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.
A few years into teaching early childhood, I applied to work at a school that does incredible work in the local community. I was thrilled to get an interview but realized very quickly that, even though the environment was supportive and the students were wonderful young people, I was much too intimidated to work there.
Across the nation, teachers learning about CLASS are asked to narrate their actions and sportscast their children’s experiences in order to support and encourage healthy language development. Hearing this, many teachers may wonder, “Will people think I’m crazy if I start talking to myself in the classroom?”
The answer is no. Self- and parallel talk are beneficial strategies for teachers to engage in because they strengthen language rich environments and enhance vocabulary development, all while supporting effective relationship building between teachers and children.
Hey, sports fans! Don’t you just love watching your favorite players on a big game day, scoring points and making it all look so easy and effortless?
Of course, we know nothing in sports is really effortless, even for gifted athletes with abundant natural talent. One of my favorite quotes comes from NBA All-Star Kevin Durant: “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” Intentional, consistent practice is key to any athlete’s success. But even top athletes rely on the support of a coach to improve their game. Players need coaches to help identify their unique strengths and grow their talents while increasing their skills in areas of challenge. To do all this, coaches spend lots of time observing athletes while they practice—giving real-time feedback based on current efforts, breaking skills down as needed to cultivate mastery, and encouraging players to keep trying in pursuit of their goals.
"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.