Caring School Community Program

An Evidence-Based Practice


The Caring School Community (CSC) program, formerly the Child Development Project, is a research-based elementary school program that builds classroom and school community. It focuses on strengthening students' connectedness to school--a pivotal element for promoting academic motivation and achievement, for fostering character formation, and for reducing drug abuse, violence, and mental health problems. CSC is designed to (1) create a caring, cooperative school environment, (2) build connections and foster trust and respect among students and teachers, (3) strengthen connections between school and home and promote parents' involvement in their children's learning, (4) build students' academic motivation and support their academic learning, (5) foster students' empathy and understanding of others, and (6) promote students' commitment to being fair, helpful, respectful, and responsible.The program includes four complementary components:

(1) Class meetings--provide teachers and students with a forum to get to know one another, discuss issues, identify and solve problems, and make decisions that affect classroom climate.

(2) Cross-age "buddies" activities--a "buddies" program that pairs whole classes of older and younger students for academic and recreational activities. Helps to build caring cross-age relationships and create a school-wide climate of trust.

(3) Home/School connection activities--short conversational activities (in both English and Spanish versions) that students do at home with their parent or caregiver, and then debrief back in their classroom. Validates the families' perspectives, cultures, and traditions, and promotes interpersonal understanding and appreciation.

(4) School-wide community-building activities--innovative, inclusive, collaborative activities that link students, parents, and school staff in building a caring, school environment. Fosters new school traditions and promotes involvement of parents who typically do not participate at school.

Goal / Mission

The goal of the Caring School Community program is to build classroom and school communities in order to support learning, academic success, positive relationships and character formation.

Results / Accomplishments

CSC has been extensively and rigorously evaluated in several studies over the last 20 years. After 3 years of the original CSC study, students in five high-implementing CSC schools, relative to their comparison school counterparts, showed 1) a greater sense of the school as a caring community (33 percent higher than would be expected if they had not experienced the program); 2) more fondness for school (12 percent higher than would be expected); 3) stronger academic motivation (24 percent higher); 4) more frequent reading of books outside of school (8 percent higher); 5) a higher sense of efficacy (6 percent higher); 6) stronger commitment to democratic values (12 percent higher); 7) better conflict-resolution skills (17 percent higher); 8) more concern for others (10 percent higher); 9) more frequent altruistic behavior (8 percent higher); and 10) less use of alcohol (13 percent lower than would be expected if they had not experienced the program).

The follow-up study from three of the high-implementing CSC elementary schools showed that when these students were in middle school they continued to show significantly better attitudes and behaviors than former comparison students. Specifically, during middle school, program students showed 1) higher grades in core academic classes (25 percent achieved an average of half a grade-point higher in English, mathematics, science, and social studies than would be expected if they had not experienced the program); 2) higher achievement test scores (25 percent higher than would be expected); 3) a greater sense of community (15 percent higher); 4) higher educational aspirations (18 percent higher); 5) more fondness for school (19 percent higher); 6) greater trust in and respect for teachers (18 percent higher); 7) greater involvement in positive activities such as sports, clubs, and youth groups (20 percent higher); 8) less misconduct at school (19 percent lower than would be expected if they had not experienced the program); and 9) less delinquent behavior (13 percent lower than would be expected).

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Denise Wood
Developmental Studies Center
2000 Embarcadero, Suite 305
Oakland, CA 94606-5300
(510) 533-0213
Education / School Environment
Education / Student Performance K-12
Health / Substance Abuse
Developmental Studies Center
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Model Programs Guide (MPG)
Date of publication
For more details
Target Audience