July 9, 2019
New America is proud to partner with the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) on this second ESSA blog series. This time we are exploring how state ESSA plans and ideas have turned into action. Additionally, the series will highlight how states are connecting their ESSA work to the planning and early childhood coordination efforts underway with the new Preschool Development Grants (PDG-B-5). You can find the entire series here.
Sherrel Pointer, director of Treasures from Heaven Child Care and Learning Center, knows what makes an excellent early childhood education site. Her center, located in Baton Rouge, La., has earned the highest possible rating in the state’s accountability system and a place on the Honor Roll for as long as these results have been publicly reported.
The Louisiana Department of Education strives to ensure all early childhood education sites can achieve this kind of success, and in turn, provide every child with access to the high quality care they deserve. At the same time, the state aims to provide families and educators with information that clearly communicates how well sites are preparing students for success in Kindergarten—and beyond.
The implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has provided a unique moment in time for states to work toward such goals, and Louisiana has seized the opportunity. In fall 2017, after more than a year of collaboration and development, the Bayou State unveiled the Louisiana School and Center Finder, a first-of-its-kind online reporting system that provides a detailed look at accountability metrics spanning birth through grade 12.
The new reporting system—for the first time in the state’s history—gives users information about all child care, pre-kindergarten, and Head Start sites, unifying early childhood information with K–12 and post-secondary education results. It is the only reporting system in the nation to provide this breadth of information in this format.
Similar to the school letter grades, Louisiana’s publicly-funded early childhood education sites receive an overall rating—Excellent, Proficient, Approaching Proficient, or Unsatisfactory—based on at least two annual classroom visits from trained observers. Early childhood educators are observed using a nationally-renowned tool called the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, or CLASS, which measures how well teachers interact with children to support child growth and development. Research finds that classrooms with higher CLASS ratings result in better prepared kindergartners.
In addition to the overall rating, the performance profiles present indicators of early childhood classroom quality, such as teacher credentials, licensing and inspection results, and the quality of the curriculum.
All of this information is presented in an online, interactive format that is easy to use and understand, and a suite of animated videos is available to guide users through the measures of site quality and why they matter. Translations are available in three languages.
The Louisiana School and Center Finder has proved a valuable tool for families who are searching for an early childhood education site that best fits their child’s unique needs or who want to understand how their own site is readying children for the next level of education. The tool has also proved valuable for educators who are working to understand gaps in their own performance, find examples of success and tailor plans for improvement.
Family-friendly performance ratings alone cannot ensure high-quality programming. But they can serve as an empowering tool for those closest to children. Just ask Sherrel Pointer.
The performance ratings have prompted her to rethink how she approaches her lessons and trains her staff. Now, she says,"Our staff has a deep understanding of what makes a high-quality early learning environment, according to the CLASS™ tool used to measure performance, and we integrate those strategies, along with top-tier curriculum, into our daily lessons. I strongly feel this is why we were able to maintain an Excellent rating for two consecutive years.”
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