with special contribution from Rachel Roberts, Assistant Principal of Kalamazoo RESA Head Start (MI)
Over the last three years, the state of Michigan has more than doubled its investment in State funded PreK. At the same time, Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency in Kalamazoo, Michigan was awarded the Head Start grant to serve 626 children across the county. These two PreK programs set the stage for the Intermediate School District to ramp up its early childhood programming and implement Multi-Tiered Systems of Support in their PreK early childhood programming.
Initially, Kalamazoo RESA implemented Program-wide Literacy and Program-wide Positive Behavior Intervention supports by utilizing a Literacy Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM), and Ages and Stages Questionnaire Social Emotional (ASQ-SE) screener to measure social emotional development of 3 and 4 year olds across the county. Quickly, we learned how this data could be used to inform program decision making within an MTSS framework. Additionally, we recognized the need to utilize CBM data to implement Program-wide Early Numeracy within an MTSS framework, and IGDIs was the perfect fit for our program.
While the data from IGDIs has proven to be essential to decision making at the classroom level, this article aims to focus on how the implementation of the IGDIs screener and progress monitoring has been essential to improving the overall program quality of the Kalamazoo RESA Head Start program.
Assessing Program Quality in PreK
Both the state and federal PreK programs require that programs measure program quality utilizing two separate tools. The state requires that programs utilize the Program Quality Assessment (PQA), while Head Start requires the use of Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). PQA focuses on classroom environment while CLASS focuses on teacher and child interactions. The underlying premise of these assessments are that the teacher makes all children feel supported, plans proactively, probes higher order thinking, and most importantly individualizes student learning. Through the implementation of the Math IGDI screener we have been able to programmatically support teachers to meet all of the benchmarks of success for increasing program quality.
Supporting Children and Individualizing Learning
The IGDIs data that we have been able to gather through the use of the Math Screener has allowed for us to determine curriculum pathways for the children in our program. Based on administering the benchmark assessment we have been able to analyze the data to assist in identifying developmentally appropriate practices that will support children and scaffold the critical concepts of early numeracy. Additionally, the program wide data has assisted our leadership team in identifying the critical concepts and vocabulary that we desire teachers to focus on. Scaffolding each child is possible due to the ease of administering the assessment to understand where the child is at and to set attainable goals. What an observer sees as a result of the implementation of the assessment is a classroom teacher that supports each child’s numeracy development through multiple modalities by providing hands on experimentation, a variety of manipulatives, and extensive concept development all day every day based on the big ideas of the assessment. This means that teachers are provided with tools and strategies that can be utilized, which are being supported programmatically through the allocation of resources.
One of the largest program resource allocation was through the decision to implement practice based coaching. Our coaches are trained to work with teachers to analyze their classroom data and determine what type of strategies the teacher needs to support their students, through whole group and small group instruction. The coach and the teacher then create a plan that could involve: a focused observation, co-observation of a master teacher, a demonstration of strategies, or co-teaching. The plan ensures that the teacher has all necessary tools and resources to reach their fullest potential while also ensuring that individual students are reaching their fullest potential. If the IGDI data was absent, the needs would not be as easily identifiable and the efforts would not be recognized as an essential part of our overall program quality.
Another way that program quality has improved as a result of the implementation of IGDIs is that teachers are able to utilize their classroom data to plan proactively and effectively. Children that are identified as needing strategic or intensive support in one of the big ideas of the IGDI assessment are then planned for in the appropriate grouping format to receive ample opportunities to practice and learn the critical concept for later math success. Another added benefit to having IGDI data is that the teacher can create learning opportunities that incorporate the child’s interest at their particular skill level so that they are more likely to be motivated to participate and engage in learning.
Teachers are provided with various ways to plan accordingly and analyze data. This is done through trimester district level data reviews, and district level curriculum meetings in which they are able to plan with other teachers across the county. Another way that teachers are provided with collaborative planning formats is through the use of Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s), where teachers bring their IGDI data to the meeting to answer the four essential questions: What do we want students to learn? How will we know if they learned it? What will we do for those who mastered it? What will we do for those who did not master it? (Dufour, 2010). Teachers leave with a proactive plan for how they will approach their students learning needs in various instructional learning formats based on collaborative data based decision making.
Probing Higher Order Thinking
One of the hallmarks of program quality in PreK classrooms is the evidence of higher order thinking skills. This is an area that many Early Childhood teachers struggle to demonstrate as children are at many different levels of readiness. A frequent criticism of the early childhood classroom is that there is too much rote instruction, closed-ended questioning, and excessive teacher talking and thinking, without enough higher order thinking or concept development from the children. When the teacher has the data to determine a child’s starting point in relationship to what they know about early numeracy, then they are able to make connections to their background knowledge, reconstruct misconceptions, and build on the concepts that they already have in order to make connections to expand their thinking and learning. When this occurs, higher order thinking begins by a child being able to participate in problem solving, brainstorming, and experimenting. Children are able to explain their thinking, as well as, compare and contrast concepts. This has proven to be very exciting for us, not only by the measurements of growth from Math IGDIs, the PQA, CLASS, but also for the parents, teachers, and students!
Through our dedication and commitment with improving our program quality, the implementation of the Math IGDIs program-wide has proven successful. It has allowed us to supporting children’s individualized learning by making data-based decisions to proactively plan for various instructional learning formats, while offering higher ordering thinking skills. This has not only improved our program quality but has enriched our teachers’ professional development and the ongoing academic success of our students and families.
- DuFour, R. (2006). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. Bloomington, Ind: Solution Tree.