Program leaders’ understanding of what it means to provide quality teaching has changed quite a bit over the past twenty-five years. A focus on quality used to mean providing a safe place for children to play with plenty of stimulating materials and books to read. Now that most programs provide these basics in their early childhood classrooms, our focus has shifted from the what to the how of quality.
Administrators are interested in how teachers interact with children, how they use time and materials to get the most out of every moment, and how they ensure children are engaged and stimulated. Program leaders are interested in these things because research has shown that these interactions really impact short-term gains in children’s learning and long-term gains in their academic and social success.
Let’s compare two classrooms, both equally safe and well-organized environments, with equally high-quality resources and materials.
The teachers in the Sunshine classroom aren’t “bad” teachers. They have established a safe environment for children to learn and play, and they try to engage children in activities and conversation. However, amid the hustle and bustle of a busy classroom, they miss opportunities to connect with children and seize on teachable moments and therefore opportunities to increase learning. The teachers in the Rainbow classroom maintain the same level of safety, but by engaging fully with children, they make the most of every moment and impact the quality of learning in their classroom.
Teachers in the Rainbow classroom are likely to have the support of an instructional leader (e.g., supervisor or coach) who routinely spends time in the classroom closely observing the teachers interacting with the children. The instructional leader uses a valid and reliable assessment tool to provide the teachers with objective data to help them make decisions about how to improve their practice.
Many early childhood programs are utilizing the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) to support growth in this area. This observation tool was developed to make effective teacher-child interactions objective and measurable. It is based on many years of studies and publications and replications across different classrooms which verify that the interactions measured by the CLASS tool make a difference in children’s learning and development. With professional development and ongoing support from an instructional leader, teachers can improve these interactions. CLASS-based professional development gives teachers and instructional leaders the chance to learn about what makes an interaction effective (or not), and provides them with a roadmap to improve the quality of teaching as we understand it today.
Every state, every district, every school, every teacher faced decisions that they had never anticipated in the last academic year. As the end of the 2020-2021 school year approaches, it’s time to reflect on those decisions, learn from others, and prepare for the fall ahead.
To those in the education world, it’s not news that our schools, our systems, and our students are struggling. For nearly 40 years, since the publication of A Nation At Risk, we’ve recognized as a country that something isn’t working.
For more than a century after the United States’ colonization, school was intended for children who were overwhelmingly wealthy, white, male, and English-speaking - those demographics are no longer the case. Students today are representative of all our nation’s families, but our history means there’s a mismatch between what education has done up to this point and what children really need. What’s more, advances in science - psychology, medicine,
neuroscience, economics, and more - have shown us that to give children the greatest opportunity we must change what we’re doing. We can’t let another 40 years pass while we figure it out.
At Teachstone, our driving vision is to ensure every child experiences life-changing teaching. This mission is why we’re making a commitment to restabilize and improve education for every child, and every educator. And, we know that bringing this commitment to life requires providing education leaders with the support they need to not only face the current challenges, but that will propel towards the future of quality and equity.
Given the context of today’s educational landscape, the global pandemic we are still fighting, and the divides our country is facing, strong leadership is essential. There is a clear need to restabilize and improve education for every child, and every educator. But, what does that mean exactly for educational leaders who are leading the way?