Caring School Community

Relationships are the foundation of classroom life. They underpin teaching, learning, and prosocial development. Building relationships and fostering students’ sense of community are the hallmarks of our work at Collaborative Classroom. Together, they form the centerpiece of our newly revised Caring School Community program.

Caring School Community builds classroom and schoolwide community while developing students’ social and emotional learning (SEL) skills and competencies. It is designed to help students become caring, responsible members of their school communities and, ultimately, to grow into humane, principled, and skilled citizens of a democratic society. From the first day of Kindergarten through the last day of grade 8, the lessons in the program help teachers create warm, safe, and disciplined classroom environments where students can develop the skills and dispositions they need to interact constructively with others. The program achieves this by doing the following:

  • building caring relationships with and among students
  • directly teaching social skills
  • creating calm, orderly learning environments through the effective use of classroom management practices
  • helping students acquire self-discipline through a caring and effective approach to discipline

Building Caring Relationships

Relationships are at the core of a successful learning community. Caring School Community helps foster relationships among the students, school staff, and parents that are characterized by genuine warmth and interest. Students and adults spend time getting to know and appreciate one another. They learn about one others’ interests, opinions, and ideas, and to treat one another with respect.

The program accomplishes this important work in a variety of ways, including

  • daily Morning and Closing Circle activities in which students practice social skills and get to know one another
  • weekly class meetings in which students address common concerns and current issues
  • cross-age buddies activities in which students work together with older or younger students in other grades
  • weekly Home Connection Activities, which help students talk with family members about the social development focus of the week

Direct Teaching of Social Skills

The Caring School Community program provides detailed, easy-to-follow daily lessons for directly teaching children the social skills they need to succeed at school and in life. The social skills addressed in the lessons fall into four categories:

  1. Beginning-of-year skills, such as learning and following the classroom and school rules and procedures and learning to look at and greet one another by name.
  2. Self-management skills, such as reflecting on their own behavior and asking for help when needed.
  3. Interpersonal skills, such as including one another and sharing work fairly.
  4. Executive function skills, such as monitoring attention and re-focusing when necessary. Each week’s lessons focus on a few social skills, Over the course of the year, the students have the chance to learn and practice all of the skills multiple times.

Caring School Discipline

The primary goal of the Caring School Community program’s approach to discipline is to help the students acquire self-discipline: to build self-control, conscience, and a sense of responsibility from within. The program accomplishes this goal through two methods:

  • whole-class instruction, which helps teachers to establish effective discipline with the whole class.
  • one-on-one interventions found in Caring School Discipline™, which help teachers work with individual students who need additional support.

Nationally Recognized, Evidence-based Program

Caring School Community is a rigorously-evaluated SEL program. Two federally funded evaluations of the Caring School Community program—one in St. Louis, MO and the other in San Francisco, CA—have shown that creating a strong sense of community increases students’ academic performance. Additionally, one of these studies has shown that CSC has a significant positive impact on student behavior.

Specific research on the Child Development Project, the precursor to CSC, showed that the program had a significant impact. See research results.

Both CSC and its precursor have attained recognition nationwide. The U.S. Department of Education highlighted the Caring School Community program’s research base and effectiveness. The program has also been recognized in a variety of national publications.

National and State Organizations

U.S. Department of Education, What Works Clearinghouse

  • Program found to have potentially positive effects on behavior

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP)

  • Evidence-based program

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

  • Research-based drug abuse prevention program

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)

  • Effective program

California Healthy Kids Resource Center

  • Research-validated program for alcohol and other drugs and safe learning environments
National Publications


  • An Educational Leader’s Guide to Evidence-based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs, created by Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), provides school leaders with a comprehensive, rigorous review of programs. The Caring School Community program was identified as a “select” program, making it one of the highest-rated programs among nearly 80 programs reviewed.

Educational Leadership

  • Educational Leadership is the flagship publication of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). In the March 2003 issue, the Caring School Community program was identified as an effective program in two separate articles.
Other Recognition

Recognized as an exemplary program by the following:

National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

American Association of School Administrators (AASA)

National School Boards Association (NSBA)

First Edition Resources

For educators still using the first edition of the Caring School Community program, our Implementation Resources can help support SEL practices in your school or district. View videos of CSC in action, download professional development sessions, and explore helpful resources.