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REL Central Ask A REL Response

Early Childhood

July 2020


How do ratings on the CLASS and teacher certifications relate to the quality of early childhood programs?


Following an established research protocol, REL Central conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles to help answer the question. The resources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic databases, and general Internet search engines. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. We have not evaluated the quality of the references provided in this response, and we offer them only for your information. We compiled the references from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant sources may exist.

Research References

Brown, C. S. (2016). Early childhood teacher candidates’ perception of their support and readiness for a teacher performance assessment. Journal of Inquiry and Action in Education, 7(2), 1–30. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“Comprehensive early childhood teacher preparation programs offer courses and curricula that are aligned with current research on best practices and related to the knowledge and skills that early childhood teacher candidates are expected to demonstrate on certification exams and teacher performance assessments. To support the alignment of early childhood coursework in a teacher preparation program with a teacher performance assessment (edTPA), the purpose of this study was to examine the degree to which teacher candidates felt their early childhood coursework prepared them for the edTPA. The findings from this study suggest that early childhood teachers’ perception of their readiness for a teacher performance assessment may indicate the extent to which their coursework prepared them to meet the requirements of the edTPA. Implications from this study suggests that early childhood teacher preparation programs should continuously examine how faculty are introducing and supporting professional teaching standards, assessment for learning and evaluation of learning throughout course work and student teaching experiences.”

Brown, C. S. (2018). Were they ready? An analysis of a teacher performance assessment to determine if perception was matched by reality. Issues in Teacher Education, 27(2), 107–125. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“Beginning in May 2014, all education program graduates in New York State (NYS) must pass new and/or revised certification exams in order to become certified to teach in NYS. Early childhood teacher candidates enrolled in an approved NYS teacher preparation program are required to pass the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST), Content Specialty Test (CST-Multi-Subject or Multi-Subject: Teachers of Early Childhood (Birth-Grade 2)), Educating All Students (EAS) test, and a Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA Early Childhood) in order to be recommended for certification. The new teacher certification examinations serve as a critical benchmark of a candidate’s readiness to teach in NYS. Research has shown that the edTPA can be used as a learning tool for pre-service teachers and as a form of feedback for teacher education programs. In an effort to utilize the edTPA and the subsequent results as a learning opportunity for a teacher preparation program, this paper addresses two studies. Study 1 investigated teacher candidates’ perceptions about their preparation and readiness for the edTPA based on the support they received from the teacher preparation program and their coursework. The findings from this study suggest that early childhood teachers’ perceptions of their readiness for a teacher performance assessment may indicate the extent to which their coursework prepared them to meet the requirements of the edTPA. Study 2 examined if the actual scores the teacher candidates received on the edTPA matched their estimated scores. The findings from this examination indicate that the teacher candidates were confident in their preparation, skills, and overall readiness for the edTPA.”

Perlman, M., Falenchuk, O., Fletcher, B., McMullen, E., Beyene, J., & Shah, P. S. (2016). A systematic review and meta-analysis of a measure of staff/child interaction quality (the Classroom Assessment Scoring System) in early childhood education and care settings and child outcomes. PLoS ONE, 11(12). Full text available from

From the abstract:

“The quality of staff/child interactions as measured by the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) programs is thought to be important for children’s outcomes. The CLASS is made of three domains that assess Emotional Support, Classroom Organization and Instructional Support. It is a relatively new measure that is being used increasingly for research, quality monitoring/accountability and other applied purposes. Our objective was to evaluate the association between the CLASS and child outcomes. Searches of Medline, PsycINFO, ERIC, websites of large datasets and reference sections of all retrieved articles were conducted up to July 3, 2015. Studies that measured association between the CLASS and child outcomes for preschool-aged children who attended ECEC programs were included after screening by two independent reviewers. Searches and data extraction were conducted by two independent reviewers. Thirty-five studies were systematically reviewed of which 19 provided data for meta-analyses. Most studies had moderate to high risk of bias. Of the 14 meta-analyses we conducted, associations between Classroom Organization and Pencil Tapping and between Instructional Support and SSRS Social Skills were significant with pooled correlations of .06 and .09 respectively. All associations were in the expected direction. In the systematic review, significant correlations were reported mainly from one large dataset. Substantial heterogeneity in use of the CLASS, its dimensions, child outcomes and statistical measures was identified. Greater consistency in study methodology is urgently needed. Given the multitude of factors that impact child development it is encouraging that our analyses revealed some, although small, associations between the CLASS and children’s outcomes.”

van Schaik, S. D. M., Leseman, P. P. M., & de Haan, M. (2018). Using a group-centered approach to observe interactions in early childhood education. Child Development, 89(3), 897–913. Retrieved from
Full text available

From the abstract:

“This study examined the value of using a group-centered approach to evaluate process quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC). Is observed support of group processes a different aspect of classroom quality, and does it predict children’s collaborative play in ECEC in the Netherlands? In two play situations, 37 teachers and 120 two- to four-year-old children were observed with the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) Toddler and two new measures. In a two-level structural equation model, teachers’ support of group processes was positively related to the CLASS domains and to children’s collaborative play, over and above the effect of children’s cognitive ability and social competence. These findings suggest that ECEC quality evaluation could be enriched by adding group-centered indicators of classroom quality.”

Additional Resources to Consult

Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO):

From the website:

“As one of 22 Comprehensive Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) was designed to strengthen the capacity of State Education Agencies (SEAs) to lead sustained improvements in early learning opportunities and outcomes.”

Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS):

From the website:

“CLASS uses research-driven insights to improve how teachers interact with children every day to cultivate supportive, structured, and engaging classroom experiences.”

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL):

From the website:

“[CASEL] is a trusted source for knowledge about high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL). CASEL supports educators and policy leaders and enhances the experiences and outcomes for all PreK–12 students.”


Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Classroom Assessment Scoring System + Early Childhood Education
  • Educational Improvement
  • Teacher Certification + Early Childhood Education
  • Teacher Certification + Early Childhood Education + Assessments
  • Teacher Competencies

Databases and Resources

REL Central searched ERIC for relevant references. ERIC is a free online library, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences, of over 1.6 million citations of education research. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and Google.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching for and reviewing references, REL Central considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the Publication: The search and review included references published between 2010 and 2020.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority was given to ERIC, followed by Google Scholar and Google.
  • Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were used in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types, such as randomized controlled trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive analyses, literature reviews; and (b) target population and sample.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Central Region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Central at Marzano Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Central under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0005, administered by Marzano Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.