In this article, we offer a justice-centered approach to measuring and documenting instructional quality that counters traditional teacher evaluations models commonly used in states' Quality Rating Improvement Systems (QRIS). We tell the story of two early care and education practitioners - one teacher and one school leader - who participated in a professional development that focused on learning to observe young children in agentic contexts and finding more ways for young children to showcase, demonstrate, strengthen, or contribute their capabilities. Through these stories, we show how focusing on children's capabilities served to counter the reductionist, hierarchical, and dehumanizing approaches of commonly used teacher evaluation tools. By focusing on the capabilities of children, educators were able to define for themselves what they regarded as high-quality practice and implement meaningful shifts in their work. We argue that QRIS teacher evaluation models need to be revised to center young children and their capabilities.

Author Biography

Dr. Soyoung Park

Dr. Soyoung Park is Faculty and Director of Online Programs in Early Childhood and Childhood Special Education at the Bank Street Graduate School of Education. A former special education and inclusion teacher, Dr. Park’s research and teaching focus on transforming the experiences of young children of color with disabilities, their families, and their teachers to be more humanizing, liberatory, and just. Dr. Park has published and presented extensively on her work, which can be found in Teachers College Record, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, Urban Education Journal, Multiple Voices, and other venues.

Sunmin Lee

Sunmin Lee is an assistant professor of elementary education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University. She is a former early childhood teacher with transnational teaching experience in South Korea and the U.S. Her research focuses on early childhood inclusive education and the intersectional relationships between race and disability in the experiences of children and families of color. Her work has been published in Early Childhood Education Journal, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, and Anthropology & Education Quarterly.

Nnenna Odim

Dr. Nnenna Odim (she/her) is Igbo from Biafra and Arawakan. She is the Associate Director of Participatory Action Research at Beloved Community. With experiences as a multi-age early childhood teacher in the Caribbean, South America and Turtle Island (United States), her research focuses on the ways community expertise comes alive in storytelling. She has published work about inequity in early childhood environments, storytelling in communities, and futuristic visions in early childhood.

Jennifer K Adair

Jennifer Keys Adair, PhD is Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and the Director of the Agency and Young Children Research Collective at The University of Texas at Austin. A trained cultural anthropologist and former preschool teacher, Dr. Adair works with young children, teachers, parents, and administrators to understand how racism and white supremacy impact the learning experiences of young children, particularly children’s agency. Dr. Adair is a former Young Scholars Fellow with the Foundation for Child Development, a major Spencer Foundation grantee, and a grantee of the Brady Foundation. Her work has been covered extensively by the media such as Washington Post, NPR, New America, and Code Switch. Dr. Adair is author, along with Dr. Kiyomi Sánchez-Suzuki Colegrove of the book, Segregation by Experience: Agency, Racism and Early Learning (The University of Chicago Press, 2021) which won the Council on Anthropology and Education’s 2021 Outstanding Book Award and the Book Study of the Year by the High Scope Education Foundation.



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