CLASS is an acronym of Teachstone’s observation tool, the Classroom Assessment Scoring System®. It measures what matters most to children’s learning and development: interactions among educators and children.
But CLASS is more than a measurement tool. It also provides a specific descriptions of impactful educator-child interactions, based on research. These descriptions are a shared language for educators to use as they improve their practice. With CLASS at the center of continuous improvement, educators can focus on the interactions that impact children most.
Programs and school districts across the country (and internationally!) use CLASS to help ensure all children in their programs have access to effective educator-child interactions. This system supports educators in focusing on, measuring, and improving the elements of classroom experience that matter most for supporting children’s learning and development.
So, how did CLASS come about? Our understanding of what classroom quality means has changed quite a bit over the past 25 years. It used to mean giving children a safe place to play, with plenty of stimulating materials and books to read.
Now that most classrooms provide these basics, education leaders have shifted their focus. This shift aligns with decades of research on what matters most for children. These leaders are asking:
Researchers designed CLASS to answer these questions. Over time, more and more programs started using this evidence-based system. Today, it is the most widely used tool for assessing classroom quality.
In 2022, Teachstone announced CLASS 2nd Edition, which incorporates enhancements with a focus on improving equity, access and impact. These innovations, developed in partnership with the field, include more inclusive and diverse definitions and representation, considerations for scoring across diverse settings and guidance for reducing bias. In addition, the updates provide educators with actionable insights on the experiences and interactions that play an important role in child development.
The CLASS tool is a structured observation measure. At its heart are trained and certified observers who assign scores. These scores are in different categories of educator-child interactions. The 7-point scale is a consistent approach to measuring these categories. Its metrics, for ages ranging from infants to teens, are developmentally appropriate.
We call these categories CLASS domains and dimensions. They give us a common definition of effective interactions across age/grade levels and content areas. The domains and dimensions vary somewhat across age groups, in line with how kids learn and develop as they grow.
Each age level contains domains that measure effective interactions. And under each domain are dimensions. This chart shows the age levels, domains, and dimensions of the CLASS tool.
Want to learn more about what interactions look like in each CLASS dimension? Read the CLASS Manual or undergo training to become a certified CLASS observer.
Certified CLASS observers use the CLASS tool to capture the quality of the educator-child interactions they see in a classroom. These observers look for certain behavioral markers. They then assign scores across each dimension.
We recommend that observers share their findings with classroom educators. The program can determine the extent of this feedback. Some educators might get detailed scores, notes, and comments. Others might get only general feedback about what they did well and not so well.
Effective data collection and reporting are key. To support that, we offer the myTeachstone CLASS Subscription to move CLASS beyond measurement. With this subscription, programs can improve how they
Feedback and data collection are important, but there is more that programs can do. An effective program also offers data-backed professional development and 1:1 coaching.
Used at scale, CLASS helps individual programs, districts, states, and even federal programs to improve child outcomes through the power of interactions. The system works with any curriculum and in any educational setting. These include family childcare homes, private centers, Head Start, and K–12 schools. system. Some institutions even use CLASS alongside another assessment system.
Programs that use CLASS have a common language and the same expectations of educators. The result is a shared metric for evaluating how effective teachers are.
What CLASS does so well is to offer a common way to describe effective interactions. This creates consistency for children as they advance in the program or school. The tool also creates a culture where everyone focuses on the same goal: to provide more meaningful interactions for the children in their care.
It is important for leaders to feel confident in implementing CLASS. As part of a successful rollout, program leaders should
The key to continuous quality improvement is effective coaching. When that is in place, programs can drive the types of change that help kids develop and learn.
Coaching with CLASS is not about bumping scores from 5 to 6. Impactful coaches understand that the key to success is
Coaches can help educators achieve their goals by using the parallel processes found in the CLASS tool.
Educators have little control over the size of their program or budget. But they can control classroom interactions.
To support educators’ understanding of the power of interactions, organizations may choose to use CLASS Primer for Educators. This 3-hour online course provides the foundational knowledge to energize staff around your CLASS implementation and journey. It offers digestible content designed to increase understanding of effective interactions, reflect on current teaching practices, and learn about the CLASS tool, and your program’s CLASS implementation.
Teachstone has many free resources that help educators focus on interactions. Use them for different age groups, setting, and learning activities. We also invite you to subscribe to our Teaching with CLASS podcast in which you’ll hear specific tips and strategies for improving interactions in your classroom.
Quality education is good for everyone—kids, educators, communities—and is essential in building a national commitment to education. But just what is quality education? To learn how CLASS works and how it came to be, it is important to understand the research behind the tool.
In 2008, education researchers at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning (CASTL) published CLASS to capture the essence of great teaching in a scientific way. Since then, more than 200 research studies have validated this system.
A study, conducted by the National Center for Early Development and Learning (NCEDL), examined the quality of publicly funded preschool programs. In this study, researchers created the first version of the CLASS observation tool from an adaptation of the Classroom Observation System (COS). They used this tool to measure teacher-student interactions in nearly 700 public preschool programs across 11 states. Just like the NICHD study, researchers observed the quality of classroom interactions and assessed the academic and social development of randomly selected children in those programs.
The findings from these and later studies prove the importance of educator-child interactions. Some highlights:
The research showed a need to continue focusing on interactions. And so, education researchers developed the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) to better understand and measure the quality of those interactions.
Later research shows that quality interactions, as measured by the CLASS tool, lead to
There have been many CLASS-based studies over the past decade. One of the most important findings is that educators can improve their interactions with kids. But how? Researchers tested several professional development programs and found that they produced higher scores. The increases ranged from one-fifth to a full point on the 7-point CLASS scale. Even small increases add up to real improvements in quality and child outcomes.
Professional development includes coaching and coursework. An important resource is a video library of examples of effective teaching. These and other efforts are proven ways to raise CLASS scores.
Want to learn more about the studies behind CLASS and the impact of meaningful interactions? Check out our research.
Continuous quality improvement is a cyclical journey. To make real progress, you need to be intentional and systematic. CLASS is unique in two ways:
When implementing CLASS, begin by building a foundation where meaningful interactions can thrive. Help your program understand why educator-child interactions are key. Do this by
Next up is to create a system that drives data-informed improvement. Quality interactions call for both attention and intention. That’s why CLASS-centered professional development shows results. Its definitions are a shared lens for understanding what effective teaching looks like. For this reason, CLASS lends itself well to continuing education and new teacher training.
CLASS data measures educator-child interactions in your program, and collecting this data will guide continuous improvement. Build your program’s capacity to observe interactions, collect reliable data, and use it to drive improvement at the classroom and program level.
Create your program’s plan to secure certified CLASS observers. We offer options to
Learn more about Measuring with CLASS, the second stage of a CLASS journey.
Stage one was to lay the foundation. Stage two was collecting baseline data. The third step is to drive continuous improvement throughout your program. Use CLASS data to create tailored professional development and coaching opportunities that help educators improve their teaching practices.
Take a close look at the data. Where are the areas of weakness? Which learning opportunities will best meet the needs of your educators and coaches?
For even better results, have one or more members of your staff become a CLASS coach. This training and certification program shows them how to
Encourage the educators in your program to
Check out myTeachstone. With 1,000+ resources, this online platform lets you do so many things: