The astute observer will have noticed the appearance of a few recent guest posts. This was not a coincidence. I’m trying to expand this blog’s scope a little bit. And I welcome all comers! So, if you have something to say about education, education reform (I guess it’s different?), TFA or any other cool thing under the sun, email me at abcdeindc at gmail dot com or post a comment with your contact info anywhere.
Today, we have an early childhood educator in DC making the argument that IMPACT, DC’s current teacher evaluation system, misses out (albeit innocently) on crucial skills and elements unique to an early childhood education. Apparently, an alternate system, called CLASS, does things better.
Which got me thinking: should IMPACT differentiate itself based upon the subject area or grade level? On the one hand, one major selling point of IMPACT is that it is a universal system. Evaluations are supposed to be more objective as a result. On the other hand, there is something to be said for a system that can accurately reflect the nuances in teaching required of educators across the K-12 spectrum. A one size fits all approach might not be the best idea.
Revamping Early Childhood Teacher Evaluations in DC
by Maria Teresa-Grinneby
As Washington continues to butt heads over budget deals, there’s another battle raging in the District of Columbia. The struggle to offer quality education in the nation’s least successful school district is on-going and oftentimes fruitless. With a push towards quality prekindergarten programs in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), great attention should be paid to the development of one of the most important classroom components: teachers.
Early childhood educators deal with many unique classroom experiences. From children still mastering potty-training skills to mediating the process called “learning to share,” it takes a certain finesse to navigate a room of three- and four-year-olds.
In 2009, DCPS rolled out a new performance evaluation tool called IMPACT. A big step towards teacher quality and accountability, IMPACT takes a closer look at how objectives are taught within the classroom and how student scores grow over the course of the year. But how do we apply this assessment to classrooms that teach many objectives that are not easily tested and how do we measure student growth in children too young to fill out a test? Research has shown that the pre-academic skills children learn in preschool, such as getting along with others and cultivating curiosity, are the skills necessary to later academic achievement.1 Unfortunately, for early childhood teachers, IMPACT does not look at the teaching of many of the pre-academic skills preschoolers need, nor does it focus on the student-teacher dynamic that really drives an early childhood classroom.
What IMPACT may miss in assessing prekindergarten classrooms, another teacher assessment tool places great focus on. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) focuses on three domains that are best practices in early childhood classrooms: (1) emotional support, (2) organizational support, and (3) instructional support.2 By placing focus on the student-teacher dynamic and classroom environment, teachers are effectively being assessed on their ability to create a classroom climate that allows for the learning of essential pre-academic skills.
Chicago Public Schools have already jumped on-board with implementing CLASS, seeing an improvement in the quality of early childhood teachers and classrooms. This may be because of the professional development teachers receive; coaching is recommended based on assessment scores and professional development opportunities are targeted to help improve particular teaching domains. Here in DC, the Partnership for Early Literacy (DCPEL) has seen incredible growth in teachers and their students who are assessed through CLASS with data showing strong correlations between such things as improvement in teacher’s emotional support leading to significant student gains in phonological awareness.3
Coming to a consensus on how to improve DCPS may prove even more difficult than solving the current budget crisis. Knowing the importance of quality early childhood programs is a good start, and one that can only be enhanced through training quality teachers and assessing them in meaningful ways. Assessing early childhood educators through CLASS rather than IMPACT will serve to assist in this strong start and start to make “quality education for all” a reality in the District.
1 Mashburn, A., Pianta, R., Hamre, B., Downer J., Barbain, O., Bryant, D., Burchinal, M., Clifford, R., Early, D. & Howes, C. Measures of Classroom Quality in Pre-Kindergarten and Children’s Development of Academic, Language, and Social Skills. (2007). Child Development, 79, p. 732-749.
2 LaParo, K., Pianta, R., & Stuhlman, M. Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): Findings for the Pre-K Year (2008). Elementary School Journal, 104(5), p. 409-426.
3 AppleTree Institute For Education Innovation. (17 March, 2011). Retrieved from http://www.appletreeinstitute.org/.