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?
Early learning experiences shape student achievement across an academic career. This is especially true for literacy, which has a window of development in the first five years of life, after which it becomes difficult to remediate the skills that develop through intentional fostering in young children. For this reason, it is imperative that young students have the most enriching socio-emotional and academic learning opportunities in their formative years. And, it is the charge of school administrators to lead and ensure this aim is achieved.
To realize all of these gains, however, this commitment to developmentally appropriate, rigorous, and warm instruction must extend beyond pre-K. The CLASS® tool takes the full range of children’s educational experiences into account - from birth to 12th grade - because research makes clear that this is necessary for students to thrive. All learning is rooted in the relationships between learners and educators, and it is critical for leaders to prioritize relationships at every level.
Educators are consumed with the day-to-day logistics of teaching and caring for children. To take on the life-changing work of more intentional interactions, schools must have leaders who are cognizant of what is needed in the classroom and develop systems that support teachers. Thus, it is crucial to provide ongoing professional development opportunities that allow school leaders and teachers alike to fully understand what good instruction looks like in practice.
Examples of sound professional development for school leaders at the district-wide level exist across the country. With a focus on SEL and recognizing the importance of relationships between teachers and students, Dallas ISD has prioritized alignment for pre-K through second grade. After engaging in cycles of data collection and analysis, the district realized that school leaders needed more resources to better support their pre-K - 2 staff. By deliberately correcting course and supporting leadership with CLASS-focused professional development, Dallas ISD has better equipped its school leaders to build capacity at the local level to meet the needs of the teachers and students they serve.
Every child deserves life-changing teachers. However, this does not happen by chance. State and district leaders must be intentional when it comes to ensuring students are placed in the care of exceptional educators. This is essential given the fact that webs of systems have perpetuated persistent inequality and inequity. Thus, as we rebuild schooling post-pandemic, we must do so with equity at the center.
The core domains of CLASS - emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support - are evidence-driven and, by definition, individualized for each child. At the same time, they can be scaled up, measured, and improved upon in a systematic way.
Across the country, CLASS is used by local and state agencies for this purpose. In Louisiana, use of CLASS has allowed policymakers, school leaders, teachers, and other stakeholders to norm and calibrate on a shared definition of high-quality instruction. The unified focus on interactions means that families, too, have meaningful, transparent, and accessible information about program quality. With the same data, large-scale decisions, like identifying and prioritizing areas of professional development, can be made by leaders and instructional changes can be made by teachers who know their students best.
With limited time and resources, practitioners can benefit from the expertise of external professionals. Partners with a shared dedication to social-emotional learning, instructional leadership, and creating equitable systems for continuous quality improvement are essential to the monumental task of building back stronger. Teachstone has been a trusted thought partner to schools, centers, districts, states, policymakers, leaders, and teachers since 2008, with a body of evidence to validate successes. As a certified B Corporation, the team at Teachstone is dedicated to working with stakeholders at all levels to ensure a future where all students succeed to their fullest potential.
Rebuilding towards a future of equity and quality for every child, and every educator requires a collaborative effort. It requires all of us coming together to articulate a vision, execute plans and processes, and adopt systems that will make our long-held dreams a reality.
The Future is Now: Using Stimulus Funding to
May 6th at 3pm EST
Overcoming Learning Loss with
Teachstone applauds the removal of three Confederate statues in Charlottesville, VA. Our organization is headquartered in this Southern city and we have seen first-hand the visceral reaction evoked by these tributes to figureheads of the Lost Cause movement. While the cause of the Confederacy in the Civil War has been lost, the war on racism has not yet been won.
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.