Who created the Responsive Classroom approach?

In 1981, four public school educators founded the not-for-profit Center for Responsive Schools (CRS). Their vision was to bring together social and academic learning throughout the school day. That vision led to the creation of the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching and learning.

What is the Responsive Classroom approach?

Responsive Classroom is a widely used, research-based approach to education that is associated with greater teacher effectiveness, higher student achievement, and improved school climate. The goal of the Responsive Classroom approach is to create a safe, joyful and challenging learning environment for every child.

What is distinctive about the Responsive Classroom approach?

The Responsive Classroom premise is that the social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum because children learn best through social interaction. Our approach has several distinctive features, including:

  • Morning Meeting (gathering as a whole class each morning to greet one another, share news, and warm up for the day ahead);
  • Positive teacher language (using words and tone to promote children's active learning and self-discipline); and
  • A positive approach to student discipline.

To learn more, see www.responsiveclassroom.org/about-responsive-classroom.

Is there research on the effectiveness of the Responsive Classroom approach?

From 2008 to 2011, researchers at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education conducted a three-year randomized controlled study led by Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman. The study examined the questions, "Does the Responsive Classroom® approach work? If so, how and for whom?"

The Responsive Classroom Efficacy Study (RCES), funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES), involved 24 elementary schools in a large district in a mid-Atlantic state. The schools were assigned randomly to intervention and comparison groups. The study followed 350 teachers and over 2,900 students from the spring of the students' second grade year to the spring of their fifth grade year. Learn more at www.responsiveclassroom.org/research.

How many schools currently practice the Responsive Classroom approach?

Several thousand schools across the U.S. and Canada currently practice the Responsive Classroom approach.

How many students go to Responsive Classroom schools?

Because we don't audit schools, it's hard to give an exact number. However, more than 70,000 teachers per year receive our newsletter and over 6,000 teachers per year attend a weeklong training, so it's safe to say that hundreds of thousands of students per year are in some way impacted by Responsive Classroom ideas and methodology.

How many teachers do you train each year?

Each year, more than 6,000 teachers attend in-depth, weeklong training in Responsive Classroom practices. 

How many teachers have been trained in the Responsive Classroom approach?

Since 1995, over 65,000 teachers have been trained in the Responsive Classroom approach.

How many states have you worked in?

In the past five years, we have worked in 41 states plus the District of Columbia and Canada.

How does a school become a certified "Responsive Classroom School"?

We don't officially certify "Responsive Classroom Schools." However, we consider a school to have embraced the Responsive Classroom approach if:

  1. Every teacher in the school has had at least a full week of intensive training in fundamental Responsive Classroom practices; and
  2. The school leadership and staff are also receiving relevant training.

One of the most powerful things about the Responsive Classroom approach is that teachers and school leaders can develop and hone their practice over time. It's not a one-time event. Rather, it's an ongoing way to create a positive school climate that offers opportunities for adults as well as children to keep learning and growing.

Who supports the Responsive Classroom approach?

The Responsive Classroom approach is backed by a growing base of research showing that when teachers use the Responsive Classroom approach, students:

  • Score higher on math and reading tests
  • Feel more positive about schools, teachers, and peers
  • Have better social skills and fewer behavior problems

The Responsive Classroom approach has also been praised by leading education experts such as Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, and the educational nonprofit CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). In Dr. Goleman's words, "the Responsive Classroom approach creates an ideal environment for learning—every teacher should know about it."

The Responsive Classroom approach is one of only 23 programs included in Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs: Preschool and Elementary School Edition, CASEL's 2013 guide to preschool and elementary programs that are "well-designed, evidence-based social and emotional learning programs with potential for broad dissemination to schools across the United States." The 2013 CASEL Guide draws on the organization's work in social emotional learning (SEL) research and practice spanning nearly two decades.

Finally, our greatest endorsement comes from the thousands of schools around the country that actively use and are succeeding with the Responsive Classroom approach.

Why is the Responsive Classroom approach only at the elementary level?

Center for Responsive Schools made a decision early in its history to focus on elementary education because a growing body of research indicates the critical importance of early education and its strong connection to later academic success. We believe that by creating a safe, joyful, and challenging learning environment at the elementary level, we are helping to prepare students for lifelong learning and success.

Does the Responsive Classroom approach work in urban areas?

Yes. School districts of all shapes, sizes, and regions have successfully used the Responsive Classroom approach. We've worked with schools in urban areas such as Chicago and New York City, suburban areas such as Fairfax County, Virginia, and rural schools in the far reaches of Aroostook County, Maine.

Does the Department of Education support the Responsive Classroom approach?

In general, the U.S. Department of Education does not promote specific methodologies. However, we feel that many of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's education goals—including universal access to excellent schools that help students become lifelong learners—are very much aligned with ours. We're delighted to work with teachers, principals, and superintendents to ensure that students are learning the critical 21st-century skills that the Department of Education recognizes and the Responsive Classroom approach promotes.