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Center Credits COS Classroom Approach for Level 5 CLASS Rating

East Central Community Center Early Head Start, an Early Adopter of the COS Classroom Approach, earned a Level 5 CLASS rating, the highest available.

There are many examples of how understanding the COS Classroom Approach helps teachers develop secure relationships with children in their care. Despite the stress on any given day, the approach makes teachers’ jobs easier, because they understand the relational needs of each child. When children’s needs are met and they feel the confident presence of a trusting adult, they are more cooperative and compliant, resulting in a quality learning environment.

Early care center Director Sheryl Damon from Washington State knows this all too well. Sheryl brings many years of coaching in the COS Classroom Approach to her role as a center director. She tells the story when it was time for the state’s annual center assessment. Center assessment includes both the teacher-child interactions and the center environment. The visit was scheduled during a challenging time for the center when their space was under construction and the three classrooms were lodged in temporary quarters with no walls, not enough sinks, bathrooms down the hall, and a playground that was not attached to the site. The observer’s rating scale for the environment was the ITERS (Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale) tool. Teacher-student interactions were rated using the CLASS (classroom assessment scoring system) for toddlers. These rating tools were used by an on-site observer on two separate days.

Not only was the space less than ideal but when the observer came to focus on the teacher-child interactions (using the CLASS), a child was present who had not attended for more than three months. She was distraught at drop off, crying and clinging to the gate leading into the classroom. Her crying could be heard throughout all three classrooms with the wide-open space and no walls. The child continued to cry off and on during the entire observation period. It was a stressful day for everyone.
After weeks of waiting, Director Sheryl Damon received a phone call from an education specialist in the program. She congratulated the site and shared that they had earned the highest rating of Level 5! Their site was Washington’s first infant/toddler program to earn the top Early Achievers score.

East Central Community Center Early Head Start earned a Level 5 Facility, the highest rating available.

Of course, this top score represents months of intentional relationship building between the teachers, between teachers and parents, and between teachers and children. Sheryl shared this story because, in her opinion, the COS Classroom Approach made the difference. Using an attachment lens, the teachers could hold onto empathy for the crying child because they understood her need and the stress on her to be with unfamiliar people in a new place. The teachers could use their understanding of COS to calm their own uncomfortable feelings (in Circle of Security, we call this Shark Music) and then meet the child’s emotional needs. All the teachers’ interactions with each child throughout the assessment time were rated high quality. And for the children, it’s calming to be in the presence of competent caregiving.

This outcome shows that creating a genuinely responsive and reflective environment that focuses on meeting the emotional needs of the children is central to creating a safe and secure learning environment for children. That is what counts the most in ensuring quality. The environment was not perfect, the behaviors of children were not perfect, and teachers were not perfect, yet how adults responded to each child and situation mattered the most.

To learn more about the COS Classroom Approach, visit the COSI website.