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Program Profile: Caring School Community

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on March 07, 2013

Program Summary

An elementary school program that seeks to strengthen students’ connectedness to school. The program is rated Promising. The evaluation found mixed results of the overall effectiveness of the program. One study found significant differences between the intervention and comparison classrooms on some measures of behavior. The other study found few significant differences when examining the high-change schools and no significant differences between the intervention and comparison groups.

Program Description

Program Goals

Caring School Community (CSC), formerly known as the Child Development Project, is an elementary school program that seeks to strengthen students’ connectedness to school by creating a classroom and school community that fosters academic motivation, achievement, and character formation and reduces drug abuse, violence, and mental health problems. CSC incorporates elements important in children’s social development, including supportive teacher–student relationships and opportunities for students to interact and collaborate in cooperative groups. The program was designed to be delivered by elementary school teachers, to enhance children’s prosocial behavior without impeding academic accomplishments, and to promote students’ commitment to being fair, empathic, respectful, and responsible.


Target Population

CSC is currently offered nationally as a multiyear school improvement program for students in kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms. Classroom lessons and materials are offered for students, teachers, and school administrators. The CSC program component "Homeside Activities" also involves parents and caregivers.


Program Components

CSC offers the following four main classroom components to promote developmental discipline, social understanding, cooperation, prosocial values, and helping activities:


1.      Class meetings. Teachers learn how to build unity and social skills, while students learn how to set class norms and goals, make decisions, and identify and solve problems that affect classroom climate.

2.     Cross-Age Buddies program. Pairs classes of older and younger students for academic and recreational activities to help build caring, cross-age relationships. For each activity, buddy teachers plan together, prepare their own classes, support the buddy pairs during the activity, and reflect on the experience with their students afterward.

3.      Homeside activities. Teachers learn how to create a cycle of learning that starts in the classroom, develops at home, and concludes in the classroom, while students obtain short conversational activities (in both English and Spanish versions) to do at home with their caregiver, and then debrief back in their classroom. These are intended to validate the families’ perspectives, cultures, and traditions and to promote interpersonal understanding and appreciation.

4.      Schoolwide activities. Teachers learn collaborative schoolwide activities and ways to link students, parents, school staff, and the community at large in building a caring school environment. The all-inclusive activities are meant to foster new school traditions and promote cultural understanding.


Program Theory

The CSC program has its theoretical foundations in the literature on children’s behavior and development, including research on socialization, learning and motivation, and prosocial characteristics (Staub 1979). Its basic premise is that children’s prosocial characteristics can best be enhanced in a setting that emphasizes and exemplifies commitment to shared values, mutual responsibility and concern, and a sense of community. Actively participating in a caring school community is posited to facilitate children’s intellectual, social, and moral development and help meet their needs for autonomy, competence, and belonging (Baumeister and Leary 1995).


Program components are also grounded in the following four interrelated principles:


1.     Build stable, warm, and supportive relationships.

2.     Attend to the moral dimensions of learning by explicitly addressing students’ needs for social and ethical understanding.

3.     Teach to the active mind by promoting construction of meaning, student exploration, and problem solving.

4.     Tap into students’ intrinsic motivation by promoting cooperation and collaboration instead of competition.

Evaluation Outcomes

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The overall evidence of effectiveness of the Caring School Community (CSC) program is mixed. The 1988 study of CSC by Solomon and colleagues found significant differences between the intervention and comparison classrooms on some measures of behavior. The 2000 study by Battistich and colleagues found few significant differences when examining the high-change schools (schools that implemented the program properly) and no significant differences between the intervention and comparison groups when examining all the schools included in the study.

Study 1
Supportive and Friendly Behavior
Solomon and colleagues (1988) found that children in the intervention classrooms scored significantly higher (p<.05) on supportive and friendly behavior tallies compared with the control group students.

Negative Behavior
There were no significant differences in negative behavior between the intervention and comparison groups when results from all years were combined.

Spontaneous Prosocial Behavior
Students in the intervention classrooms scored significantly higher (p<.001) on spontaneous prosocial behavior ratings compared with the control group students when results from all years were combined.

There were no significant differences in harmoniousness between the intervention and comparison groups when results from all years were combined. Harmoniousness was also shown to be strongly correlated with teacher competence in the intervention group.

Academic Achievement
Researchers examined data from the California Achievement Test at the end of the fourth grade for all children in the first cohort. There were no significant differences between the intervention and comparison groups; as such, the authors concluded that participation in CSC did not undermine students’ academic achievement.

Study 2
Battistich and colleagues’ 2000 study of CSC did not demonstrate any significant effects. Analyses of the data on implementation and sense of community revealed considerable variability between high- and low-change schools; only the analysis using the high-change schools with high levels of implementation revealed any significant differences.

Substance Use
The analysis of the high-change schools indicated that both student use of alcohol (p<.05) and student use of marijuana (p<.01) declined, compared with their matched comparison schools. However, there was no statistically significant difference between the groups when all schools were used in the analysis.

Delinquency and Conduct Problems
There were no significant differences between the intervention and comparison groups in either the total group analysis or the high-change group analysis for student reports of 1) damaging property on purpose; 2) stealing money or property (or attempting to); or 3) hurting someone on purpose.

There were no significant differences between the intervention and comparison groups for student reports of 1) being made fun of, called names, or insulted; 2) having money or property taken by force or threat of harm; 3) having property damaged on purpose; 4) being threatened with harm; or 5) being physically attacked.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Solomon and colleagues (1988) reviewed the impact of the Caring School Community (CSC) program on elementary school children in kindergarten through fourth grade in a San Francisco Bay (Calif.)–area suburban school district using a quasi-experimental design. The researchers divided six schools within the district into two roughly equivalent groups of three on the basis of size, faculty experience, sociodemographic characteristics, achievement levels, and participation interest. One of these groups was randomly selected to receive the program, while the other served as a comparison group.

The evaluation looked at a total of 67 classrooms, including 37 classrooms in the treatment group and 30 classrooms in the comparison group. CSC was provided to children in two cohorts, each of which began the project in kindergarten—the first cohort received CSC in the 1982–83 school year, and the second cohort received CSC in the 1985–86 school year. Each cohort in the program schools and the parallel cohort in the comparison schools took part in the same data collection activities every year. The evaluation concentrated on the findings from the first cohort.

Assessments of classroom practices, activities, and student behaviors were conducted using teacher questionnaires, third grade individual student interviews, structured small-group tasks, and classroom observations. A sign system instrument and a rating system instrument were also developed and used. Observers used the sign system after watching the classroom for a 2-minute period, while a rating system was used after completion of a 2-hour observation visit. After the first year of use (1982–83), the instruments were revised.

The intervention lasted 5 years, with 350 students in the first cohort and 165 students remaining for the full evaluation (approximately half in the treatment group and half in the control group). In each of the 5 years of the evaluation, all of the classrooms were observed during eight separate 2-hour visits. Classroom observers were trained and not aware of the status (treatment or comparison) of any of the schools.

There were some limitations to the study. The observational instruments were changed after the first year. Other limitations include multiple treatment interferences, obtrusive testing, secular trends, and intervening events. Finally, students from different schools were used, but no information is given on other initiatives or activities in any of these schools that may affect outcome behaviors.

Study 2
Battistich and colleagues (2000) conducted a quasi-experimental study of the CSC program using a convenience sample from six school districts for a total of 24 elementary schools. Of the schools, 12 were located on the West Coast, 4 were in the South, 4 were in the Southeast, and 4 were in the Northeast of the United States. They include urban, suburban, and rural school districts and serve diverse but roughly equivalent populations.

Twelve schools were selected to receive the intervention on the basis of faculty interest and perceived likelihood of being able to implement the CSC program. Twelve comparison schools were matched to intervention schools on school size and student characteristics. A total of 5,500 students were included in their evaluation: 2,250 students in the treatment group and 2,250 students in the comparison group. Assessments were completed at the baseline during the 1991–92 school year before the introduction of the CSC program. The researchers used a 36-month follow-up period.

Student self-reports were used to measure the outcomes. Assessments of drug use and other problem behaviors (including students’ use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana and frequency of involvement in delinquent behaviors) were limited to students at the fifth or sixth grade at each of the schools. Students’ sense of school as a community was also measured by examining levels of student autonomy and influence in the classroom, classroom supportiveness, and school supportiveness. Adjustments were made for gender, ethnicity, and grade.

Classroom observations by observers blind to group assignment were conducted throughout the study. Beginning during the baseline year, four 90-minute observations of each classroom in the program and comparison schools were conducted each year. All observers were trained by the same project staff member; observers scored videotapes of classroom interactions and training visits throughout the school year to maintain reliability. Average overall observer agreement with the criterion scores was 75 percent over all 4 years of the study.

Program effects on all measures were examined using planned contrasts comparing linear changes from baseline at the program and matched comparison schools (between-group comparisons). Multivariate analysis of covariance was used, followed by the univariate planned contrasts. Two sets of analyses were also conducted for problem behavior data: a study-wide analysis to include all 24 schools and a high-change analysis which included five high-change schools (schools with high levels of implementation) and their five matched comparison schools.
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The Caring School Community (CSC) package for teachers costs $225 per grade level or $1,500 for kindergarten through sixth grade combined. The package includes class meeting lessons, a teacher’s calendar, a buddies’ activity book, homeside activities, and schoolwide community building activities. It also includes quality-assurance materials. The principal’s package is available for $425 and includes all classroom materials for teachers, as well as a principal’s leadership guide. Read-aloud libraries, workshops, and follow-up visits can also be provided. Grant opportunities are also available for qualified schools. More information on costs and the CSC Initiative is available here:
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Implementation Information

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The Caring School Community (CSC) program was first introduced in California elementary schools in the early 1980s as the Child Development Project. Since then, the program has been adopted by about a thousand schools in 34 states. CSC has also been implemented in Australia, Spain, and Switzerland.

The four components of CSC are designed to be introduced over the course of 1 year, although schools may decide to introduce components more gradually. Teacher Packages and Principal Packages are required materials for school districts, and are available in English and Spanish. Professional development opportunities are available with implementation as well. Additional information and free sample curriculum are provided on the Center for the Collaborative Classroom Web site.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Solomon, Daniel H., Marilyn S. Watson, Kevin L. Delucchi, Eric Schaps, and Victor Battistich. 1988. “Enhancing Children’s Prosocial Behavior in the Classroom.” American Educational Research Association 24(4):527–54.

Study 2
Battistich, Victor, Eric Schaps, Marilyn S. Watson, Daniel H. Solomon, and Catherine Lewis. 2000. “Effects of the Child Development Project on Students’ Drug Use and Other Problem Behaviors.” Journal of Primary Prevention 17(4):75–99.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Battistich, Victor, and Allen Hom. 1997. “The Relationship Between Students’ Sense of Their School Community and Students’ Involvement in Problem Behavior.” American Journal of Public Health 87(12): 1997–2001.

Battistich, Victor, Eric Schaps, Marilyn S. Watson, and Daniel H. Solomon. 1996. “Prevention Effects of the Child Development Project: Early Findings From an Ongoing Multisite Demonstration Trial.” Journal of Adolescent Research 11:12–35.

Battistich, Victor, Eric Schaps, and Nance Wilson. 2004. “Effects of an Elementary School Intervention on Students’ ‘Connectedness’ to School and Social Adjustment During Middle School.” Journal of Primary Prevention 24(3):243–62.

Battistich, Victor, Daniel H. Solomon, Dong–il Kim, Marilyn S. Watson, and Eric Schaps. 1995. “Schools as Communities, Poverty Levels of Student Populations, and Students’ Attitudes, Motives, and Performance: A Multilevel Analysis.” American Education Research Journal 32(3):627–58.

Battistich, Victor, Daniel H. Solomon, Marilyn S. Watson, and Eric Schaps. 1997. “Caring School Communities.” Educational Psychologist 32:137–51.

Battistich, Victor, Daniel H. Solomon, Marilyn S. Watson, Judith Solomon, and Eric Schaps. 1989. “Effects of an Elementary School Program to Enhance Prosocial Behavior on Children’s Cognitive–Social Problem-Solving Skills and Strategies.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 10(2):147–69.

Baumeister, Roy F., and Mark R. Leary. 1995. “The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation.” Psychological Bulletin 117:497–529.

Benninga, Jacques S., Susan M. Tracz, Richard K. Sparks Jr., Daniel H. Solomon, Victor Battistich, Kevin L. Delucchi, Ronald Sandoval, and Beverly Stanley. 1991. “Effects of Two Contrasting School Task and Incentive Structures on Children’s Social Development.” Elementary School Journal 92(2): 149-67.

Marshall, Jon C., and Sarah D.Caldwell. 2007. “Caring School Community: Implementation Study Four Year Evaluation Report.” Report to Cooperative School Districts: St Louis, MO.

Muñoz, Marco, and Florence Chang. 2006. “School Personnel Educating the Whole Child: Impact of Character Education on Teachers’ Self-Assessment and Student Development.” Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education 19:35–49.

Muñoz, Marco, and Joseph Petrosko. 2004. “Enabling School Success: First Year Evaluation of CDP in a Large Urban School District.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Muñoz, Marco, and Judi Vanderhaar. 2006. “Literacy-Embedded Character Education in a Large Urban District: Effects of the Child Development Project on Elementary School Students and Teachers.” Journal of Research in Character Education 4(1&2):47-64.

Schaps, Eric, and Catherine Lewis. 1991. “Extrinsic Rewards Are Education’s Past, Not Its Future.” Educational Researcher 48(7):81.

Solomon, Daniel H., Victor Battistich, Marilyn S. Watson, Eric Schaps, and Catherine Lewis. 2000. “A Six-District Study of Educational Change: Direct and Mediated Effects of the Child Development Project.” Social Psychology of Education 4:3–51.

Solomon, Daniel H., Marilyn S. Watson, Victor Battistich, Eric Schaps, and Kevin L. Delucchi. 1996. “Creating Classrooms That Students Experience as Communities.” American Journal of Community Psychology 24:719–48.

Staub, Ervin. 1979. Positive Social Behavior and Morality 2: Socialization and Development. New York, N.Y.: Academic Press.

Watson, Marilyn S., Victor Battistich, and Daniel H. Solomon. 1997. “Enhancing Students’ Social and Ethical Development in Schools: An Intervention Program and Its Effects.” International Journal of Educational Research 27(7):571–86.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

School-Based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs
Designed to foster the development of five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies, in order to provide a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance in students, which can result in more positive social behaviors, fewer conduct problems, and less emotional distress. The practice was rated Effective in reducing students’ conduct problems and emotional stress.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Multiple juvenile problem/at-risk behaviors
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Internalizing behavior
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Program Snapshot

Age: 5 - 12

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Rural, Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Classroom Curricula, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Leadership and Youth Development, Parent Training, School/Classroom Environment, Children Exposed to Violence, Violence Prevention, Alcohol and Drug Prevention

Targeted Population: Children Exposed to Violence

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Child Exposure to Violence Evidence Based Guide, Model Programs Guide, National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, What Works Clearinghouse, Promising Practices Network , Guide to Community Preventive Services

Program Developer:
Peter Brunn
Director of Strategic Partnerships
Developmental Studies Center
2000 Embarcadero, Suite 305
Oakland CA 94606
Phone: 800.666.7270 ext: 269
Fax: 510.464.3670

Program Director:
Ginger Cook
Project Manager
Developmental Studies Center
2000 Embarcadero, Suite 305
Oakland CA 94606
Phone: 800.666.7270
Fax: 510.464.3670