Department seeks public preschool classrooms for observation pilot

The Maine DOE is seeking public preschool classrooms to pilot a research-based classroom observation tool called CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System).

The CLASS tool has three dimensions: emotional support, classroom organization and instructional support. These dimensions reflect interactions between teachers and students and predict students’ performance on standardized tests of literacy skills in preschool and first grade, mothers’ reports of their children’s ability to self-regulate in kindergarten and first grade, and students’ engagement in learning across the elementary grades. These processes are particularly important for children at-risk for school failure and a teacher’s ability to meet these standards can greatly impact a child’s learning trajectory. (Pianta, R.C, La Paro, K. M., Hamre, B.K., 2008)

A certified trainer with Teachstone (University of Virginia), through a contract with Maine DOE, has trained 15 reliable CLASS observers. These observers are ready to travel to preschool classrooms across the state to pilot this tool in January and February. In agreeing to be a pilot classroom, a teacher will receive his/her scores, a debrief with the CLASS observer and school principal, and an opportunity for follow-up technical assistance, if desired. All individual scores will be kept confidential. Teachers and administrators who agree to participate will be invited to an orientation of CLASS via a brief webinar before their observation.

For those schools piloting their Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth (PEPG) systems this year, the CLASS tool is cross-walked with the State-approved Standards of Professional Practice. Depending on the results of the pilot, the CLASS may become a State-approved tool for preschool teachers. CLASS is used nationally for Head Start evaluation and has become a critical component for local programs to receive continued funding. It is particularly appropriate for teachers of younger children and is used in some states’ early elementary classrooms.

The CLASS scores will be used in the aggregate to inform the Maine DOE and the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs about the baseline level of public preschool quality. The data is intended to inform the design of supports that will help teachers improve in all dimensions. Chapter 124, Basic School Approval for Public Preschool Programs will require that classrooms are observed on a regular cycle. Schools that participate in this pilot will be able to count the CLASS observation portion of their first monitoring visit and will be asked to give feedback on the process.

For more information on the CLASS tool, please click here.

For more information about the pilot or to participate, please contact Maine DOE’s Early Childhood Consultant Sue Reed at 624-6632 or susan.d.reed@maine.gov.