Coaches_BlogNelly Orantes, Director of Tiny Toes Family Child Care in Brentwood, says her coach Francisca Hernandez is one of the best things about being in our pilot child care Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), a system to rate, continuously improve, and communicate levels of child care quality. Francisca is part of a team of coaches who support the 104 child care programs participating.

“Francisca will always say, ‘Don’t worry if you cannot do it. We will do the best that we can – you don’t have to feel pressure.’ I think Francisca is a great, great support in this program. I couldn’t do it without her.”

Contra Costa’s coaches meet regularly with providers, connect them to workshops and trainings, prepare them for assessments and ratings, and help them identify their program’s strengths and areas where they need more support. Studies have shown that onsite coaching is more effective in raising early learning quality than group training delivered without on-site assistance.

“I meet providers where they are, talk about what is possible, and map out a continuous plan of quality improvement,” said Kim Stadtlander, Contra Costa’s newest coach who has worked in early childhood for 30 years. “I tend to work most with providers on improving their environment and on creating more enriching teacher-child interactions. When you have these elements in place, the programs run more smoothly and there’s less stress and more joy for everyone.”

Routine, enriching teacher-child interactions are critical to a child’s development, and one of the most important areas coaches help providers to improve. For example, a coach might observe a provider say “good job” to a child stacking blocks. While “good job” is nice, saying “I see how hard you’re working to build that tower” or asking the child open-ended questions about what the child is building or why they’re building it are more likely to keep a child motivated and learning. Small changes like these make a big difference for children’s learning and development.

Coaches also suggest other teaching strategies to address problems providers might be facing such as disruptive behavior or children who have trouble sharing, sitting still, or developing friendships. Providers also receive videotaping, feedback sessions, and mock rating assessments to better prepare for the rating process.

Elizabeth Anderson, Site Supervisor of the Riverview Head Start site in Bay Point, appreciates having a coach, “Coaching is really valuable. I can turn to my coach for help in areas I’m not knowledgeable about. Francisca has really helped our teachers have more meaningful conversations with the children. I now see the teachers prompting more responses from the children, and the kids are becoming much more social. We feel ready for our rating assessment.”