The standards to which an early childhood care and education program have chosen to be accountable and the level of fidelity that is exhibited when implementing assessment and improvement practices largely define its effectiveness (NAEYC, 2010). When the focus is on overall quality, the Center on the Developing Child (2007) has suggested specific characteristics of highly effective learning environments as they pertain to physical safety, teacher effectiveness, and credentialing and compensation levels of the education staff. Measurements such as the Program Administration Scale (PAS) are intentional when listing indicators of quality for subscales that include Staff Qualifications, Center Operations, Family Partnerships, and Personnel Cost and Allocation (Talan & Bloom, 2011). Many of the subscale descriptors align with those of the 13 Indicators of Quality Child Care, by the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care (Fiene 2002). Personal experience with PAS has revealed that while a useful tool for measurement of environmental quality for an entire learning center, it is non-specific when compared to assessments that pigeon-hole their testing domain. The PAS does briefly address teacher and student interactions, productivity, and quality of instruction, but tools such as the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) provide teachers the opportunity to reflect with an unbiased observer concerning the body and verbal language, affect and tone, routines and developmentally appropriate guidance (Pianta, La Paro & Hamre, 2008).
Across the very broad spectrum of classrooms that have created a personal lens of perspective in regard to standards and practices that could and perhaps should be universally implemented, it is in this vital area of measuring and improving teacher/student engagement that has been targeted as in need of an inter-rater reliability bridge. Our pod of teachers was gearing up for transitions. Some of our children were moving to the public school kindergarten where we sent 75% of our Head Start students after completing the program. A select few were going to public school 48-60month old classes from our 36-48month old rooms. They would experience what Berger (2018) describes as teacher-led instruction. Prior to the transition, the students were accustomed to behavior management, instructional formats, routines and procedures of a learning environment by the student-led best practices suggested by Pianta, La Paro and Hamre and their Classroom Assessment Scoring System. The results were varied but there was a pattern noticed with our IEP students in that many of them were reporting a decline in successful time-blocks with their peers during times of instruction (personal reference, Hamilton, 2014). It is believed that the lack of continuity was the driving force behind these outcomes.
Attempts to create a 'miniature- universal' standard of practice in order to find a compromise between accepting the behaviors of our children and what was deemed acceptable by our public school counterparts ended in near futility. We created a collaborative professional learning community 'Our Kids are Your Kids' (personal reference, Forbes, Hamilton, Hepler, & Stromer, 2014) in efforts to break down barriers caused by differing philosophies. The birth of this partnership was ultimately the death of our hopes to alter public school mindsets and soften their perspectives on the individualized needs of children. It became a debate that transformed into an argument that ended in a cold war; What should be a universal standard of practice when accepting children into a program? Besides physical safety, the possible criteria could be as diverse as the people you ask.
Berger, K. S. (2018). The developing person through childhood, (8th ed.). New York, NY. Worth Publishers.
Center on the Developing Child, (2007). Early Childhood Program Effectiveness (In Brief) Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.
Fiene, R., (2002). 13 indicators of quality child care: Research Update. Retrieved from http://www.researchconnections.org/childcare/resources/818/pdf.
NAEYC Accreditation, (2010). State and local quality improvement support efforts. Young Children, 65(1), 54-56
Pianta, R. C. La Paro, K. M., & Hamre, B. K. (2008). Classroom Assessment Scoring System, (CLASS) Manual, Prekindergarten. Brookes Publishing
Talan, T. N., Bloom, P. J. (2011). Program Administration Scale, Measuring Early Childhood Leadership and Management (2nd ed.). New York, NY. Teachers College Press.