Friday, September 14, 2012

Does the Responsive Classroom approach improve student outcomes?

Researchers at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education have released preliminary results from their recently completed $2.9 million, three-year Responsive Classroom Efficacy Study funded by the US Department of Education's research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences. Their study addressed the questions: Does the Responsive Classroom approach improve student outcomes? If so, how and for whom?

The simple answer 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. The association between Responsive Classroom practices and achievement are equally strong for children eligible for free/reduced price lunch and those not eligible. For math achievement, the association appears to be larger 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.
  3. Higher Quality Instruction in Mathematics: Training in the Responsive Classroom approach leads teachers to provide more skillful standards-based mathematics instruction.
  4. Importance of Support for Teachers: Teachers are more likely to use Responsive Classroom practices when they have the administration's buy-in, when they receive coaching, and when they have social support in trying the practices.

These results confirm that the Responsive Classroom approach can be a crucial component not only in improving the learning environment in the nation's elementary schools but also in closing the achievement gap in schools and districts throughout the country.

Earlier this month, Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman, principal investigator and associate professor at the Curry School of Education, presented these preliminary findings in a webinar that is now available for viewing on YouTube. The webinar addresses the ways that the Responsive Classroom approach relates to classroom quality and children's social and academic outcomes. It also uses key research findings to address the process of successful implementation in elementary schools and ways to maximize teachers' use of the approach.

The Responsive Classroom approach is a nationally recognized, research-backed approach to elementary education that increases academic achievement, decreases problem behaviors, improves social skills, and leads to more high-quality instruction. The Responsive Classroom Efficacy Study is a randomized controlled trial designed as a three-year longitudinal study. The study involved 24 elementary schools in a large district in a mid-Atlantic state. Data were gathered over three consecutive school years (2008-11), following over 2,900 children and their 350 teachers from grades three through five. The study put special emphasis on looking at the extent to which the Responsive Classroom approach relates to classroom quality during mathematics instruction and, ultimately, children's math achievement.

About Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc. and the Responsive Classroom® approach
Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc. (NEFC), a not-for-profit organization, was established in 1981 by elementary school educators who envisioned a way of teaching that would bring together academic and social learning throughout the school day. That way of teaching, called the Responsive Classroom approach, is now being used in schools across the country. It is one of the "Select SEL" programs identified by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL, 2003). For more information, visit

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