Across the country and around the globe, schools/programs will soon reopen after extended closures due to COVID-19. Those that have remained open are instituting new health and safety practices.. Localities will determine whether to provide in-person, online, or hybrid teaching. Regardless of the model that schools/programs adopt, classrooms will look different now and for the foreseeable future.
This document provides guidance for how to safely and effectively collect CLASS data in schools/programs with in-person teaching during the time of COVID-19. We also recognize the interest from the field in using CLASS® to assess and improve virtual teaching and are working with organizations that are piloting this work. We will share guidance on the use of CLASS in virtual teaching as soon as possible.
Classrooms will look very different this fall and conditions will vary based on state and local guidance on re-opening. Some states and districts will have more stringent requirements than others. We expect to see the use of these precautions in many schools/programs:
Interactions matter, now more than ever. Teachstone recommends the continued use of CLASS to ensure the quality of classroom interactions and to support educators in their professional development. During these stressful times, children need supportive interactions, and teachers will benefit greatly from helpful feedback around those interactions.
The decision of when to observe in-person will depend on many factors including the impact of the illness rate on a given community. For example:
Additionally, the impact of the virus goes far beyond the physical illness itself. Even those communities that did not have any confirmed cases suffered from the stress and tension of school closings, the inequitable impact of the pandemic due to systemic racism, and the economic impact of the virus.
These events may affect the transition back to school, and a waiting period may be needed before observations begin. Because circumstances vary by locality, we recommend that wait times be decided at the local level. We typically recommend that formal CLASS observations are not conducted in the first few weeks of school, giving teachers and children an opportunity to adjust to the classroom setting. This advice remains, but we recognize that the length of adjustment time may be longer for some schools/programs depending on how different the classroom settings are from the time prior to the pandemic. In-person CLASS observations may simply not be possible in some localities for longer periods of time as programs work to limit exposure.
If in-person observations are not possible, video observation is an option that schools/programs may consider to reduce having an additional outside observer in the school setting. CLASS was validated for use in coding videotape of classrooms (Mashburn, Hamre, Downer, & Pianta, 2007), and this method has been widely used in a large number of research studies. Provided that teachers can capture and transfer video footage, coding via videotape is acceptable. Chapter 2 of the CLASS manual includes recommendations for obtaining high-quality video footage. In addition, Teachstone has guidance on how to do this work.
When observations will take place in the classroom, observers should:
While preparation is key to a successful observation at all times, this is even more true during a pandemic. Here are suggestions to prioritize health and safety while maintaining the reliability of the CLASS observations.
For example, observers may not see physical proximity under the indicator of relationships or physical affection under the indicator of positive communication in Positive Climate. They may not see a teacher smile or hug a child, but instead they may observe the emotional connection between the teacher and the children when the teacher intently listens to what a child says, as evidenced by looking at the child and nodding her head.
Just as the decision about whether or not to observe will depend on a community’s experience with the pandemic, the decision about comparing pre (before the COVID-19 pandemic) and post (during the COVID-19 pandemic) data will depend on the circumstances. It may be necessary to suspend comparison of data in an area that was greatly impacted by the virus, as teachers and children may need more time to readjust to school. For example, teachers may need to spend a significant amount of time providing emotional support and establishing classroom organization, and spend less time on instructional support.
We recommend consideration of these factors, in addition to others specific to each school/program, in determining if/how to compare CLASS data:
We hope this guidance is helpful in answering some of your most important questions, but we recognize circumstances differ across the education landscape. We have more guidance to come, particularly to address the specific ways CLASS interactions may look different in classrooms across the age levels, and we will post that as soon as it is completed.
In the meantime, please use the CLASS Learning Community as a way to get feedback and dialogue with others about their approaches in this COVID-19 world. If you have thoughts you’d like to share or would like to consult directly with us, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some resources for childcare programs and schools reopening during the pandemic:
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?
Nearly two years ago I joined Teachstone with a deep desire and commitment to support leaders and teachers with real-time, practical, and evidence-based strategies and solutions to address the current needs of children, families, and educators. For the 20 years prior, I led organizations working at the national, state, and local levels focused on addressing the needs of children and families, especially those living in marginalized communities. As a practitioner at heart, my passion has been translating research to practice to drive impact and positive outcomes for children. This passion brought me to Teachstone.
Many teachers and leaders associate CLASS® with preschool. And we get it! It’s used in early childhood classrooms across the country, including Head Start programs, and it’s been more important than ever for young children as they begin to return to in-person learning.
But the principles of CLASS - Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, Instructional Support - are important for children well beyond Pre-K. The ever-increasing research base shows that interactions matter for children’s social-emotional and academic development. That’s why CLASS is organized to support children from infancy to high school with the developmentally appropriate interactions that drive learning - and why K-12 leaders are embracing CLASS in their schools.
We’re closing out our celebration of NAEYC’s Week of the Young Child with Family Friday. We have revamped this post from spring 2020 a little to reflect the changes that have happened since last April, but as many families have learned this year, classic activities are classics for a reason. Please enjoy these ones with your young child, and remember - the love, support, and work you’re putting into them will change the world.