in our schools, in our classrooms as coaches, teachers, and leaders?

Meghan: Thank you. Thank you, Kate. Thank you, Marnetta. Thank you, Suzann, for adding your perspectives to this conversation. To wrap us up, I just want to summarize everything that we've talked about. That's acknowledging that equity is at the heart of everything that we strive to do as educators. It's the core of everything we're doing at Teachstone.

We want to see our mission that every child and every educator has an opportunity to succeed. To do that, we can use CQI as a framework to allow us to reach a more equitable system. CLASS provides professional development and data that goes hand in hand with the CQI process.

If you have any questions about how CLASS fits into your equity plans, please contact us. We're always available at learnmore@teachstone.com. If you want more tips about teaching with CLASS, don't miss our new podcast, Teaching with CLASS, which you can find on any podcast platform. These are 20-minute episodes packed full of tips for teachers to help you be more intentional about your interactions with students.

I hope you'll check that out. We just released it a couple of months ago and it's been really great. Thanks again and have a great day. It's been wonderful. Thanks again to our presenters. Bye-bye.

 

 

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