Preschool programs have been shown by numerous studies to be effective in increasing children’s social and academic achievement by kindergarten entry, so why do we continue to question the value and worthiness of these investments in critical early learning experiences, particularly for more disadvantaged children? Similarly, why would we want to think of preschool as an inoculation? Do we really think we can dose a vulnerable four-year old with nine months of decent early education and voilà they read like the kids from the fast lane? It’s like we think pre-k “pours in” skills to the container that is a four-year old, and those skills are permanently there, they won’t leak out. We treat this as if the years before preschool and then again the years between preschool and third grade don’t matter.
I was so excited to talk to our October Featured Teacher, Kerry Melancon, after getting such a wonderful recommendation from Nicole Angelle, the Early Childhood Supervisor in her parish. Nicole wrote, “Kerry consistently reflects upon the dimensions of the CLASS tool to strengthen her interactions with the students in her classroom … Children feel safe to take risks and explore life knowing they have support for the adults within the classroom. She would be a great example of what a CLASS teacher should be.”
While spending time doing CLASS observations around the country, I am particularly interested in how programs, directors, and teachers interpret the Regard for Student Perspectives dimension, with particular attention to the restriction of movement indicator. What does restricting movement have to do with showing regard for a child’s perspective? Wouldn’t it fit better with Behavior Management? And how does “allows movement” and “is not rigid” play out in the classroom without wreaking havoc and creating chaos?
"What is contingent responding?" one of our affiliate trainers asked me recently. In case you didn't know, contingent responding is one of the behavioral markers for the frequent conversation indicator in the Language Modeling CLASS dimension. We know this is a question that many have asked, so we thought that it would be a good question to address today.
Our QRIS (Quality Rating and Improvement System) journey began in 2004 in a small office with just three staff. Just like many organizations, we contracted with a consultant to guide us in the implementation of our pilot QRS (Quality Rating System). We assembled quality indicators and requirements galore into eight domains, including ratios, screening and assessment, program operations, learning environment, curriculum, etc. Documents, documents, and more documents were reviewed to assign a star rating for a child care center.
Georgia DECAL is a bit of a hero around these parts. When we talk about states and programs that have successfully implemented CLASS, DECAL inevitably comes up. We talk about its thoughtful roll out of CLASS, how it ensured buy in from all parties, and more broadly, about the state’s leadership in early childhood education with the nation’s first state-funded universal pre-K program in 1995. DECAL’s Pre-K Professional Development Evaluation Report that came out earlier this year speaks to a lot of these incredible details.
My children were lucky enough to have schoolteachers who, among many things, managed their classroom beautifully. Donna and Deanna were an amazing team! While I would shriek “Don’t step on the ice,” as my children slipped yet again into our teeny fish pond (no worries—it wasn’t deep), clear expectations—stated positively—just rolled off Donna and Deanna’s tongues as naturally as sunshine. And so I made a study of how they talked, and while I still might occasionally say things like “Don’t kick your sister!” here’s what I learned:
The Randolph College Nursery School recently became the fourth program in Virginia to earn a top rating (5 stars) from the Virginia Star Quality Initiative, which is a pretty big accomplishment in itself. But in addition to being named a 5-star program, the nursery school also received a perfect score in the teacher-child interactions area of the evaluation—CLASS. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Holly Layne, the director of the program, to learn more about her, her awesome teachers, and how they did what they did.
Teachers, what is your reaction when someone talks to you about using CLASS? Do you cringe, thinking of a numerical score? Do you feel overhwlemed, trying to imagine yet another new thing for you to learn about and do in the classroom?