RD226 - Advancing Effective Interactions and Instruction in VPI Classrooms Progress Report – June 30, 2020

Executive Summary:

In accordance with the A Plan to Ensure High-Quality Instruction in All Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) Classrooms, UVA-CASTL’s Advancing Effective Interactions and Instruction (AEII) initiative helps Virginia’s school leaders and VPI teachers provide high-quality early learning experiences to support children’s school readiness skills through CASTL-AEII’s objectives to improve the quality of teacher-child interactions and instruction (measured by the Classroom Assessment Scoring System [CLASS®] tool); support teachers’ use of evidenced-based curriculum; and support VPI leaders to provide their teachers high-quality individualized professional development (PD).

CLASS® Observation and Data in VPI Classrooms

External CLASS® data across the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years were obtained from 95%(*1) of the VPI classrooms (1282) across 124 participating VPI divisions(*2). In addition to the required, every-two-years external CLASS® observations, divisions were encouraged to begin planning and conducting local CLASS® observations overseen by local leaders to build local capacity and provide teachers more frequent feedback on their interactions more regularly (at least bi-annually). A little over half of leaders (52%) reported starting their local observations this school year.

In Virginia’s VPI classrooms, external CLASS® data from 2018- 2020 indicate that:

• CLASS® scores in VPI classrooms align with national trends.

• 35% of VPI classrooms meet or exceed quality thresholds for emotional, classroom organization, and instructional support.

• 48% of classrooms and divisions’ scores fall below the threshold for Instructional Support and above thresholds for Emotional Support and Classroom Organization indicating the need to improve interactions and instruction to promote children’s higher-level thinking, language skills, and understanding/persistence.

• 9% and 8% of classrooms fell below 2 and 3 thresholds of quality, respectively.

• Within divisions, there is wide variability across classrooms in the quality of teacher interactions as defined by the CLASS®.

Curriculum Implementation

CASTL-AEII worked with VDOE to ensure that all VPI divisions are using a vetted comprehensive curriculum. CASTL-AEII provided supports related to curriculum implementation and fidelity and gathered information that indicates:

• The majority (97%) of divisions report using a research-based, vetted curriculum.

• Curriculum is a key focus area for professional development (PD) in most divisions; PD is provided by curriculum publishers and internal staff.

• CASTL-AEII provided division leaders opportunities to collaborate with their Virginia colleagues to plan and share strategies for supporting effective curriculum implementation.

• VPI leaders have varying capacity to provide teachers with both ongoing PD and/or feedback to support curriculum implementation including the use of tools to measure fidelity of implementation.

• Divisions frequently provide PD when they adopt a new curriculum. However, teachers who onboard after initial training miss intensive training in how to implement the curriculum.

• Curricular PD often emphasized implementing components of the curriculum but rarely 1) integrated a focus on curriculum use with teacher-child interactions and child assessment data or 2) focused on how to individualize instruction.

Professional Development (PD) in VPI Classrooms

To increase understanding of the use and quality of professional development (PD) across VPI Classrooms, VDOE and CASTL-AEII developed a PD Rubric and Questionnaire to assess and improve PD across divisions. Data gathered from these tools indicate:

• There is a wide variety of professional development (PD) quality being delivered to preschool teachers across the state.

• Providing PD that is practice-focused is the greatest area of need across the state.

• Many divisions lack tools and resources to efficiently use data to plan and evaluate PD.

• Most divisions currently use CLASS® to inform their PD plans, but other data sources are used less frequently.

• The number of hours of PD that is provided to preschool teachers varies widely, ranging from under 15 hours to over 100 hours.

• The frequency with which divisions provide feedback and analysis loops to teachers is highly variable across the state.

• All divisions provide some type of group training or workshop and over half (62%) conduct some amount of PD labeled “coaching."

• PD usually focuses on teacher-child interactions and curriculum implementation, sometimes focuses on specific instruction areas, and rarely targets instruction for the individualized needs of students.

Supports to Improve Quality

In response to CLASS®, curriculum, PD data findings, and feedback from teachers and leaders, CASTL-AEII provided a variety of supports to VPI division leaders that included group trainings, individualized and group consultation sessions, and resources for PD planning. Data gathered from teacher and leader surveys and AEII consultation and training notes indicate:

• CLASS® knowledge increased for both teachers and leaders as a result of the Introduction to the Initiative group trainings.

• The individualized CASTL-AEII CLASS® reports were perceived as very useful and were used to guide improvement as reported by teachers and leaders.

• Individual and group consultations with leaders helped build their knowledge and skills in using CLASS® and other data to plan effective PD and providing effective PD, including practiced-focused PD targeting curriculum implementation and teacher-child interactions.

• Individualized consultation supported leaders to use CLASS® data to plan individualized PD for highest needs classrooms.

• Leaders reported that the PD Rubric was a useful framework and improvement tool for their planning and that their PD planning practices will improve as a result of the PD consultation.

A state-wide measure of improvement in teacher-child interactions quality will not be available until external CLASS® observations are collected in the next two-year period (2020-2022).

COVID 19 Impact and Implications

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted a number of CASTL-AEII activities in Spring 2020. Out of 1,357 VPI classrooms, 75 (5%) CLASS® observations were incomplete across 19 divisions due to COVID 19-related school closures. All unused observation funds were returned to the Commonwealth. School closures delayed some leaders’ provision of external CLASS® feedback to teachers on external CLASS® reports completed around the time of school closures. CASTL-AEII consultants continued to provide leaders supports in the form of individualized consultation sessions and group sessions and trainings after school closed in March. In the majority of cases, support sessions that were delayed due to leaders’ schedules affected during the pandemic were rescheduled by June 1st. In 2020-21, CASTL-AEII recognizes the importance of children safely returning to classrooms for continuity of learning to promote children’s social-emotional and academic development. Covid-19 poses challenges for families, programs, and communities, the importance of quality interactions and instruction remains, reinforcing the continued need to observe and support teacher child interactions.

Plans Moving Forward

CASTL and VDOE will continue working together toward VDOE’s plans for a statewide uniform measurement and improvement system across publicly funded early childhood programs in Virginia. CASTL-AEII will continue to support educators and division leaders to improve classroom quality and provide effective PD through:

• CLASS® observations and reports:

o Re-observation of ~700 VPI classrooms, data reports and analysis, including change over time.

o Initial observations of ~400 observations, half of all non-inclusion, early childhood special education (ECSE) classrooms across the Commonwealth.

• Continued PD support focused on moving all classrooms above quality thresholds and increasing leaders’ capacity to utilize data to inform PD.

• Data-based differentiated supports to provide higher need divisions and classrooms more intensive PD and resources.

• Supporting leaders to ensure high quality instruction and interactions as they engage in new in-person and virtual learning structures for the 2020-21 school year as a result of COVID-19. Through the federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, CASTL will provide additional professional development to VPI/Early Childhood Special Education educators to support children’s social-emotional needs in response to COVID-19. CASTL will emphasize trainings that support educators to provide inclusive and anti-racist ECE experiences for Virginia’s preschool children.
(*1) 100% of classrooms were scheduled to be observed but 5% were not completed due to COVID-19 school closures.
(*2) 124 out of the 129 eligible divisions participated in the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI). Two divisions’ VPI programs (Fairfax City and Emporia) are under the purview of Fairfax County and Greensville, respectively. Therefore, the CASTL-AEII caseload for supporting VPI leaders was 122, which will be used to refer to the total number of participating divisions throughout the rest of the report.