Research Confirms the Benefits

Research has found that the Responsive Classroom approach leads to higher academic achievement, improved teacher-student interactions, and higher quality instruction in mathematics.

Responsive Classroom Efficacy Study
Summary of Findings

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.

Key Findings

The simple answer to the question posed by this study is "Yes, Responsive Classroom practices lead to teacher improvement and student gains." Here are the specifics:

1. Improved Student Achievement

Teachers' use of Responsive Classroom practices predicts gains in student math and
reading achievement.

  • Academic Choice: Teachers' use of Responsive Classroom Academic Choice, specifically, contributes to reading and math achievement outcomes.
  • Socio-economics: The associations between Responsive Classroom practices and achievement are equally strong for children eligible for free/reduced price lunch and those not eligible.
  • Greater effect on low-achieving students: The association between teachers' use of Responsive Classroom practices and math achievement appears to be stronger for students who are initially low achieving than for others.
2. Improved Teacher-Student Interactions

Teachers' increased use of Responsive Classroom practices leads to classrooms that are more emotionally supportive and organized.

  • Morning Meeting: Teachers who use Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting provide improved emotional support for students and improved classroom organization.
  • Academic Choice: Teachers who use Academic Choice also provide improved emotional support during math instruction.
3. Higher Quality Instruction in Mathematics

Training in the Responsive Classroom approach leads teachers to provide more skillful standards-based mathematics instruction. For example, they facilitate or structure:

  • Higher levels of mathematical discourse
  • Better use of and translation among mathematical representations
  • Lessons with greater cognitive depth
  • Lessons with greater coherence and accuracy
4. Importance of Support for Teachers

A supportive setting is important to teachers' implementation of Responsive Classroom practices. Teachers are more likely to use these practices when:

  • Their principal shows buy-in to the Responsive Classroom approach
  • They receive coaching while implementing new Responsive Classroom practices
  • Their school climate offers validation and social support for trying the Responsive Classroom approach and allows them to adopt the approach at their own pace

For more information about the RCES and SALS studies, related publications, and free, downloadable assessment tools, visit The University of Virginia's Social Development Lab website.

Read citations for conference presentations related to the Responsive Classroom Efficacy Study.

Download a two-page summary of the Responsive Classroom Efficacy Study (RCES) findings (pdf)

Download "The Responsive Classroom Approach Increases the Use of Standards-Based Mathematics Teaching Practices," a CASTL research brief summarizing findings published in The Elementary School Journal. (pdf)

Download "Influences on Implementation of the Responsive Classroom Approach," a CASTL research brief summarizing findings published in Prevention Science. (pdf)

Watch the webinar from the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education: Understanding New Research and Findings on the Responsive Classroom® Approach