TSR Connect
A Closer Look

Tuesday, January 28, 2014



Extended Deadline for the TSR Banner Contest! - Send your photo by February 7th, 2014

We’ve received a lot of great photos, but we’re still waiting on YOUR photo!  Be sure to send us your photo by February 7th, 2014 to our Facebook page, or to Jennifer at jennifer.m.lindley@uth.tmc.edu

TSR Administrators, Directors, and Principals: Don’t forget to join us for a Leading School-Wide Improvement Orientation Webinar.

The orientation webinars took place on January 22 from 10:00-11:00 AM and on January 23 from 2:00-3:00 PM. If you missed the orientation, you can still enroll in the course! Click here to watch the orientation webinar or, watch a short introduction video about the course. This is the introduction for a specially-designed course available only to TSR administrators. Hope you can join us!

We will be hosting a TSR Summer Institute again this year!

We will announce the location and dates for the Institute in the next few months.

We are looking for great stories from your community!

If you have a story to share about TSR in your area, we’d love to hear from you!  Contact Reese-Anna at ReeseAnna.Baker@uth.tmc.edu if you'd like to share a story or would like assistance submitting a press release about your participation in TSR this year.

More than 1,100 schools and 2,000 teachers are participating in TSR this year!

More than 1,100 schools and 2,000 teachers are participating in TSR this year!  Check out the press release from UTHealth here

Look out! The new Texas School Ready!

Look out! The new Texas School Ready! website is on its way.  We may contact YOU to ask for your help in reviewing it.

TSR Updates

All across Texas, prekindergarten teachers returned to the classroom in January from what we hope was a relaxing break for all. We know this time of year can be stressful and challenging to get back in the swing of things. We hope all of our teachers and their students, as well as our coaches and coordinators, are reenergized and ready for the second half of the school year.

January and February are important months because they mark the middle of the school year, a big milestone for TSR data collection. For example, Texas School Ready! teachers will be soon seeing their coaches for middle of the year Classroom Observation Tool (COT) and Classroom Environment Checklist (CEC) observations, if they haven't already.  The windows for both are:

  • CEC – January 14, 2014 – February 14, 2014
  • COT – February 10, 2015 – March 17, 2014

At this time of the year it is also important for TSR teachers to conduct middle of the year progress monitoring of their students.  The windows for progress monitoring are:

  • Phase 1 (Assessment) - January 15, 2014 – February 15, 2014
  • Phase 2 (Observables) - February 15, 2014 – March 15, 2014

*Teachers, remember to update your netbook prior to assessing your students!

Finally, coaches, coordinators, and program managers should be on schedule with collaborative coaching calls.  We appreciate everyone’s participation and engagement in these important activities.  TSR works because of the wonderful and committed participants we have throughout Texas.  Keep up the good work!

A Closer Look

Head, Shoulders, Knees, Toes...and Achievement: Self-Regulation Can Tell Us a Lot about School Readiness

Self-regulation is one of the more complex domains of child development. In general, this area of development concerns our ability to modulate or adjust our emotions and behavior as appropriate for different situations. Children use self-regulation skills when they patiently wait their turn to use a toy, calm themselves down after a stressful event, or return to paying attention after playing and running around on the playground. Researchers are still trying to unlock all of the significance and the patterns of skill formation associated with self-regulation, but we know that self-regulation is a critical skill set that impacts learning and achievement in the classroom.

Interestingly, a great deal of the connection between self-regulation and achievement in the early years of life was uncovered by two researchers in 2009, using an adapted version of the “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” game that young children love to play.  If you are not familiar with the game, it’s pretty simple to learn. It includes a lengthy, fun song in which children sing heads, shoulders, knees, and toes along with other body parts. While singing, the children and the teacher touch the part of the body mentioned.

The research on self-regulation created and utilized a new game called the head-toes-knees-shoulders (HTKS) task. Claire Ponitz from the University of Virginia and Megan McClelland from Oregon State University conducted fascinating research which demonstrated that a child’s ability to perform well on this task could predict end-of-year achievement in math, literacy, and vocabulary.

In the HTKS task children are told to perform the opposite of the command given.  For example, if the adult says “head,” the child should touch his or her toes. Specifically the game measures inhibitory control (the child has to restrain the impulse to touch the body part that she is commanded to touch).  It also measures working memory (being able to remember to do the opposite of the command) and attention focusing (the child must be cued into the commands the adult is giving to make the right choice). Because the research found predictability between success in this game and end-of-year achievement, it tells us that self-regulation is a critical area of skill development we should be supporting in young children.

A great deal of how we support self-regulation skills in young children is related to how we manage the classroom, how we help children appropriately express emotion, and how we support their control of attention. For a great reminder of instructional strategies supporting self-regulation, take some time to review pages 39–46 in the Revised Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines.

Additionally, always remember to keep these key tips in mind:

Be clear and consistent with classroom rules and management. When things fall out of step, remind children in a supportive way about the rules. Use songs and finger plays to help children embrace the rules used throughout the day. Remember to use a daily schedule chart to help orient children to the day’s activities.

Model and support children in expressing a range of emotions.  Select activities that involve discussions of emotions and how to react to them. Also, remember to acknowledge children’s feelings and emotions throughout the day (“I see that you are frustrated,” or “You look excited to get started!”). And remember, children need practice—give them opportunities to practice modulating levels of intensity such as songs and games that alternate between fast and slow or loud and soft. 

Help children stay focused on tasks. Encourage children to continue with activities until they are completed. Remember to provide assistance and encouragement to children who need support to continue to focus on a task—offer praise for effort and suggest materials or other items as the task requires.   

A Closer Look

TSR and Child Care Associates: Ten Years of Collaborative Partnerships

For the last ten years, Child Care Associates (CCA) has been the Texas School Ready! Lead Agency for the Fort Worth area. In fact, CCA was one of the original pioneering organizations to participate in the foundational research that produced the Texas Early Education Model (TEEM)—TSR’s precursor—as a prototype for the state of Texas. Today the TSR project in Fort Worth continues to be led by Colleen M. Schiebold and her team, Mildred Bautista and Carolyn Middleton. They are providing both face-to-face and remote coaching to 82 teachers in 51 centers throughout north central Texas!

TSR and a collaborative model
When asked what successes Colleen has been most proud of during her team’s tenure, she pointed to the TSR project’s innovation and leadership with collaborative models in particular. From its beginning, she says, TSR and CCA “led the way in the integration of partner agencies.” Fort Worth truly stands out as a model of preschool mixed delivery and collaboration among organizations. This effort includes the teamwork and coordination of facilities, staff, curricula, and daily schedules of three diverse early childhood sectors—public schools, Head Start, and child care programs. Colleen adds that “by using shared facilities, service capacity grows while utilizing minimal additional resources.”

The teachers in these partnerships work with the same population of at-risk children; however, each partner capitalizes on the other’s strengths to provide a seamless, holistic education for every child in the program.

CCA collaborative efforts not only increase learning opportunities for children, but also allow TSR teachers to bring evidence-based principles into the partnership. Additionally, parents’ needs for child care are met, while their children gain important language and literacy skills. Over the years, participation in two early research CIRCLE grants, five TEEM/TSR grants, and the current cycle of a TSR-granted project has enabled CCA to grow integration efforts to relationships with 10 of the 18 school districts in the county! Ten years later, classrooms that were part of the original TEEM project continue with integrated services.

How collaboration works
Over time, CCA has supported 11 different types of collaborative partnerships, each model serving the uniqueness of its partners’ needs. For example, partnerships have included ISD teachers placed in child care centers who travel to different centers for morning and afternoon classes. Other partnerships have included ISD teachers placed in Head Start centers who work with 3-year-olds in the morning and 4-year-olds in the afternoon. Regardless of the setting, each partnership addressed the particular needs of the local school district served.

All children are dually enrolled in the collaborating programs, thereby allowing each partner to draw funds from their respective funding sources. Funding for child care centers is extremely tight; dual enrollment ensures that funding per child continues for the child care centers even though collaborations are in place. In the Fort Worth community project, Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County, the local workforce development board, has also supported implementation through a financial assistance program for qualifying parents known as Child Care Management Services (CCMS). Many child care centers rely on CCMS-funded children to assure that they can make ends meet. Participation in TSR has qualified these centers for a higher reimbursement rate.

To formalize the partnerships, a letter of agreement is developed in conjunction with child care licensing, public health, and other governing agencies to establish requirements for pre-K ISD teachers working in satellite settings such as a Head Start or child care center. Teachers from each partnership are titled co-teachers to recognize their joint efforts. Schedules reflect three hours of cognitive development during the time the ISD teacher works in tandem with a child care or Head Start teacher. The child care or Head Start teacher supplements the lesson plans during the time when the ISD teacher has moved to a different classroom.

The toughest part of integration is the daily schedule and ensuring that both partners meet their respective requirements. Colleen emphasized that “sometimes, adjusting the schedule just five minutes is all that is necessary to make the model work. Planning time may be accomplished on a daily, or if necessary, weekly basis.”

Joint planning time is critical so that teachers achieve consistent incorporation of purposeful and engaging activities in the classroom. Shared assessments help teachers plan small group instruction for children identified with emerging skills. Co-teachers can offer additional and more frequent small group instruction with teacher assistants in the classroom. Team building and training to explore identified roles and responsibilities occurs every year. Teachers are also trained on each other’s policies, standards, and regulations. Lastly, Head Start and child care centers adopt a curriculum from the state list so that both teachers know and understand classroom approaches. This curriculum alignment also provides for an easier transition as children enter public school.

Setting high standards of quality
Early in the project, a TEEM council was created with representatives from the Head Start, child care, and ISD organizations in the partnership. The goal of the council was to strengthen existing partnerships, cement new relationships, and establish an exemplary model of collaboration. This included seeking ways to develop a thorough, systematic approach to planning, decision making, and program improvement for future sustainability. The council met regularly and solved minor problems before they became major issues.

A vital component to cementing relationships is the frequent and ongoing scheduling of site-based partner meetings. Lead by Colleen, and with the support of CCA, these meetings are intended to be proactive and address creative ideas for improvements in the integration model. These meetings also ensure the continuity of communications between partners so that parents fully understand the pedagogic approaches and learning experiences utilized with their children. A local administrators’ partner meeting was recently held this past November, which featured Dr. April Crawford, TSR State Director, leading a discussion on how to interpret and use data for classroom and program-wide improvement.

The greatest success of this unique multi-agency collaboration is certainly the increased number of classrooms available for children to receive consistent school readiness instruction. Over the past ten years, well over 9,000 Fort Worth-area children received the benefits of TSR through participation in a partnered classroom.

Moving forward
Fort Worth ISD (FWISD) has committed to continuing and expanding collaborative partnerships with Head Start and child care partners. This commitment includes providing classroom space on ISD campuses where additional children can receive higher quality services and early literacy education opportunities in a concentrated effort. FWISD is also committed to continuing funding for certified teachers to support the integration of child care and Head Start “satellite campuses.” Birdville, Hurst Euless Bedford, and White Settlement ISDs also continue successfully integrated classrooms with this collaborative approach.

Today Fort Worth ISD continues to implement a full integration model in partnership with CCA and YMCA/ YWCA. FWISD incorporated CIRCLE approaches into their online curriculum framework for access by all FWISD pre-kindergarten teachers. They welcome the opportunity to be further involved in TSR research and to explore the innovative professional development delivery models being instituted, such as coaching through the use of video exchange. Dr. Patricia Rangel, Executive Director of Early Academic Success and Acceleration, stated, “Our involvement in TEEM and hence TSR helped create for the district a framework modeled after CIRCLE in which all teachers could reference standard best practices for lesson planning and consistent instructional delivery. We are always seeking ways to hone our professional development.”

CCA has also created some sustainability of the project through in-house mentors that support augmentation of the TSR project. Environmental features of CIRCLE, as well as correlated and aligned learning objectives, are expectations for all CCA-operated centers.

Most importantly, Colleen says, parents are able to seek services that meet their own needs for child care and development while being assured their child is receiving evidenced-based practices in language and literacy skills that lead to student success in kindergarten.

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Children's Learning Institute at UTHealth
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Houston, TX 77030

Learn more about Texas School Ready! visit us at www.texasschoolready.org