According to the 2010 Springfield Mayor’s Commission for Children study, 20% of Springfield’s incoming kindergartners lack the skills and knowledge needed for a successful start. Research indicates 50% of the gap in achievement scores is attributed to gaps already evident at the time of kindergarten. The time to make a difference is in the early years.
School readiness has two parts: 1) children are ready for school and 2) schools are ready for children. Our community is working to address “children ready for school” through a host of programs and opportunities for young children. However, what about “schools ready for children?” Our community has identified that the single most important attribute of a high-quality pre-k experience is the teacher’s level of professional development, primarily dependent on the quality of teacher-child interactions. This interaction has the greatest impact on child learning and can raise overall student achievement levels. Community Partnership and the Early Care & Education Collaborative are committed to addressing teacher-child interactions, assessing their current level and working to improve them in the near future using an assessment tool called CLASS™.
The CLASS™ is an observation tool that examines teacher-child interactions in the classroom. A trained observer watches the classroom activities for a two-hour period and scores the type and effectiveness of teacher-child interactions. Research accumulated from thousands of classrooms shows the quality of these interactions makes a critical difference in student achievement. Students in high performing CLASS™ classrooms make greater academic and social gains than those in classrooms with lower CLASS™ scores. Positive levels of interactions support students’ social and emotional learning, focus student behavior, time, and attention in the classroom, and build high-order thinking and language skills.
The second vital part of CLASS™ is the use of a personal professional development coach. The coach takes the CLASS™ assessment results and works with the teacher to craft a continuous improvement plan based on each teacher’s unique professional development needs, focusing on effective teaching, and helping teachers recognize and understand the power of their interactions with students.
Springfield Public Schools Wonder Years and OACAC Head Start are just beginning to use the CLASS™ assessment tool for teachers’ professional development. Head Start has adopted use of the CLASS™ tool at the national level and local implementation is just starting with a few trainers/coaches becoming certified. An additional small group of private providers have begun to include CLASS™ in professional development and quality improvement planning. It is our intention to spread the CLASS™ to an additional number of programs in our community that are looking to increase quality. If you are interested in learning more about the CLASS™, call us at 417-888-2020.