Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Head Start/Early Head Start programs have taken unprecedented steps to provide compliant, high quality programs for children and families. There have been health and safety mandates, guidelines, and protocols to implement, all while programs navigate the day-to-day with a shrinking workforce.

As the COVID-19 pandemic stabilizes and programs transition into a normal that includes both “old” and “new” ways of program operations, there may be opportunities to revisit some of the foundational aspects of continuous program improvement that were left behind over the last couple of years. CLASS observations, whether at the program level to support program quality and staff professional development or at the federal level as part of the monitoring review cycle, are one example. Implementation of a coaching model designed to support teaching staff’s diverse needs is another.

Last month, we wrote about how well-defined policies and procedures can help to support staff members’ effectiveness in their role. For new staff, which many programs are now recruiting, this is particularly important. In the same way, CLASS observations, coupled with a thoughtful approach to Practice-Based Coaching, can help staff grow and improve in the classroom setting. It can also help to establish performance expectations from the beginning of their work in the classroom.

Observations and coaching take planning and time – which is often incredibly limited for programs. While it could take months or a program year to see some of the benefits of CLASS observations and coaching, there is an opportunity for more immediate changes as well. And, new staff will benefit from modeling, reflective conversation, and feeling that their supervisor and colleagues are invested in their success with the program.

CLASS is based on research that suggests that interactions between children and adults is the primary mechanism for supporting student learning and development. It is a valuable tool for monitoring classroom quality, whether part of federal review preparation or used on a regular basis to support program staff. And, if your program has a CLASS review coming up, any amount of practice with the tool will benefit the program and reduce risk for deficiency findings that could place a program in DRS. The status of CLASS for FY2023 monitoring has not yet been announced.

In addition to the use of CLASS in federal monitoring, some states, such as Virginia, are also beginning to use CLASS to measure the quality of programs serving young children. As part of The Unified Virginia Quality Birth to Five System (VQB5), Virginia is using CLASS to measure teacher-child interactions in publicly-funded programs. The state is currently in a “practice year,” with required participation in VQB5 beginning in July 2023. For programs in Virginia, and other states with CLASS requirements, starting early with a plan and a process will ease the transition into new requirements.

Whether preparing for a CLASS monitoring review or using CLASS to enhance program quality, the use of CLASS and coaching is part of an ongoing program improvement strategy. If your program needs support preparing for a CLASS review, using CLASS to enhance program quality and support staff professional development, or developing a coaching strategy, Foundations for Families consultants can help. Our CLASS-certified observers and consultants are highly skilled at implementing services in-person or remotely and in collaboration with programs. Please reach out if you are interested to learn more.

Thank you.

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