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On Location: 10th National Head Start Research Conference

This week Early Ed Watch ventured out to the 10th National Head Start Research Conference, Research on Young Children and Families: Launching the Next Decade for Policy and Practice. We attended several sessions and learned about some of the latest research on topics in early education from reading interventions to playful learning to mentoring and coaching programs to improve teacher performance.


Here are just a couple of nuggets of new information we learned:


In the session Mentoring and Coaching for Teachers in Head Start researchers presented findings from three studies on mentoring and coaching programs. While each study offered important insight to the benefits and challenges of these types of programs, today we’ll highlight one of them.


Researcher Karen Diamond, Purdue University, presented on a study on two slightly different models of coaching in a randomized controlled trial with 88 teachers and 759 children. One model was on-site coaching and the other was distance coaching. The primary difference between the two models was that for the onsite program the coach observed classroom Head Start teachers live. Following the observation the coach and classroom teacher met in person to discuss the observation and next steps. In the distance program, the classroom teacher videotaped a lesson and submitted it (by email or postal mail) to the coach who subsequently reviewed the example and provided written feedback to the teacher.


The feedback component of both models included connecting classroom teachers to video exemplars illustrating specific skills or lessons to improve their practice. The video exemplars showcase model Head Start teachers in action and can be viewed online by the teachers who participated in coaching. The results of this study suggested that both models had positive effects on classroom teacher practices and on child outcomes. And, there were no significant differences found between the two models.


Successful distance coaching programs could increase opportunities for such practices in rural communities where there are sometimes staffing challenges. In addition, Diamond mentioned that classroom teachers frequently logged on during non-teaching hours to review feedback and exemplars, allowing for more flexibility. On the downside, though, distance coaching does not allow for real-time feedback or in-person conversations that onsite coaching does.


Discussions of promising models for mentoring and coaching are especially relevant for Head Start, as the establishment of “mentor teachers” was included in the 2007 reauthorization of the Head Start Act. In addition, it’s timely because proposals are currently being accepted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - Early Learning Mentor Coaches grant program. Applications are due July 19, 2010.


In another session, Learning from Assessment: Improving the Use of Child Assessment Data in Early Childhood Programs, we learned about a helpful tool under development.With funding from the Office of Planning and Research and Evaluation at the Administration for Children and Families, a team at Child Trends is compiling a compendium of measures – both assessments and screeners – most widely used by Head Start programs. It will include a profile of each measure including information on: availability and cost, training requirements, reporting systems, alignment with Head Start Child Outcomes Framework, approaches to family input, appropriateness for children of different backgrounds and cultures, and reliability, validity, sensitivity, and specificity information for key populations. Some of the measures to be included in the compendium are: Creative Curriculum Assessment Toolkit, High Scope Child Observation Record, Teaching Strategies GOLD, Ages and Stages Questionnaire, Denver II, and Parents Evaluation of Developmental Status. The compendium will also include cross-cutting summary tables that provide information on content, reliability, and validity, as well as population usage that can be compared and contrasted by measure. We are excited about reviewing this tool ourselves. Look for its release in the fall.