Clayton Early Learning
29Dec/15Off

Data Utilization at Clayton Early Learning

Kristin Denlinger

By

Kristin Denlinger

Kristie Denlinger and Peter Blank

Data Utilization at Clayton Early Learning

While Clayton schools are supporting children and families build strong foundations through high quality care and early education, support services and community programs, the Institute at Clayton Early Learning is conducting research that extends far beyond the walls of our two schools.

The Institute conducts studies and gathers data to help prepare our students for kindergarten, ensure that our program’s needs are being met, and advocate for children at the local, state, and federal policy level.

What do you mean by data?

Child Outcomes

Children at Clayton participate in several developmentally appropriate assessments throughout the year to help us understand what specific knowledge our children have gained and how they’re learning in comparison to other children of the same age.

Since we are working with very young children, these assessments looks more like games that are fun and engaging; allowing children to demonstrate knowledge and competence through play. For example, an assessment might test for the skill of prepositions (in, on, under, etc.) by presenting a student with a series of variety of toys, then asking the child to “put the spoon in the cup.”

Teacher Data

We obtain teacher data in the form of surveys, observations, and TS Gold reports. Teachers and staff at Clayton fill out several surveys throughout the school year that provide valuable information about the culture of our classrooms and programs, such as how teachers spend their time, how they interact with parents, how they use data, etc. Teachers are also observed in their classrooms interacting with children several times a year using a standardized observational tool. After the observations, the tools are used for professional development to help teachers20150814_assessment_037-2 improve their practices and to ensure all students are having their individual academic needs met. Finally, TS Gold is the state approved assessment system we use here at Clayton where teachers can input data that demonstrates children’s competencies in areas like socio-emotional development, language development, and math skills.

Parent Data

Parents at Clayton are given an annual survey that gives us valuable information about the families that we serve.  Questions on the survey center around family events and situations such as the family moving, housing and food insecurity, activities that the parents do with the child, and the parents’ experience at Clayton.

How is data used?

Individual Level

Our child assessment data is shared with teachers with parental consent twice a year and is used to help tailor instruction to the needs of each child. For example, if a teacher is concerned about whether a child’s language comprehension skills are developing at an appropriate pace because the child is not responding to instructions, the teacher may not know if this is a behavioral issue or if the child just doesn’t understand what the teacher is saying.  If the child receives a developmentally appropriate language assessment, we can compare their comprehension skills to those of other children of the same age.

In addition to this common measure, we can also identify the specific skills that the child can or cannot yet demonstrate, such as knowledge of prepositions (on, in under, etc.). From there, the teacher not only has an objective understanding of the child’s skills but they can also adjust their practices with the child based on the skills they know, such as using more gestures with their instructions to the child in order to foster their language development.

Child assessments allow us to ensure that children aren’t slipping through the cracks or getting bored. Using data driven evidence, we can make sure that each individual child is getting the academic supports they need and that our teachers can use their resources to the child’s best advantage.

Program Level

We are able to evaluate and improve our program using the data we collect in a variety of ways, including using child and teacher data to help us evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in our curriculum and using parent and teacher surveys to evaluate the culture of the school and the biggest needs of our families.

For example, a few years ago a large group of our families reported varying degrees of food insecurity. This gave us the objective data to support our Food for Families program, which has expanded and works to provide our families with fresh produce and access to our own food pantry.

Cross-network Level

Clayton Early Learning is a part of the Educare Learning Network, a national network of early learning centers aimed at providing the highest quality comprehensive care to low income families. This network, led by the Ounce of Prevention Fund and the Buffet Early Childhood Fund, gives Clayton access to valuable resources, research, and peer learning from similar partner programs across the county.  As a member of this network, we report our own data and participate in longitudinal studies to show the effectiveness of quality early education for our children and families. This data can also be a powerful tool for local, state, and federal policy advocacy, as well as helpful in applying for grants for future research.

We are always pursuing new projects and looking to use our data in a variety of ways to advance quality early childhood education and development. For more information about Clayton Early Learning and the Educare Network, use the site links listed below and be sure to subscribe to this blog where we will provide readers with an insider’s look at various aspects of data use at Clayton!

http://www.claytonearlylearning.org/research/

http://www.educareschools.org/our-approach/educare-learning-network/

2Oct/15Off

Tools of the Trade: The Bracken School Readiness Assessment

Kristin Denlinger

By

Kristin Denlinger

Among the greatest benefits for children who attend high quality early care and education programs is access to tools and resources that will support the student’s readiness for kindergarten. Though the goal of school readiness for kindergarten bound students is clear, many families may wonder how readiness is determined and what tools are used to measure student growth and development.

Based on commonly identified academic criteria, one tool used to measure a preschool student’s development is the Bracken School Readiness Assessment. As children prepare to transition from preschool to kindergarten, the assessment is used to measure the child’s knowledge in areas including

  • Color identification
  • Letter and number recognitionresearch and evaluation
  • Counting and measurement concepts
  • Identification and comparison of shapes

Unlike traditional testing, The Bracken is considered a ‘receptive’ assessment, meaning that children only need to point to select answers and that the student is not expected to vocalize or articulate their response. The assessor must remain objective throughout the assessment, but is dually charged with supporting the child in maintaining focus or engagement and must also anticipate distractions, boredom and other factors unique to working with young children.

Early education professionals must complete a comprehensive training program before they are considered qualified and reliable to administer The Bracken Assessment. This training provides instruction in objectivity, strategies for observing young students and practice in accommodating unexpected factors that include behavioral and environmental challenges.

This fall, teachers and other ECE professionals throughout Colorado will participate in assessor training in order to effectively implement assessment, like The Bracken, into high quality early education programs.

Concurrently, many preschool children will be assessed by qualified educators who will use The Bracken School Readiness Assessment. Those same students will be assessed once more in the spring for the purpose of objective growth measurement over the course of the school year. Both rounds of assessment will produce data that is used to gauge the child’s comprehension so that schools and families can develop individualized instruction strategies for the student as they prepare to transition from preschool to kindergarten.

For more information about The Bracken School Readiness Assessment and other tools used to track early childhood development,

contact Kristie Denlinger of the Clayton Early Learning Research & Evaluation Team kdenlinger@claytonearlylearning.org.

 

16Dec/14Off

An Exciting Partnership: Clayton Early Learning and the Denver Preschool Program

Peter Blank

Posted by Peter Blank

By

Peter Blank

As you may recall, the Denver Preschool Program (DPP) made the news this past election season, as voters were presented with a ballot initiative to slightly increase the Denver Preschool tax, which has funded the program since 2006.  The measure passed, with 55.28%[1] of voters choosing to have DPP continue providing high quality preschool for Denver families through 2026.

DPP encourages families to enroll their children in preschool by providing tuition credits to parents to offset the cost of preschool.  DPP also works to provide resources, such as professional development opportunities, and quality measures to participating preschool programs that serve Denver’s children.

What may not have been highlighted in the news, is Clayton Early Learning’s role in the assessment and evaluation of the Denver Preschool Program over the last six years.  The Clayton Early Learning Institute (Clayton) has collaborated with Augenblick, Palaich and Associates since the 2007-2008 program year to deliver high quality evaluation of the program, specifically related to the development of children enrolled in DPP.

In the second year of DPP’s existence (2008), Clayton developed an evaluation to look at how effective the program was in a variety of areas related to the development of participating children. This evaluation was designed to look at important questions about DPP such as, but not limited to, what extent participating children progress in their language, literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional development and to what extent enrolled children are prepared for kindergarten.  Having completed its seventh year of this evaluation, Clayton can now not only look at current participants in DPP, but past participants as well.  Clayton is able to compare past DPP participants to other students of the same grade level, providing important longitudinal data related to school readiness and school success, and how they relate to DPP.

The Research and Evaluation Team at Clayton randomly selects 200 families enrolled in DPP to participate in the study each year. Family participation is completely voluntary.  The team focuses on collecting data from two sources: child assessments and parent surveys.  The team uses standardized assessments that focus on math, pre-literacy, and language skills, and are able to deliver them in both English and Spanish.  The results of the evaluation are analyzed and compiled in a report that is then shared with the staff at the Denver Preschool Program.  These annual reports and data have helped highlight the success of DPP over the years.

This continued partnership with the Denver Preschool Program is just another example of how Clayton Early Learning is using its vast and varied talents to help shape the important field of Early Childhood Education right here in Denver.

For more information on the Denver Preschool Program you can visit their website at http://www.dpp.org.

For more information on the Clayton Early Learning Institute’s work with the DPP evaluation you can contact Caroline Ponce at CPonce@claytonearlylearning.org or (303) 355-4411 x252.



[1]Denver (2014, November). Denver Election Results. Retrieved from City and County of Denver: https://www.denvergov.org/electionresults

 

 

21Aug/13Off

Mixed Company: Preparing ALL Children for School – repost from 8/2012

Rebecca Soden

Posted by Rebecca Soden

By

Rebecca Soden

Are you a parent or grandparent looking for a quality preschool experience for your child? Great news! Our high quality NAEYC Accredited school here at Clayton Early Learning would like to announce that we now have a limited number of preschool openings available for tuition-based children.

This might be news to some folks in our community who have known Clayton as a program that primarily serves low-income children and families. We recognize that this is a shift from how we have traditionally gone about improving educational opportunities within our local neighborhoods. We want to take a moment to highlight a few of the reasons WHY we are making a change to serve tuition-based families and how YOU can help us to create a future where all children are prepared for success in school and in life.

Why Are Mixed Income Preschool Classrooms Good for Kids?
Here at Clayton, we are always striving for evidence-based practices. We want to be doing the kinds of things that we know are related to better opportunities for children down the road. As universal access to preschool becomes more common across the nation, we have more evidence to help us understand the value that economic integration has for children’s school readiness. Data has been mounting for years that quality early learning experiences (especially literacy building experience that teach vocabulary and expressive language skills) help to prepare children for reading success down the road. Studies that have looked deeply at this issue have found some preliminary evidence that economic integration within preschool classrooms can lead to stronger language skills for ALL children.

  • Low Income Children – After just one year of preschool, low-income children in economically integrated classrooms moved from below the national norm (93) on language scores to above the national norm (101) while children in the low-income only classrooms were still well below the national norm in the spring (Schechter & Bye, 2007). Classroom quality was high within all of these preschool rooms suggesting that learning alongside peers from different economic backgrounds might have played a role in these gains.
  • Middle and Upper Income Children – Gains in the mixed-income classrooms were similarly strong for children who were coming from more affluent homes. The great news is that ALL children benefited, not just low-income children (Schechter & Bye, 2007).

Another reason that we are striving for economic integration is because we are working with families to gain upward economic mobility. As families in our program achieve their goals and their income levels increase, we want to provide avenues for children to stay at our school with the continuity of care that we are so committed to providing. Offering a tuition-based preschool option is one more way that we are trying to meet the needs of our families and our community.

How Can You Help?

Give the gift of high quality learning to your child. We want our preschool to be full when the new school year begins. We want every preschool child (low, middle and upper income) within Northeast Denver to have a quality early learning experience and to be fully prepared for success in Kindergarten. Please take a moment and complete an Interest Form online or call us at 303-355-4411.

5Jun/13Off

Quality Suitcase: What Would You Bring? – Republished from 5/30/12

Brenda Hoge

Posted by Brenda Hoge

By

Brenda Hoge

The ERS (Environmental Rating Scales) Team at Clayton Early Learning is holding one of their bi-annual trainings here on campus this week. Because of this, it only seemed appropriate to republish Brenda Cobb-Hoge's blog on Early Childhood Classroom assessment from last spring.

From May, 2012

Assessing quality in Early Childhood Classrooms is not new to many of us in Colorado. We have been assessing quality in many of our classrooms and family childcare homes for over 12 years, primarily through the use of the Environment Rating Scales (ECERS-R, ITERS-R, FCCERS-R). As Colorado begins building a new version of the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), it’s important to reflect on what we have learned along the way – and what challenges remain. So as I think in terms of packing my “Quality Suitcase,” these are some of the things I would bring along on this next adventure:

The Importance of Training: One of the first things we’ve learned with our involvement using the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales (ERS) is that training before implementation is critical. Providing overview trainings for teachers, providers and Directors on the tools as well as more in-depth training for coaches was key to improving quality based on the tools because it gave everyone the “why” behind the indicators and assured everyone that they could pick and choose the indicators that they felt was important to implement in their program.

Coaching Support is Key: Another thing we learned along the way is the importance of coaches and their role in the “Improvement” part of this process. As some communities began using the Rating, their programs were getting money for materials based on their ERS scores but we weren’t really changing the quality. We also had TA services where someone would come in and help the program “get ready for the rating” which worked for the “month rating window” but it really didn’t help create lasting improvements. Centers and homes that have been provided with individualized coaching have focused on not just the “test” but rather on more introspection, goal-setting, and education, and again, quality in these programs has improved over time. As coaches have begun working with the Raters, it has become more of a unified support system for the program, which has been very beneficial.

Reliability equals trust: The third thing we’ve learned along the way is how important it is to have a reliability system for our Quality Ratings. As the Qualistar Rating has become more “high stakes” having well-trained Rating Specialists whose reliability is checked regularly has been crucial in building trust in the system. Yes, not everyone can be consistent 100% of the time due to the high variance in the types of programs Rating Specialists encounter, but by having highly reliable Raters, program disputes over the observation portion of the rating have decreased over time.

Incentives: Because child care is so expensive to implement at a “quality level” the fourth important thing is that we need to provide incentives for programs that participate. Whether the incentives come in the form of grants for staff training or coaching or whether it comes in the form of higher reimbursement rates, programs need support to make “quality” happen.

Buy-in to the system: Finally one of the last things we learned over time is the importance of buy-in to the process both from the provider perspective and from the parents who put their children in our child care centers/homes. We want providers invested in improving the quality of their classrooms; that they really understand that quality is something you work on every single day – not just the day or month of the rating. Yes anyone can “pass the test” on any of these quality measures, but to really commit to quality every single day is extremely important. In our programs who have invested the time and energy to work on quality every day, the benefits to the children enrolled in those programs can be life-changing.

For parents, who are the consumers, it’s also important that they buy in to this system and that they no longer accept poor quality care for their children. Yes, the problem that we continue to face is that many parents’ choices in child care may, out of necessity, be driven by costs of programs rather than the quality. I’m fairly certain that if you asked any parent, they would prefer to put their child in a quality program if we could find a way to make it affordable.

So as we look to introducing more quality improvement measures for our child care centers and homes, it’s important to take what we have learned and improve upon it. And like any suitcase, there are some things that we take with us but we never use, and some things we forgot to bring along or couldn’t fit that are critical to our journey. Some of these include the buy-in of providers and parents, approaches and tools for working with Dual-Language Learners and Staff, support for the wide array of curricula that are being used by our programs, funding for our improved QRIS system, and having resources in place in all areas of Colorado and for all types of programs. And while this is just a small list of what we’ve learned and what we still need to answer, it’s a start. What other things have you learned from our ERS journey that we need to pack with us in our “Quality Suitcase” as we embark on this new direction?

16Jan/13Off

Early Childhood Response to Intervention- Best Practices in an Emerging Field

Nathan Pope

Posted by Nathan Pope

By

Nathan Pope

Many readers may have heard of the concept Response to Intervention (RTI), but may not know what it looks like in practice, or that RTI can be applied to Pre-K settings.  This blog is an introduction to RTI, and the goal is for educators and administrators to recognize the need and value in implementing or expanding an effective RTI program in their preschools.  Future articles in this series will address what parents need to know about RTI, emerging RTI models, and effective interventions.

 

What is RTI?

RTI is a recognized evidence-based practice to improve educational outcomes for all children regardless of whether they are in general or special education.  In addition, federal and state accountability policies support the use of RTI in annual reporting of individual child progress (Head Start for School Readiness Act, 2007).  The RTI problem-solving model has been increasingly implemented in K-12 education since the late 1990s, and research suggests that an RTI approach can be beneficial in the years prior to kindergarten.

Why Do Schools Need RTI?

Many children enter preschool without having a strong foundation of language, early literacy, and socio-emotional regulation skills.  Do you have a child that is having trouble recognizing letters?  If so, implementing RTI could help children learn key skills.  Pre-K RTI provides an evidence-based practice for preventing or mitigating the occurrence of language, literacy, and academic learning difficulties or learning disabilities.  In schools where universal screening in key areas of academic and behavioral areas occurs, students who are falling behind are quickly identified and interventions are discussed, implemented, and monitored to see if the interventions help the student get back on a trajectory for success.

What does a RTI model look like?

RTI is a dynamic, multi-tier framework of support to provide differentiated instructional interventions for individual students based on their demonstrated need.  There is no universal model of RTI, but the common features of Pre-K RTI include:

  1. Providing all children research-based curriculum and instructional methods to reach the desired educational outcomes (Tier 1).
  2. Universal screening to identify children not learning as expected, and providing additional focused, intensive instruction and monitoring their progress more frequently (Tier 2).
  3. Providing additional support to students when Tier 2 instruction failed or who need even more intensive intervention (Tier 3).

At the state level, the Colorado RTI framework promotes high-quality research-based curriculum and interventions based on children’s academic and behavioral needs.

What can RTI look like at my Preschool?

Many preschools already have some of the components of RTI in place, but need to supplement their existing program and refine professional development in areas that need additional support.  For instance, if a preschool is already using a research-based core curriculum such as Teaching Strategies Gold, Tier 1 instruction will stay the same.  The universal screening measure will depend on what skills or behavior you want to evaluate.  Schools evaluating receptive vocabulary may want to use the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-4) or the Preschool Language Scale (PLS-5).  There are now several pre-k progress monitoring tools available for Tier 2 including the Early Communication Indicator (ECI) and the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS).  Tier 3 interventions include more frequent and intensive individualized interventions.  Under the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children may be referred to see if they are a “child with a disability.”  RTI may not be used to delay or replace a full evaluation to determine if they are eligible for special education and related services.

Next Steps

Are you ready to implement or improve RTI practices at your preschool?  You can start by filling out a school-level RTI rubric.  Stay tuned for additional blogs on this critically important topic!

My Top 5 RTI Resources
  1. Colorado Department of Education RTI page: http://www.cde.state.co.us/RtI/LearnAboutRtI.htm
  2. Colorado Response to Intervention: A Practitioner’s Guide to Implementation http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdegen/downloads/RtIGuide.pdf
  3. Roadmap to Pre-K RTI: Applying Response to Intervention in Preschool Settings http://www.ncld.org/students-disabilities/ld-education-teachers/roadmap-pre-k-rti
  4. The Response to Intervention (RTI) Approach in Early Childhood http://www.milcleaders.org/media/cms/files/Content/Pages/Focus%20on%20Exceptional%20Children.pdf
  5. The RTI Action Network http://www.rtinetwork.org/pre-k
7Nov/12Off

Coaching to Improve Quality – in Search of the Evidence

Lynn Andrews

Posted by Lynn Andrews

By

Lynn Andrews

Here at Clayton, we always strive to use “evidence-based” practice, whether we are teaching children, supporting families, training teachers, or developing programs and policy with community partners.  Sometimes, the evidence-base doesn’t yet exist in current research findings and we are helping to create it.  An example of this is our coaching work.  We have been privileged to engage in a number of research projects that use coaching as a key professional development strategy.

To some extent, our coaching work is still an act of faith.  There is a small body of research on coaching in early childhood education that is beginning to shed light on whether it is effective in helping teachers make sustained changes in their practice (generally, so far the answer is yes) but there are still many unanswered questions. Is there a minimum “dosage” to be effective?  How should coaching hours be distributed over time?  Is on-line coaching as effective as face-to-face coaching?  Is there a difference between coaching in a supervisory relationship and coaching from a peer? Is time for shared reflection between the coach and teacher important or is simply giving teachers feedback and recommendations enough? Do the answers to these questions vary depending on what skills or dispositions you are trying to teach?  And of course, the million dollar question, does an approach that works in one situation – teaching specific content related to a specific knowledge and skill base, such as language and literacy, using specific incentives for participants – transfer to a different situation?

These are not just important questions for those of us who are on the giving and the receiving end of coaching, they have important policy implications.  Compared to other forms of professional development and supports to improve teacher practice, coaching is expensive.  Funders and policy makers want to know where they can get the best return on their investment.  At the same time, the randomized control trial studies that are the standard for providing evidence of what works and what doesn’t are also quite expensive and the results often take years to reach publication. So as much as I wish we had the answers to these questions about coaching now, in trying to make a difference for teachers and children now, I have to ask – what are we willing to accept as “evidence”?  Where does our experience – carefully documented and examined – fit in?  And what does it tell us? At Clayton we have been using coaching as a professional development strategy for over 10 years, working with more than 200 programs.  Here are a few things that we believe are true based on our particular experience that I suspect eventually will be supported by further research:

  1. Coaching combined with training is more effective in changing practice than training alone.
  2. It’s important for the “coachee” to trust the coach.
  3. Coaching should focus on specific, well-defined changes in practice, not global concepts.
  4. Coachees need to see examples of effective practice and have opportunities to practice with feedback AND opportunities to reflect on their efforts to implement new practice.
  5. Given the realities of teaching schedules and limited planning time, accomplishing #2-4 requires more than a few hours of coaching over a couple of months time.
  6. What the teacher believes about her work is as important as what she does – changing practice based on values (such as behavior management) takes more time than changing practice based on knowledge (bleach sanitizes better than soap).
  7. The coaching time required to help teachers achieve a desired level of proficiency depends on her starting point and the level of cognitive processing required – supporting children in math reasoning is more complex than figuring out a daily schedule.
  8. If coaching isn’t voluntary on the teacher’s part, creating change will take longer or may not happen at all.

As you can see, these are not sweeping generalizations – our sense is that the answer to the questions about coaching is often “it depends”.

Many states and communities now include coaching in their early childhood Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, and there are numerous, smaller professional development initiatives using coaching paired with training.  If we can gather what is learned from the experience of all these efforts, we will make a huge contribution to the evidence-base for coaching to accompany emerging research findings.  Formal research may be able to inform future professional development efforts with some broad principles for coaching, but I believe we will always need to rely on the evidence of our experience in real-time, in continuously evolving environments, to guide us in deciding how to design effective coaching interventions.  If you have been involved with coaching, what insights can you add from your experience bank?

31Oct/12Off

Assessment- A ‘Stickery’ Situation

Nathan Pope

Posted by Nathan Pope

By

Nathan Pope

As a recent addition to the Clayton Research and Evaluation department, I wanted to share my perspective on the challenges and benefits of assessing young children. I am a data collector for the Evaluation of Program Options at Clayton Early Learning research study. My responsibilities include assessing preschool-aged children in the center-based and home-based program options. To assess these children, we are using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-4) and the Preschool Language Scales (PLS-5). These standardized assessments provide valuable information to parents, teachers, and other stakeholders about children’s receptive vocabulary.

Sponge BobThe example below is a glimpse of what a day in the life of a data collector is like at Clayton Educare: To assess children one of the first things you need is to make sure you have all of your supplies. Supplies consist of: Testing kit- check. Test booklets in English and Spanish- check. Class rosters- check. Sharpened pencils with erasers- check. School Id- check. Stickers- (flowers, princesses, Sponge Bob, and Spiderman)- check. My hands were full with the bulky set of testing materials, and I felt like a traveling salesman selling an unpopular but necessary product as I walked the 100 yards across the parking lot from the Clayton House to the Educare School. The fall assessment season had begun, and I was ready to start assessing children!

At Educare, I was warmly welcomed by the people attending the Help Desk. At first the master schedule showed all the meeting rooms were occupied by other staff members and assessors, but after making a few calls they helped me find a quiet space where I could assess the children on my roster. After setting up my testing materials, I went to look for students to assess.

The first classroom I tried was empty since the class had gone for a nature walk to gather sticks and leaves for a project. In the second classroom, children were engaged in learning activities and naturalistic play and I felt bad interrupting them. I asked the teacher if ‘Maria’* was present and if this was a good time to work with her. The teacher told me that ‘Maria’ was no longer in that classroom, so I made a note to make sure that this information was updated in our records. Next I asked if ‘Markus’ was there, and unfortunately he was absent. Several other children asked if they could go with me, but since these kids didn’t have consent forms signed by their parents yet, I told them they would have to wait until they were on my list. Finally I asked if ‘Jamir’ was available and he was. What a relief to finally have a child to assess!

The teacher called ‘Jamir’ over and said, “Mr. Nathan wants to play games with you. When you’re done you will get a sticker!” I was relieved when ‘Jamir’ came over willingly and seemed excited to go ‘play games’ with me. I guess that kids play all kinds of games, and some are more exciting than others, so saying a word and identifying a picture that corresponds to it could loosely be considered a game too. As ‘Jamir’ and I walk down the hallway to the assessment space, I tried to build rapport by talking. We chatted about his striped green shirt and about his brothers and sister. When we arrived in the testing room, I gave the directions and we started the assessment. ‘Jamir’ was engaged in answering the questions, and didn’t seem to be too nervous about his efforts. During the middle of the assessment ‘Jamir’ sneezed and I helped him blow his nose, then we got back to work. Around twenty minutes after starting the test, he reached his ceiling score so we stopped testing and he chose a Sponge Bob sticker! I always want to help kids have a positive assessment experience, so I told him he knows how to answer lots of questions, and that he has the potential to do anything with his life. We returned to his classroom, and I started working with the next available child on my roster.

From my experience this fall, I have come to learn administering assessments to children requires lots of flexibility. At first, I assumed I would be able to show up at the school and do back-to-back testing, quickly finishing the kids on my roster. Now I know that testing takes much more time than anticipated due to logistics and human factors. There are many challenges such as verifying the student is in the correct classroom, finding students when they are attending class, arranging assessments to minimize interruptions to the classroom schedule, and encouraging kids to do their best work during the assessment.

Although there are many challenges to collecting data, the results are beneficial and worth the time and effort. The assessment results are used in ongoing data-driven discussions between teachers, mentor coaches, and assessors in order to ensure all of the goals and objectives of the program are met. The individual child results are also used to identify areas where teachers can provide additional instruction to the child during class time. The assessment results are also compiled and the evaluation report of the Educare Program is generated. Our annual evaluation report is used to inform private funders and other invested partners about the high quality of Clayton Educare and the resulting outcomes for our children.

As a member of the Research and Evaluation team, I want to thank all the people who are involved in the assessment process. Everyone has an important role, and together we tell the story of Clayton Educare. We value parents who allow us to assess their children to display the high quality work taking place in our classrooms. We value teachers who encourage kids to ‘go play games,’ and who utilize data to provide meaningful lesson plans. We value Child Family Educators who explain the goals of our research study to families to obtain consent to assess their children. Finally, we value the stakeholders who share our educational philosophy and fund our programs. Together, we generate information about children which can be used to identify areas of strength and areas of support. With this information we work together towards closing the achievement gap and providing the best opportunities for the children we serve. For all your hard work and support you deserve a sticker too!

*All names are fictitious to protect the identity of the individual.

28Aug/12Off

Mixed Company: Preparing ALL Children for School

Rebecca Soden

Posted by Rebecca Soden

By

Rebecca Soden

Are you a parent or grandparent looking for a quality preschool experience for your child? Great news! Our high quality NAEYC Accredited school here at Clayton Early Learning would like to announce that we now have a limited number of preschool openings available for tuition-based children.

This might be news to some folks in our community who have known Clayton as a program that primarily serves low-income children and families. We recognize that this is a shift from how we have traditionally gone about improving educational opportunities within our local neighborhoods. We want to take a moment to highlight a few of the reasons WHY we are making a change to serve tuition-based families and how YOU can help us to create a future where all children are prepared for success in school and in life.

Why Are Mixed Income Preschool Classrooms Good for Kids?
Here at Clayton, we are always striving for evidence-based practices. We want to be doing the kinds of things that we know are related to better opportunities for children down the road. As universal access to preschool becomes more common across the nation, we have more evidence to help us understand the value that economic integration has for children’s school readiness. Data has been mounting for years that quality early learning experiences (especially literacy building experience that teach vocabulary and expressive language skills) help to prepare children for reading success down the road. Studies that have looked deeply at this issue have found some preliminary evidence that economic integration within preschool classrooms can lead to stronger language skills for ALL children.

  • Low Income Children – After just one year of preschool, low-income children in economically integrated classrooms moved from below the national norm (93) on language scores to above the national norm (101) while children in the low-income only classrooms were still well below the national norm in the spring (Schechter & Bye, 2007). Classroom quality was high within all of these preschool rooms suggesting that learning alongside peers from different economic backgrounds might have played a role in these gains.
  • Middle and Upper Income Children – Gains in the mixed-income classrooms were similarly strong for children who were coming from more affluent homes. The great news is that ALL children benefited, not just low-income children (Schechter & Bye, 2007).

Another reason that we are striving for economic integration is because we are working with families to gain upward economic mobility. As families in our program achieve their goals and their income levels increase, we want to provide avenues for children to stay at our school with the continuity of care that we are so committed to providing. Offering a tuition-based preschool option is one more way that we are trying to meet the needs of our families and our community.

How Can You Help?

Give the gift of high quality learning to your child. We want our preschool to be full when the new school year begins. We want every preschool child (low, middle and upper income) within Northeast Denver to have a quality early learning experience and to be fully prepared for success in Kindergarten. Please take a moment and complete an Interest Form online or call us at 303-355-4411.

30May/12Off

Quality Suitcase: What Would You Bring?

Brenda Hoge

Posted by Brenda Hoge

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Brenda Hoge

Assessing quality in Early Childhood Classrooms is not new to many of us in Colorado. We have been assessing quality in many of our classrooms and family childcare homes for over 12 years, primarily through the use of the Environment Rating Scales (ECERS-R, ITERS-R, FCCERS-R). As Colorado begins building a new version of the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), it’s important to reflect on what we have learned along the way – and what challenges remain. So as I think in terms of packing my “Quality Suitcase,” these are some of the things I would bring along on this next adventure:

The Importance of Training: One of the first things we’ve learned with our involvement using the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales (ERS) is that training before implementation is critical. Providing overview trainings for teachers, providers and Directors on the tools as well as more in-depth training for coaches was key to improving quality based on the tools because it gave everyone the “why” behind the indicators and assured everyone that they could pick and choose the indicators that they felt was important to implement in their program.

Coaching Support is Key: Another thing we learned along the way is the importance of coaches and their role in the “Improvement” part of this process. As some communities began using the Rating, their programs were getting money for materials based on their ERS scores but we weren’t really changing the quality. We also had TA services where someone would come in and help the program “get ready for the rating” which worked for the “month rating window” but it really didn’t help create lasting improvements. Centers and homes that have been provided with individualized coaching have focused on not just the “test” but rather on more introspection, goal-setting, and education, and again, quality in these programs has improved over time. As coaches have begun working with the Raters, it has become more of a unified support system for the program, which has been very beneficial.

Reliability equals trust: The third thing we’ve learned along the way is how important it is to have a reliability system for our Quality Ratings. As the Qualistar Rating has become more “high stakes” having well-trained Rating Specialists whose reliability is checked regularly has been crucial in building trust in the system. Yes, not everyone can be consistent 100% of the time due to the high variance in the types of programs Rating Specialists encounter, but by having highly reliable Raters, program disputes over the observation portion of the rating have decreased over time.

Incentives: Because child care is so expensive to implement at a “quality level” the fourth important thing is that we need to provide incentives for programs that participate. Whether the incentives come in the form of grants for staff training or coaching or whether it comes in the form of higher reimbursement rates, programs need support to make “quality” happen.

Buy-in to the system: Finally one of the last things we learned over time is the importance of buy-in to the process both from the provider perspective and from the parents who put their children in our child care centers/homes. We want providers invested in improving the quality of their classrooms; that they really understand that quality is something you work on every single day – not just the day or month of the rating. Yes anyone can “pass the test” on any of these quality measures, but to really commit to quality every single day is extremely important. In our programs who have invested the time and energy to work on quality every day, the benefits to the children enrolled in those programs can be life-changing.
For parents, who are the consumers, it’s also important that they buy in to this system and that they no longer accept poor quality care for their children. Yes, the problem that we continue to face is that many parents’ choices in child care may, out of necessity, be driven by costs of programs rather than the quality. I’m fairly certain that if you asked any parent, they would prefer to put their child in a quality program if we could find a way to make it affordable.

So as we look to introducing more quality improvement measures for our child care centers and homes, it’s important to take what we have learned and improve upon it. And like any suitcase, there are some things that we take with us but we never use, and some things we forgot to bring along or couldn’t fit that are critical to our journey. Some of these include the buy-in of providers and parents, approaches and tools for working with Dual-Language Learners and Staff, support for the wide array of curricula that are being used by our programs, funding for our improved QRIS system, and having resources in place in all areas of Colorado and for all types of programs. And while this is just a small list of what we’ve learned and what we still need to answer, it’s a start. What other things have you learned from our ERS journey that we need to pack with us in our “Quality Suitcase” as we embark on this new direction?