Promoting Preschool Quality Through Effective Classroom Management
Implementation Lessons from the Foundations of Learning Demonstration
The Foundations of Learning (FOL) demonstration evaluated a strategy to enhance the quality of preschool programs by promoting emotionally positive, behaviorally supportive classrooms. The program model includes intensive training in classroom management skills for lead and assistant teachers; weekly in-class support from a master’s-level clinician, called a Clinical Classroom Consultant (CCC), to reinforce the lessons from the training; and a customized stress management workshop for teachers. The model also includes one-on-one clinical services for selected children who have not responded to teachers’ enhanced classroom management skills by spring of the school year.
The FOL program was tested in Newark, New Jersey, and Chicago, Illinois. The Newark program is the subject of this report. Because the Newark school system had already implemented enhancements that were mandated by the New Jersey Supreme Court’s landmark decisions in the Abbott v. Burke class action case — which sought parity in school financing for poor urban districts — it provides an opportunity to examine the incremental effects of adding an emotionally and behaviorally based intervention to other quality-enhancement efforts.
- The FOL program model was implemented with fidelity in Newark, suggesting that this intervention can be joined with other efforts to enhance the quality of preschool programs. The teacher training was especially well attended, and teachers gave the workshops high ratings for quality. A substantial number of in-class and individualized consultations were provided, although fewer than the number scheduled. The stress management workshop, which program planners had thought would be a secondary part of the FOL intervention, turned out to be highly valued by the teachers.
- Teachers incorporated the FOL techniques into their classroom management practices. Teachers’ comments underscored three key themes: (1) the supportive relationships with the CCCs and the strengthened relationships between lead and assistant teachers were important; (2) the creation of a learning community helped reduce teachers’ sense of isolation by providing opportunities for collaboration and information sharing, both between teachers in the same classroom and with teachers in other FOL programs; and (3) teachers felt reduced stress in their professional and personal lives.
- The Newark experience provides a number of practical operational lessons. Policymakers and administrators who are considering implementing similar programs should pay particular attention to the program design, management and staffing, and professional development issues that arose in FOL’s integration of an emotionally and behaviorally based intervention into a large urban preschool system.
A preview of impact findings from Newark was released by MDRC in September 2009. Forthcoming reports on Newark and Chicago will provide additional important evidence regarding the feasibility, impact, and cost of implementing the FOL approach in two different settings.