Responsive Classroom® Changes Schools in Upstate NY

“When children enter kindergarten, they should discover that each class is a working, problem-solving unit and that each student has both individual and group responsibilities”, says William Glasser in regard to classroom and school environments. In the Responsive Classroom, we believe that academic and social/emotional learning go hand-in-hand and that knowing the children we teach is as important as knowing the content we teach. We strive to teach children to be cooperative and empathetic to others, to be responsible for taking care of our learning, the learning space and the learning of others, to be positively assertive and to have self-control.   Since 2003, I have been working with schools all around New York State and other parts of the country. As a staff developer and a certified trainer for the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching and learning, I can only hope that the work I do makes a difference for teachers, students and school cultures. It’s what feeds my passion.

Recently, I received some great feedback from two school districts who I have been working with of a few years. I heard from Victoria Day, principal of East Side Elementary School in Gouverneur, NY and from Dr. Robert Ike, Superintendent of the Palmyra-Macedon School District in Palmyra, NY. Both school districts have been getting groups of teachers trained in the Responsive Classroom and are at the point where they have a fully trained staffs. Both schools took a moment to analyze their discipline data they submit to State Ed each September regarding their VADIR (Violent and Disruptive Incident Report). Both schools found there was a positive correlation over time. They found as more teachers got trained in the Responsive Classroom approach, the number of classroom disruptions significantly decreased over time.

East Side Elementary Data as reported in Victoria Day’s Educational Blog:

Referrals School Year
192 2008-2009
161 2009-2010
142 2010-2011
64 2011-2012
52 2012-2013
21 2013-2014

Responsive Classroom Implementation: 2011-2012

Pal-Mac Primary school discovered the same findings. Pal-Mac Primary Principal, Brian Brooks, sent an email to summarize his data analysis to Superintendent Dr. Robert Ike. Because this is the second school district that Dr. Ike and I have worked together on with the Responsive Classroom, he shared the email he received from his principal:

“In 2010-2011 School year we had a total of 328 Referrals involving 112 students.   In 2011-2012 we had 226 referrals by 91 students. In 2012-2013 we began to get many people trained in Responsive Classroom. In 2012-2013 we had 68 referrals by 40 students. In 2013-2014 we had our highest enrollment in 5 years with our ending enrollment being 477. Our kindergarten class sizes ranged from 20-21 students.   Our second grade was sitting close to 180 students. We had 79 referrals by 42 students.

Personally, I think those numbers say a lot to the positive work everyone does to make sure students know the rules and routines, how well the playground is supervised, and our communication to parents. Our supports for the social/emotional well-being continue to be part of the work as well. Sure, we have places to improve, but please take pride in the work you are doing around Responsive Classroom and the relationships people make with students every day from greetings in the cafe to the hallways and in the classrooms. Thank you all for your past efforts and to our future efforts to stay the course in embracing the whole child.”

Mr. Brook’s words really articulate the Responsive Classroom mantra of “Creating joyful, safe, and challenging schools for every child-every day!”

These localized findings correlate with two research studies done by Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman from the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education:

  1. Social and Academic Learning Study (SALS) – (2001-2004)“This three-year longitudinal, quasi-experimental study compared three schools implementing the Responsive Classroom approach at a school-wide level with three non-implementing schools and found that the Responsive Classroom approach is associated with better academic and social outcomes for elementary school children. “
  2. The Responsive Classroom Efficacy Study (RCES) – (2008-2001)“A three-year randomized controlled study, 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.”

As a staff developer in the Responsive Classroom approach, I have always known that the Responsive Classroom practices create positive learning environments where everyone can learn and have their basic human needs of belonging, significance and fun met on a daily basis. I also know that teachers have the tools to create these positive learning environments with effective management and engaging academics. It is so great to have local data that shows these practice are really making a difference not only in the classroom, but also school-wide. People will sometimes ask me if I miss being with the kids and training adults instead. In the Responsive Classroom, I have the luxury to work with teachers and their students, which is a wonderful and rewarding experience. Though I do miss being with children every day, my passion is further fed by knowing I have trained over 90 groups of teachers and administrators since 2003. That is well over 1,000 educators! With this knowledge along with the aforementioned data on decreasing discipline issue, I am content knowing I am having a much larger effect on children…one teacher, one school, and one district at a time!

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain


Shaw_PatrickPatrick Shaw
Certified Responsive Classroom® trainer through the Northeast Foundation for Children, developers of the Responsive Classroom
Staff Development Specialist – OCM BOCES – Syracuse, NY
(OCM BOCES is a licensed agency for Responsive Classroom training by the Northeast Foundation for Children, developers of the Responsive Classroom)
Responsive Classroom Leadership: A School-Wide Approach for Instructional Leadership

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