HighScope for Administrators
At HighScope we have been working with early childhood program supervisors and administrators for decades: we know about your problems and concerns, and will do our best to help you meet the challenges you face. We know that administrators, like all educators, want to provide the best possible educational experience to the children their programs serve. But your concerns go beyond the classroom: you are accountable when it comes to meeting mandates and demonstrating results. In talking with administrators, the questions we hear most often include
Why Is It Important To Use a Specific Curriculum; Why Can't We Create Our Own Curriculum, Using What We Know About Child Development and Appropriate Teaching Practices?
It is true that to be a good teacher or administrator, you have to know how children grow and learn. You must also know how to make children feel secure and excited about being in school. But this basic knowledge and set of skills is not enough to create an entire curriculum. So much learning happens in the early years that it would be very difficult for an individual or even an entire staff of one agency to invent a complete curriculum.
Most important, it is not enough to offer a curriculum in the belief that it is good. There must be proof that it works. To maintain funding, administrators must show their program is using a curriculum that has research-based evidence of effectiveness. Proof of effectiveness is important to policymakers who want to make sure taxpayer dollars are invested wisely. Using a validated or proven curriculum means you get all of the following ingredients and instructions:
- A set of appropriate teaching practices for adults
- A list of learning objectives for children
- Research tools to measure whether the program is meeting its goals
- A staff training model to make sure teachers understand and use the curriculum correctly
For these reasons, HighScope urges early childhood educators to use a single and established curriculum rather than something homegrown and untested. A program that borrows bits and pieces from various models will also be problematic.
Using a single curriculum does not mean that education is rigid and inflexible. In fact, a good curriculum allows you to change it to fit the children and community you serve, much as you might follow a basic recipe but change the seasoning to meet your personal tastes. The HighScope Curriculum permits this flexibility while maintaining the standards and practices that guarantee the curriculum will achieve positive and lasting results.
How Is The Curriculum Structured? Is It All Inclusive, Including Lesson Plans, Themes? Or Is It More Open Ended?
In the HighScope Curriculum (both infant-toddler and preschool), young children build or “construct” their knowledge of the world. That means learning is not simply a process of adults giving information to children, which is what you might find in curriculum that provides pre-fab lesson plans or pre-planned themes. Rather, in a HighScope setting, children participate actively in the learning process. They discover things through direct experience with people, objects, events, and ideas. Preschoolers also make plans and follow through on their interests and intentions.
HighScope teachers are as active and involved as children in the classroom. They thoughtfully provide materials, plan activities, and talk with (not at) children in ways that both support and challenge what children are observing and thinking. Activities are both child initiated (built upon children’s natural curiosity) and developmentally appropriate (matched to children’s current and emerging abilities). HighScope calls this approach active participatory learning — a process in which teachers and students are partners in shaping the learning experience.
This educational approach, in which children and adults share responsibility for learning, builds essential school-readiness skills. In addition to addressing traditional academic subjects, the HighScope Curriculum promotes independence, curiosity, decision making, cooperation, persistence, creativity, and problem solving.
Does HighScope Meet My State's Standards? Does It Meet Head Start Standards?
The HighScope Preschool Curriculum meets all state standards, national core standards, Head Start Outcome standards, and NAEYC standards. To look for your state standards and how HighScope meets them, click here.
Does HighScope Offer a Child Assessment and What Does It Look Like?
Yes, we offer COR Advantage, an authentic assessment that is available in both online and print versions. As you may know, an authentic assessment includes objective observations, portfolios of children’s work, and teacher ratings of children’s development. Authentic assessments are more naturalistic. They take place in the real world instead of in an artificial testing environment. As such, they provide a more accurate picture of what children normally do and reflect their true capabilities.
COR Advantage is organized into nine key categories of child development. Within each category is a list of observation items; there are 36 items in total. Within each item are eight levels, which span the developmental range of birth through kindergarten.
Because children develop at different rates, and their chronological and developmental ages may differ widely on one or more dimensions, the eight rating levels for provided for each item allow growth and development to be assessed in detail in each of the learning areas. The instrument can be used by any early childhood program that focuses on child development, not only programs using the HighScope Curriculum. Because COR Advantage focuses on development rather than chronological age and accommodates a broad developmental range, it is also appropriate for children with special needs.
The process of using COR Advantage involves three basic steps. Step one is for teachers to observe children in their daily activities and enter brief anecdotal notes about what they see into the online instrument (or in paper-and-pencil forms). The notes are objective, descriptive, and brief. It is not expected that everything a teacher observes will end up in a written anecdote. Generally, we might expect a teaching team to compile a few anecdotes a week for each child.
Step two involves comparing the observed behavior to observation items and levels in each of the nine categories. Once a category is assigned to an anecdote, the teacher assigns an appropriate behavior level. Supporting explanations and examples of each level are given in the online program (or in a printed manual) to help teachers make this determination. This material enables the teacher to choose and record the COR Advantage item and level that best fit the behavior captured in each anecdote (we refer to this process as scoring the anecdote).
In step three all of the information that has been gathered can be converted to reports that are valuable to teachers, administrators and parents. Reports can be generated almost automatically by the online program once anecdotes are scored. Teachers will find the reports especially helpful when planning lessons that support and extend children’s learning. Administrators can review teachers' reports online and generate a wide variety of additional reports using the data analytics provided in the online instrument.
Will COR Advantage help us meet and report on state, Head Start, Common Core, and professional standards? Yes! COR Advantage categories and items are aligned with these key standards, and the online instrument can generate reports that show children's progress towards the goals of particular standards.
How Much Professional Development is Needed to Use the Assessment?
This would depend on the experience of your staff and their skills in objective observation and anecdotal note taking. HighScope offers both onsite and online training in using the assessment, including combinations of online and face-to-face experiences. Training follows an interactive format and allows participants to practice what they learn each week.
How Do We Know the Curriculum is Working in Our Classrooms?
Aside from the progress scores and patterns you will see in analyzing the COR Advantage results, we offer the Program Quality Assessment (PQA), to help programs evaluate their effectiveness. The PQA is an online (or paper-and-pencil) rating instrument designed to evaluate the quality of early childhood programs and identify staff training needs. It is a comprehensive assessment that examines all the components of program quality. These range from the activities and interactions in the classroom, to relationships with families, to the policies and practices of agency managers.
The PQA allows raters to systematically collect information through classroom observations and interviews with teachers and administrative staff. The PQA can be implemented by trained outside evaluators or used as a self-assessment by individuals or teams within the program.