Sequatchie Valley Head Start recently scored in the top ten percent of Head Start programs nationwide. The achievement was announced with the release of “CLASS” scores by the national Office of Head Start. The CLASS scores indicate how well classroom teachers instruct their children. Sequatchie Valley operates two centers in Grundy County, with two classrooms in Tracy City and two near Altamont.
“We are delighted to know that we are tops in the country on this evaluation. This is a significant honor for our teachers and for all our support staff,” remarked Sequatchie Valley’s director, Judy Graham. “The CLASS evaluation is a particularly useful tool that helps our program make sure we are continually improving the quality of instruction in every classroom.”
The CLASS is used by trained classroom observers to monitor and assess the quality of interaction between teacher and child. The scores, and the observations that support them, can be used to pinpoint the need for coaching and mentoring. Graham noted that the scores could also be used for program improvement, policy development, goal setting, and monitoring. Graham said she was particularly pleased with the high ranking because it means that, “our program will not be forced to re-compete for our Head Start grant. We give credit to our center staff, to the leadership of our education manager and our recently-retired mentor teacher.”
The CLASS scores are divided into three “domains” of instruction, including emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support. Nationwide, the upper ten percent of programs scored 6.44 or better in emotional support, (SVHS score 6.50); the upper ten percent in classroom organization was 6.17 or higher (SVHS scored 6.23); and the upper ten percent in instructional support was 3.35 or higher (SVHS scored 3.75).
“These high scores are testimony to the excellent work our teaching staff is able to bring to their classrooms every day,” commented SVHS education manager Christy Vandergriff. A total of 18 classrooms were assessed by outside educators during the March 2013 review of the Sequatchie program. “Obviously, the teaching staff, family workers, the nutrition staff, and volunteers make great things happen every day at Sequatchie Valley Head Start,” Vandergriff said. All Head Start teaching staff undergo continual training to raise their skills at working directly with children in the classroom. Sequatchie Valley Head Start operates 21 classrooms spread across the mountains and valleys northeast of Chattanooga. The program serves nearly 400 high-risk children and their families in Bledsoe, Grundy, Marion, Rhea, and Sequatchie counties.
The local Head Start program is one of 26 programs serving nearly every county in Tennessee. Nationally, Head Start programs serve nearly a million children and their families across the nation every year.