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Home Publications Patterns of classroom quality in Head Start and center-based early childhood education programs

Patterns of classroom quality in Head Start and center-based early childhood education programs

by Clare Irwin, John Madura, David Bamat and Paul McDermott

Measuring classroom quality and ensuring high-quality learning experiences for young children are interests of the Early Childhood Education Research Alliance, a research alliance of Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands. This study, conducted in collaboration with the alliance, addresses these interests by examining multiple measures of classroom quality simultaneously. Many measures of early childhood classroom quality have been examined, but previous research has not explored whether multiple measures of diverse aspects of classroom quality can be used to classify early childhood classrooms into classroom quality groups. The main purpose of this study was to determine whether early childhood classrooms can be grouped based on their scores on multiple measures of quality. The study team used multiple measures of diverse aspects of classroom quality to determine classroom quality groups and examined the number of classroom quality groups that exist and the percentage of classrooms that fall within each classroom quality group. A second purpose of the study was to explore the extent to which each measure contributes to the identification of classroom quality groups. This study employs a methodological approach that has not previously been used to synthesize measures of classroom quality. This approach allowed the study team to provide an example of patterns of classroom quality in programs serving Head Start-eligible children across the country. In addition to informing practitioners about what quality looks like in these settings, the findings allow for the categorization of classrooms across multiple classroom quality dimensions. This is more useful for informing practitioners than the traditional way of measuring quality along a continuum-- eliminating the need for users to come up with their own cutscores for these measures. Key findings include: (1) Based on the 13 measures examined, classroom quality can be sorted into three distinct groups: good, fair, and poor; and (2) Classroom quality measures determined by independent observers distinguish classroom quality groups better than self-reported measures do. Data and Methodology are appended.

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