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Action Step and Orientation

S2. Implement systems to build and maintain the ability to provide effective language and pre-literacy instruction.

This lesson is addressed directly to administrators and focuses on the role of leadership in ensuring quality of care and instruction at your school. Examples of effective practices include written procedures and policies as well as training and mentoring programs for new staff.

Part 1 discusses systems you will need to establish to sustain your school improvement initiative, especially professional development for current and new staff members.

Part 2 presents ways to think about continuing effective practices beyond a temporary funding period.

To get started, download the Implementation Guide for this component and refer to the Action Step for this lesson. Review the Implementation Indicators for each level of implementation and note the Sample Evidence listed at the bottom of the chart.

Part 1—Sustainability and Professional Development

As your school works to implement the TSLP, your site/campus-based leadership team will want to review established procedures and practices currently in place regarding language and pre-literacy instruction.

Throughout the TSLP, schools are asked to build sustainability by

  • tracking progress toward goals;
  • developing leadership at the teacher and administrative levels;
  • maintaining your site/campus-based leadership team;
  • monitoring and supporting language and pre-literacy development practices through mentoring and coaching;
  • providing ongoing professional development for leaders, teachers, and caregivers;
  • working together with your local district and community to leverage funding sources when possible; and
  • making decisions based on data analysis.

A major part of sustaining your improvement efforts is providing support and professional development that is matched to the individual needs of staff members. Indicators in each Action Step of the TSLP ask you to evaluate staff needs as they relate to the priorities you set.

Investing in your staff is one of the most worthwhile goals you will set. Given the high turnover rate of 0–SE teachers, you and your team will want to identify professional development activities that encourage staff to stay despite funding constraints that may not always allow for financial incentives. By “professionalizing” the work of 0–SE teachers and developing their expertise, you will help staff feel more empowered, supported, educated, and stimulated in their work. Additionally, as teachers gain more and more expertise, it is important to recognize their growth and empower effective staff to take on leadership roles—namely, to help lead your professional development efforts and provide key support to other staff.

In planning professional development, you and your team will want to be thoughtful about the different needs of your staff. Your considerations may include the different levels of experience and background knowledge of staff and the time constraints for participating in professional development. Flexibility is key to a sustainable plan, and you will want to consider ways to meet different and changing needs over time. For example, you might establish a list of trainings that all staff members are expected to have over time, with some topics marked as high priority (such as compliance topics and the foundations of language and pre-literacy development). Over time, your staff could work to complete the trainings on the list. Once these foundational skills are mastered, you can integrate further job-embedded activities to build on and extend those skills.

As you consider ways to build capacity, remember that professional development doesn’t always have to be full- or half-day workshops. Professional growth happens on the job as staff members apply new skills, collaborate with others, and tweak their practice. Some job-embedded activities you may consider include peer observation, self-observation through videotaping and guided reflection, online training opportunities, webinars, and learning walks. Each of these can offer flexible opportunities to staff with different strengths and needs as long as leadership delivers consistent expectations and support.

In addition to developing current staff, you will need to have plans in place for mentoring and training new staff at your school. Finding opportunities for staff to participate in professional development can be a challenge—one that is compounded when a new staff member has multiple topics to catch up on. It is worth spending time with your team to brainstorm ways to put a system in place that will address this challenge so that you can maintain a high level of care and instruction.

In addition to having a system for training incoming staff, establishing written procedures, policies, and schedules, along with an up-to-date implementation plan (as discussed in Lesson S1), also helps you maintain efforts to improve children’s language and pre-literacy development.

Finally, in addition to putting systems in place to prevent staff turnover, you and your team will need to consider ways you can lessen the negative effects of turnover when it does occur. Research shows that teacher turnover can disrupt learning environments for children and create unstable working environments for teachers. Cassidy, Lower, Kinter-Duffy, Hedge, and Shim (2001) suggest putting some purposeful strategies in place for minimizing these negative effects. Some examples they give include the following:

  • Have some teachers work as “floaters.” These teachers can step in when needed (e.g., until a new teacher is hired) to prevent children from having to abruptly shift teachers and classrooms.
  • When you have advance notice, have new teachers shadow departing teachers. This puts less strain on current teachers to train incoming staff. This also allows children to form a relationship with the new teacher during the transition time.
  • Maintain consistent communication with parents about transitions so that they can form relationships with new teachers and support their children during the transition process.

Again, your investment in your staff is one of the most important goals. Supporting staff through quality professional development, promoting teacher leadership, and putting strategies in place to reduce teacher turnover are all critical to building capacity at your early learning site.

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TO LEARN MORE: The following resources may be useful to you as you consider options for staff development.

Some lessons in the Effective Instructional Framework module in this course provide additional information that you and your team may find useful as you consider what skills to focus on in professional development and what written policies and procedures need to be established.

The Texas Rising Star program is “a voluntary, quality-based child care rating system of child care providers participating in the Texas Workforce Commission’s subsidized child care program.” You and your team may want to pursue certification at this high level of care or simply use the guidelines and resources to inform your decisions about what to work on with your staff.

Part 2—Sustainability as a New Way of Doing Business

When you use temporary funding to pay for professional development, coaching, and other activities to build capacity of your staff, you and your team need to decide how you will continue with improvement efforts once that temporary funding ends.

One way to continue the work beyond a grant period is to seek additional funding. You might look to partner with local schools and districts, other early childhood education sites, and community partners such as libraries or corporations.

The Texas Education Agency and U.S. Department of Education provide guidance for coordinating efforts using Title I funds, which may include funding for some preschools. You can access guidance at this link: Schoolwide Programs.

Given the challenges in seeking funding, you and your team will also want to consider how to accomplish the same positive results without additional funding. Here are some questions you may want to reflect on as a team:

  • Without additional funding, how might your existing staff continue using effective practices they have already learned?
  • How might your team or staff guide new staff to follow the policies and practices you have initiated?
  • Are there activities that use up resources (time, money) that do not show as great an impact on children’s development? If so, could you do those less and do more of the previously funded activities that demonstrated a strong positive impact on children?

Using the six-step “TSLP Implementation Process: Working on an Action Step” (illustrated in the Implementation module) and regularly reviewing your data-informed plan improving language and pre-literacy instruction (in the Leadership module) involve evaluating the success of various initiatives and practices. This evaluation may lead you and your team to question some of the common—and perhaps popular—ways of doing things at your school. Change can be difficult, but taking the time to look into the effectiveness of even long-held practices can inform the tough decisions you and your team need to make regarding the use of resources and time for what really makes an impact on children’s language and pre-literacy development.

A useful way to think about sustainability is as the product of embracing new and improved ways of doing the work of early childhood education. If attitudes and thinking and practices change as you and your staff operate with temporary funds, and if you find your results improve, then your staff will be inclined to maintain the changes when those temporary funds disappear. The problem becomes, then, how to maintain and continue funding what you are doing because you know it works. Maintaining the new effective practices can be a priority that fuels the creativity and innovation to find solutions to the funding challenge. It is experiencing this type of evolution that allows schools to avoid the common pitfall of discontinuing efforts once the money is gone.

In the end, the goal is for you and your staff to use temporary funds to make lasting positive change. Your aim is to transform the culture of your school so that the new practices and systems learned through the temporary initiative become the usual way you do business rather than something done in association with a particular program or grant.

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NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress implementing Action Step S2, you may want to consider the following next steps:

  • Review the Level D Reflective Sustainability Indicators for the Action Step(s) that your school has prioritized in your implementation plan.
  • Evaluate current language and pre-literacy practices and identify practices that are effective.
  • Establish or revise your system for assessing staff development needs and providing the support each staff member needs.
  • Develop a system for providing professional development for newly hired staff.
  • Brainstorm ways to support effective practices after temporary funds cease.
  • Brainstorm practices or procedures you can stop doing or reduce.
  • Create timelines and procedures for evaluating the impact of action items in your data-informed plan for improving language and pre-literacy instruction and your implementation plan.

Assignment

S2. Implement systems to build and maintain the ability to provide effective language and pre-literacy instruction.

With your site/campus-based leadership team, review your team’s self-assessed rating for Action Step S2 in the TSLP Implementation Status Ratings document and then respond to the four questions in the assignment.

TSLP Implementation Status Ratings 0-SE

As you complete your assignment with your team, resources and information from this lesson’s content may be useful to you.

  • Refer to Part 1 for considerations about systems that will need to be established to sustain your school improvement initiative, especially professional development for current and new staff members.
  • Refer to Part 2 for ways to think about continuing effective practices beyond a temporary funding period.

Next Steps also contains suggestions that your site or campus may want to consider when you focus your efforts on this Action Step.

To record your responses, go to the Assignment template for this lesson and follow the instructions.

Completion

Follow instructions provided by your school or district.

References

Cassidy, D. J., Lower, J. K., Kinter-Duffy, V. L., Hedge, A. V., & Shim, J. (2011). The day-to-day reality of teacher turnover in preschool classrooms: An analysis of classroom context and teacher, director, and parent perspectives. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 25(1), 1–23.

Texas Education Agency. (n.d.) Schoolwide programs. Retrieved from http://tea.texas.gov/grants/schoolwideprograms/

Texas Workforce Commission. (2015). Texas rising star (FAQ). Retrieved from https://texasrisingstar.org/about-trs/faq/