Collecting observation data is critical, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle! Data collection only yields numbers—and numbers, alone, don’t yield improvement. If the goal of CLASS is to improve outcomes for children, then CLASS observation data must be coupled with coaching and professional development. Effective teachers are the key ingredients in successful classrooms, and those teachers must be supported through individualized efforts built on observation data.
Not true! The CLASS tool is not just for preschool, anyway. It is validated for six age levels ranging from infant all the way up to secondary—and trainings are available for you to become certified on all of them!
Nope. At first glance, this assumption makes sense: someone observing classrooms should understand what goes on in classrooms. However, because the CLASS tool is an objective measure, the most critical requirement for any observer is the ability to put past experiences and biases aside—using only one’s objective notes and the CLASS manual to determine scores. Believe it or not, sometimes the most reliable observers are the ones who arrive to observation training with no education background!
Not true! Young children are naturally thinkers, explorers, and scientists. Let’s give them the credit—and opportunities to think—that they deserve. Still not convinced? Then ask yourself this: How many times have you heard a child ask, “Why?” If you have ever spent time with a young child, then you know this question all too well. When children ask big questions, it stems from genuine curiosity and an urge to explore and think deeply about the world around them. The CLASS tool simply gives teachers strategies to stimulate and facilitate this kind of thinking
When a teacher receives a score of 7 on any dimension of the CLASS tool, it’s fantastic, but not necessarily perfect. Why? Because perfection doesn’t exist! Here’s an example: Mrs. Washington has warm relationships with children, smiles often, offers verbal affection, and shows respect. Every indicator of this dimension fits the high range and she scores a 7 on Positive Climate. Although the observer noticed a lack of social conversation during the observation, that’s okay, because classrooms don’t have to be perfect for a score of 7—and even the best of us can find room for improvement.
If measuring the quality of human interactions was as simple as completing a checklist, the world would be a much different place. It would mean interactions are simple. It might even mean an end to political strife and global conflict! But, alas, interactions are complex. It’s pretty darn amazing to have a validated tool that can measure teacher-child interactions; but make no mistake, the CLASS measure is complex—and needs to be, in order to accurately capture the depth, duration, and frequency of teacher-child interactions.
Editors Note: This blog was originally published on September 30, 2014, but has been revamped to keep the content accurate and interesting.
Can we talk about structure? When CLASS entered my life, I was 20 years into my career in the field of early childhood education. What I remember most about that initial training, besides the nervousness about an impending reliability test, was a sense of relief. Structure, including State and program standards, curriculum, materials in the classroom, and approaches to childcare and pedagogy, had dominated my working hours. CLASS was a lot to learn, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air. Observing with CLASS meant I could set aside my obsession with all things structural – which encompassed my thoughts every time I walked into an early childhood classroom.
Decades of evidence indicate that high-quality early childhood education positively affects children. Yet studies reveal that too few programs implement high-quality programming. To date, improvement efforts have primarily focused on what occurs within the classroom. The Ounce of Prevention Fund (Ounce), in partnership with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (UChicago Consortium), strives to broaden the focus of improvement efforts beyond the classroom to organizational conditions that support teachers and the relationships among staff, children, and families.