In an environment where data is becoming more prevalent and influential in the decision-making process of programming, funding, professional development and career decisions, it is important to maintain a balance between valuation and conversation.
"CLASS is not about the number. It's about what the number represents and the conversation it generates."
There is magnetism to the numbers section of the CLASS observation report. When sitting down with teachers to review the results of an observation, the line of vision seems to pass by the written documentation directly to the circle around the assigned numeric value.
For some teachers, the number has the power to stop or at a minimum limit the conversation that occurs following an observation. The tendency to look at results lower than the highest achievable score as failure obstructs the ability to find a conversational starting point. The finite and quantitative characteristics of the numbers can overpower the range of success it indicates. The perspective can be:
It is comforting to know teachers are working to achieve perfection in their observation results. The conversation about supportive research and appropriate measurement of quality should take place prior to beginning assessment and the assignment of numeric values to the teacher’s level of understanding and implementation. As is proven in teaching children about numbers and mathematical aspects of the environment, their understanding of the process, steps, factors, and “ness” of the numbers is critical to their ability to make connections and develop an understanding of math within their world. Teachers should also be given the opportunity to understand the factors that make up the whole in the assessment and the range of meaning as it applies within their work in the classroom.
CLASS numbers represent the whole of a dimension made up of indicators (factors). Helping the teacher understand this by focusing on the documentation explaining the number can support the teacher’s ability to accept the score. Just as the “ness” of number 1 can be described as “only,” the “ness” of a CLASS score of 5 can be described as “sometimes,” “occasionally,” or “mostly.” I was sharing this information with a teacher, where she was able to begin to see her scores did not mean there was no quality within her classroom, but rather a mid-range with many positives. This conversation helped the teacher realize she needed a fine tuning rather than a total overhaul.
Conversations that start with acknowledgement of the teacher’s area of success create the stage for a positive tone and build a framework for healthy relationships of open communication and cooperation. It is in this context, conversations can lead to a better understanding of the parts to the whole. Too often, in a rush to get to the end result, the focus is directed toward the bottom line rather than the starting point. By engaging in conversations and providing information about the pieces that combine to make a whole, teachers can be empowered rather than overwhelmed. The focus of our conversations in utilizing the strategy of a research-based quality assessment tool needs to drive a more effective method of supporting a teacher’s increased awareness and knowledge and the ability to implement best practice.
Since August of 2008, Ruth Tierney has been the Manager of Education Services for the Chemung County Head Start program in the Southern Tier of New York. For as long as she can remember, she has been fascinated by the curiosity and energy of young children as they discover and learn. Ruth's professional experience is a mixture of working in both public and private early learning centers; including 16 years in college or university lab schools. Initially, she was a Curriculum Specialist with the Palm Beach County Head Start program. Her work also includes partnering with many community agencies in working with the Chemung County School Readiness Project. The comprehensiveness of Early Childhood Education is truly a partnership with school, community and families.
"I’ve just begun my journey into the world of coaching. I am eager and excited about this opportunity to help pave the way for more effective teaching. I’ve recently been given my list of classrooms that I will be working with and I’m anxious to get started. I get ready to meet my first teacher, Ms. Linda, and I just know that she will be excited to meet me and we will form an instant bond and work together for the benefit of the children in that classroom.
It’s been a great year. You have just conducted some professional development trainings for the group of teachers you are coaching. You got the opportunity to visit their classrooms and see them in action, do formal and informal CLASS observations, and had countless coaching conversations. You see that it’s all beginning to click. You have the teachers’ buy-in, and the motivation is high.
I lived in rural Japan for three years. While there, I became very accustomed to ordering the same types of entrees at restaurants due to my limited ability to read menus and my unwillingness to eat foods outside my comfort zone. So imagine how overwhelmed I felt when I returned to the States and had to decide on one entree amid pages and pages and pages of delicious options. It took a few weeks to learn how to navigate my way through these endless options without wanting to close my eyes and blindly point while ordering my meals.