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Examining the role of varying levels of classroom quality for toddlers in Early Head Start and subsidized child care programs: Understanding threshold effects


The Toddler Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS-T) is one of the most commonly used measures to assess the quality of teacher-child interactions in toddler classrooms. Cut-points on the CLASS-T scores are being used to determine Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) ratings of programs as high or low quality, and therefore have policy implications for program funding and for parent consumers. Despite widespread use of the CLASS-T for these purposes, few studies have examined the construct validity of the CLASS-T for use in Early Head Start (EHS) and subsidized child care programs serving low-income, ethnically and linguistically diverse children and families. In addition, no studies, to date, have validated a priori cut-points that QRIS programs use in practice. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was (a) to examine the factor structure of the CLASS-T in a sample of 106 classrooms comprised of 688 ethnically and linguistically diverse toddlers attending EHS and subsidized child care programs; (b) to examine associations between the CLASS-T domain scores and child developmental skills, including language and social-emotional skills; and (c) to empirically examine the cut-points that were in use as part of the local Miami-Dade County QRIS, Quality Counts, to determine whether the a priori cut-points used in practice aligned with thresholds of classroom quality that were differentially associated with child developmental skills. Findings supported the two-factor structure of the CLASS-T, which included the following two factors: Emotional and Behavioral Support, and Engaged Support for Learning. Both linear and nonlinear relationships between CLASS-T domain scores and social-emotional skills were found, and the CLASS-T a priori cut-points used by Quality Counts were aligned with thresholds in the statistical models examining social-emotional skills. The findings of the current study were shared with local partners and implications for policy and practice are discussed. (author abstract)

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Reports & Papers
United States
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