May was a busy—and very confusing—month for federal budgets. First, on May 7th Congress finally passed, and the President signed, a federal budget for Fiscal Year 2017--the budget year that we are more than half way through! In addition, on May 23, the President came out with his Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which would start October 1. We wanted to take a minute to break these budget events down and discuss what it might mean for schools and programs using the CLASS, such as Head Start, and what it might mean for child well-being more generally.
Recently, at the InterAct conference in Austin, we presented the parallel process of CLASS in 50 incredibly fast minutes. We had fun putting together a presentation that was interactive and that modeled as many of the dimensions, indicators, and behavioral markers as we could. In fact, we gave the participants a score sheet so they could rate us—a take off on the CLASS score sheet.
When the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was reauthorized in December 2015, Teachstone joined with others working across grade levels to celebrate the new law—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA allows and emboldens states to build seamless systems that recognize and incorporate early childhood education in a pre-K to 12 system.
At the end of February, I had the great privilege of attending the annual National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Public Policy Forum as part of my state team, the Connecticut Association for the Education of Young Children (CTAEYC). The field was well-represented: teaching staff and administrators, as well as professional development providers and advocates from a non-profit campus-based child care center, a family child care, a non-profit hospital-based child care center, a for-profit child care center, and two training, support, and research centers for early childhood programs in Connecticut.
Research has long examined the different ways in which students gain from early childhood education, but two new studies from Tulsa have shown some new areas of gains in Head Start Programs, as well as school readiness gains being closely predicted by the CLASS tool. While variation between classes and schools continue to be a problem in early childhood education outcomes, CLASS is driving schools towards greater success.
As anyone who has been to a CLASS training can attest, we are all about incremental growth, resisting the urge to promise a “quick-fix.” But, it can be hard to resist the urge to promise overnight changes, even though many indications point to slow, steady improvement being more likely to lead to lasting change.
What is quality in early education classrooms, and how can we make sure that more children—especially those from low-income families—experience it? Our own and others’ research shows that classroom interactions between teachers and their students provide the strongest indicators of quality.
Personally, I get tired of the knee-jerk teacher bashing that often occurs when people compare U.S. student achievement to that in other countries. It is true that by many measures, U.S. education results lag behind those of other developed nations. But, guess what? There are good reasons for that, and those reasons suggest tangible, attainable solutions for education leaders.
Last Friday, the federal Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) published an evaluation of the Office of Head Start’s (OHS) Designation Renewal System (DRS). Given the complex nature of the study, from the recruitment of the sample to the numerous quality measures, we thought it would be helpful to put the findings in context and begin to address the important questions raised in this report. We also are pleased to provide this snapshot summary of the research on the CLASS® involving thousands of classrooms and tens of thousands of students across the age levels, from infant care through secondary education. In collaboration with practitioners, researchers, and policymakers across the field, we are learning and building on our commitment to ensuring outstanding early childhood education for every child in every classroom.