Today’s blog is written by Beth F. Thompson, Director of Collaborative Action Networks with the Spartanburg Academic Movement.
Spartanburg Quality Counts has been diligently working to improve quality within child care centers in Spartanburg County for many years. This past year, Quality Counts entered a new frontier….improving the learning environments of public 4K programs.
Spartanburg School District Seven received a SC Community Block Grant for Education that provided funding for Quality Counts to work with the Cleveland Academy of Leadership’s 4K program during the 2016-2017 school year. The partnership was destined for success from the beginning because everyone openly embraced the opportunity before them to create high quality learning environments for the sixty four-year olds at the Cleveland Academy.
Quality Counts provided multiple opportunities for professional development for the teachers and assistants starting with early childhood brain science and the research behind Quality Counts standards of quality. Additionally, during the district’s large professional development day leading up to the first day of school (7 Shares), Quality Counts hosted the first ever early childhood track and provided training to all of the district’s early childhood professionals on early childhood numeracy skills and emergent literacy practices. Of course, the professional development for the teachers was just the beginning of their work. The Cleveland Academy 4K classrooms were assessed using the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale 3rd Edition (E-3) to create a baseline understanding of the learning environment and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) tool to build teacher engagement and interactions with the children. Then the team quickly began working to re-arrange classrooms and provide additional materials that would help create optimal and high quality environments for the children as they began the school year. Teachers were able to utilize grant funds to add developmentally appropriate play centers, such as blocks and science centers, and furniture that would invite the children to participate in the high quality learning that was taking place.
Throughout the year, the partnership flourished as Quality Counts technical assistants visited with the teachers discussing the results of the assessment tools, planning and implementing improvement ideas, and creating ongoing continuous improvement opportunities that included professional development on best practice for 4K. The teachers and teachers’ assistants embraced the changes in the learning environment as well as the reflective practices. During the year of intense work, the Cleveland Academy of Leadership saw positive growth in their classroom environment scores and saw double digit growth in student performance measures over previous years!
Working in the public school 4K space was quite a new venture for Quality Counts, but has proven to be an opportunity to improve quality and impact the school readiness of children that has to continue. So successful in fact, a second SC Community Block Grant for Education was awarded to allow Quality Counts to expand this work to neighboring Spartanburg School District 3. Once again, the opportunity to create high quality learning environments for four-year-olds participating in the public 4K program has been met with open arms and high expectations for continued success.