The Principal's Primer
Research-Based Supports for Early Learning Classrooms
This bi-monthly newsletter is designed specifically for Principals and Assistant Principals with early learning classrooms on their campus. In an effort to strengthen your understanding of instructional strategies and developmentally appropriate perspectives, the Children’s Learning Institute is pleased to provide you with the latest research, best practices, resources for supporting early learning on your campus, and innovations in technology that support collaborative leadership. Past issues can be viewed in the archive on CLI Engage.
CLI Wishes You Happy Holidays!
Teacher meeting
December 2020

In this issue:

Leaders Using Data to Support Intentional Instruction
  • The Evaluation Cycle:
  • Observe
  • Set Goals
  • Take Action
Leaders Using Data to Support Intentional Instruction

As the year has kicked off to a different start, assessments are still a critical part of the school year. There is a need for data to better understand the overall academic performance of students to continually respond to their needs. Assessments help leaders understand and address academic gaps that have possibly widened during the pandemic. Administrators promote and support teachers with data analysis through the evaluation cycle to drive high quality, intentional instruction.  
The Evaluation Cycle
Putting into place an evaluation cycle that includes classroom observation, student assessment, and teacher instructional practices will help you sustain the benefits of your professional development efforts and help you identify new areas for growth.
Trusting communication among school leaders and teachers allows for meaningful conversations about the effectiveness of instruction. Regular conversations with teachers about their instruction and student data can extend their strengths and pinpoint resources to help them with identified deficiencies. Those conversations can foster productive risk-taking in the classroom and help to renew a passion for teaching.
For emerging and advanced teachers alike, conversations with school leaders are most productive when based on data from the classroom. Reliance on data is part of an overall cycle of evaluation that is integral to school-wide improvement.
By observing instruction and collecting data, school leaders can identify the individual strengths and needs of teachers. There is more to classroom observation than simply seeing what's in front of you. Improving observation methods to make them both fair and accurate has become a science unto itself. Tools like CLI’s Administrator's Classroom Observation Tool (A-COT), geared towards best practices in early childhood classrooms, are known to improve the neutrality and completeness of classroom observations. Based on a similar tool used by mentors, the A-COT is a 43-item checklist of teacher behaviors that have been linked across multiple studies with gains in language and literacy, social skills, as well as early math and science. By focusing classroom observation on specific behaviors, the tool promotes fair, neutral, and targeted classroom observations. As such, information recorded in the tool provides the basis for teachers and school leaders to work together on setting goals to improve classroom instruction.

To get the most from formative observational assessments:
  • Establish whether you are collecting the information to better support a teacher or to make final decisions about competency.
  • Be clear about what you want to learn from your observations and how this connects with student data and professional development goals.
  • Make sure your tool(s) yields information that is readily interpretable with specific items that closely match what you want to learn.
  • Plan to observe when activities involving targeted skills are most likely to occur.
  • Conduct frequent observations to measure the consistency of targeted instructional practices.
  • Provide teachers with feedback that is directly linked to student assessment data.
Set Goals
Together, teachers and school leaders can set specific and achievable goals based on assessment data. Assessments provide specific data on what the student already knows and understands, and guides the teacher to then set specific learning goals for instruction. After observing classroom instruction, school leaders should provide feedback promptly. Approach goal setting as a collaboration and allow teachers to direct their own learning to strengthen their commitment to change and improve. Administrators support teachers by building on their strengths and using assessment results to plan for individualized and differentiated instruction. Through effective questioning, school leaders can facilitate teachers’ reflection of their instruction and guide teachers through an exchange of ideas on how to improve their instructional practices. Acknowledging strengths can help put teachers at ease, increasing their receptiveness to discussions about areas in need of improvement to set goals. After meeting with teachers, they should have clearly identified goals and specific indicators of progress that can be achieved by the next scheduled visit.  
Take Action
Next, school leaders should determine what support each teacher will need, and then take action to ensure access to student assessment resources, training, and peer collaboration. They should consistently check in with teachers informally as they observe teacher instruction.
Classroom observations yield important data, but not all data comes from observation. Frequent progress monitoring is central to the evaluation cycle. High-quality programs use ongoing assessment results to guide instructional decisions.
CLI Engage offers progress monitoring for students in pre-K through second grade at no cost to users. The below listed assessment systems are designed to be brief administrations that yield efficient and reliable results. For each, assessment results are matched to intervention activities for teachers to target the student’s least developed skills.
Once administrators see specific areas where teachers’ understanding needs growth, they can align these needs with personalized professional development. However, a key challenge for school leaders is connecting the professional development needs of staff with financial resources.
CLI Engage offers online professional development for teachers and administrators at no cost to users. The course work provided can be tailored to meet the individual needs of each teacher based on teacher observations and student assessment data.
Teacher observation, student assessment, and individualized professional development are vital tools as the evaluation cycle continues. Effective leaders utilize progress monitoring data and guide teachers to be informed and differentiate instruction for young learners. To continue closing gaps, leaders must consistently promote academic success by using data as a starting point to support teachers’ instructional needs and student learning throughout the school year.
Teacher support students
Goal setting with a teacher
CLI Engage Resources

The A-COT is a 43-item checklist of teacher behaviors that have been linked across multiple studies with gains in language and literacy, social skills, and early math and science. A-COT reports display the date a specific behavior was first observed in the classroom. The collected data and built-in goal setting system can guide teachers, coaches, program managers, and school leaders to track progress and plan for continuous improvement and professional development in areas of greatest need.
The accessing reports video was designed to prepare you to access and create a variety of reports after the administration of CIRCLE Progress Monitoring, Texas Kindergarten Entry Assessment, TPRI, or Tejas LEE have been completed. In the video, we have highlighted common features for generating and utilizing the reports available to you on CLI Engage. Below are some highly useful reports.

  • Class Level Summary Report: This report provides a color-coded summary of the assessment scores for each student in the class. The report can also be viewed by benchmark percentages.
  • School Level Summary Report: This report includes the average score for all students, or students with only specific indicators, for each selected measure or sub-measure. This report can also be used to display the percentage of students within ranges of the established benchmarks.
  • School Growth Report: The report displays a bar graph indicating the percentage of students meeting benchmark on selected measures across multiple waves of administration to identify growth. Student average scores for the selected measures can also be viewed.
The CIRCLE Activity Collection: Pre-K to Grade 2 includes over 500 classroom lessons in English and Spanish. Perfect for public schools, Head Starts, and center- or home-based childcares, the collection supports teachers’ implementation through video examples, sample lesson scripts, scaffolding tips, and alignments to state guidelines, as well as Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework.
The State Board of Education voted to approve adoption of the CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum in November 2020. Developed by CLI, the new, research-based curriculum is freely available to all prekindergarten programs through CLI Engage access. Available in English and Spanish, the CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum includes Scope and Sequences for 35 weeks of instruction and 10 Theme Guides for use throughout the school year.
The eCIRCLE Professional Development online learning program includes 16 courses (73.5 hours) for teachers and administrators serving children three to six years of age. These courses include extensive video-based demonstrations of effective instructional practices, as well as application-based assignments and activities. This program can be self-paced or facilitated for use in a group setting. Completion of each course yields certificates in CPEs or clock hours.
CLI Engage is part of the Children's Learning Institute at UTHealth