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:
The time has come for hard conversations.
That’s the feedback we have been receiving from educators across the country. There are plenty of tough conversations educators are trained, taught, or feel equipped to handle with children and families - gently bringing up a developmental concern, facilitating a disagreement between students, or explaining what happened with the classroom goldfish are all part of a day in the life. But in the last year, since the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, educators are increasingly asking for help in communicating more comfortably with young children about diversity and difference.
I was supposed to be an architect, instead I was a teacher of young children; it felt like my calling.
When I started my coursework, they tasked me with visiting multiple classrooms. It overwhelmed me when in some classrooms, children were crying, teachers were frustrated, and no one seemed to enjoy the day. I thought I had made a mistake. Thankfully, I had a professor who inspired me to continue. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the behaviors I observed in both children and teachers, the professor charged me to uncover the root of those behaviors.
And so, my journey to support social-emotional development began.
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.
This past year of hybrid and virtual learning due to the pandemic highlighted the gaps in learning and the inequities that we already knew existed. It is apparent, now more than ever, that there needs to be a narrow focus on bridging the divides (e.g., digital) that exist and meeting students where they are in order to promote growth and put less emphasis on standardized testing. This would allow teachers to concentrate on curriculum with greater impact, differentiate their instruction, and utilize effective strategies that they know make a difference for children’s outcomes.