A School District's Initiative for Social and Emotional Learning Pays Off

In Louisville, Kentucky, Jefferson County Public Schools are seeing positive results from a districtwide commitment to the CARE for Kids program made just two years ago. Read the article or watch a brief introductory video.

In Louisville, Kentucky, Jefferson County Public Schools are seeing positive results from a districtwide commitment to the CARE for Kids program made just two years ago. Read the article or watch a brief introductory video.

Release Date: 12/18/09

More Info

Twitter blue bird

What do you think of Schools that Work?
Tweet your answer to @edutopia or post your comment below.

see more see less

Get Video

Embed Video

Cut and paste the text below to embed this video on your website:

<iframe width="480" height="270" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/mXlBVdPNmb0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Visit our embeddable player instructions page for more information about embedding Edutopia videos.

Download from iTunes U

This video is available as a free download from iTunes U.

If you do not have iTunes on your computer, download iTunes here.

See all Edutopia videos available on iTunes.

Videos from iTunes U are optimized for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, and are most appropriate for personal or small group viewing. If you would like to request a high-quality video file for presentation purposes, please contact media@edutopia.org.


You can also buy this video on DVD here.


Teacher: Good morning, students and staff, we're ready for another great day of learning at--

Narrator: Like most urban districts, Louisville, Kentucky's schools have faced myriad challenges, from high numbers of children on free and reduced lunch, to escalating fights and rising suspensions.

Alicia: There were a lot of factors that played into the scores being low. There was not a caring, learning environment that allowed teachers to teach and students to learn.

Paul: We had a whole lot of bullying going on around here, kids getting scared to come to school, people be hitting people, more violent stuff.

Teacher: Okay, we've been discussing bullying all week long.

Narrator: In two thousand eight, a comprehensive initiative called CARE for Kids was adopted by dozens of elementary and middle schools in Jefferson County. It featured a laser beam focus on social emotional skills, spearheaded by Superintendent Shelly Berman.

Sheldon: There's a pretty complex puzzle that we have to put together to have a successful school, but a foundational element of that puzzle is the culture and climate of that school. And when students feel safe...

Alicia: Hello, sweet girl, you have a good day, okay?

Sheldon: When they feel that that culture and climate supports them, when they feel cared about, not only by the adults in the school, but by other students in the school, they can do their best.

Teacher: And that does sound good, "My teacher teaches terrifically." I like that alliteration too.

Teacher: Let's talk about what respectful group work in science, what does it look like, what does it sound like and what does it feel like when we do those things?

Narrator: In every classroom, teachers help students decide on detailed class norms for behavior.

Teacher: This is the list I got from you. We're happy, we're proud, and what does it sound like?

Level one.

Very good job.

Teacher: We're working together, Germaine.

Help them if they need help.

Help them if they need home.

Alicia: Less instructional time is lost because we're teaching the skills up front and so that when it is time for academics, we're learning and we're not stopping at various times to address conflicts. And it's teaching the students how to have ownership and have voice.

Keirsi: I think level zero in the hallway is a good rule, because if we were talking and it's this little thing on the top, and echoes come out of it. And classes might be up there learning something and we can disturb them easily.

Teacher: Look at the name on your piece of paper and think of something nice to say about that person.

Good morning, Storm.

Good morning, Deirdre.

I like your humor.

Sheldon: It isn't touchy feely stuff, it's core social skills that gives students the experience and the knowledge and talent to work effectively with others.

Thanks for always being nice.

Sheldon: This is serious work. It's serious work to create a sense of community.

Teacher: How did it feel to say something nice about someone else?

Student: It felt good, because I actually gotta say something positive about somebody.

Student: Yours was a fight, right, fighting? You all had a fight?


Yeah, physical.

Sheldon: Developmental discipline is looking for appropriate consequences. For example, a student pushes another student, or takes something away from another student. You might say, "Well, let's give that student a detention so they have to stay after school." But that isn't an appropriate consequence, that isn't a direct consequence. A student doesn't necessarily learn anything from that. The appropriate consequence may be to write an apology or to directly apologize to that student, and it's also teaching them conflict resolution skills.

Student: Do you think you can show better judgment than what you did in the gym?

Teacher: Now look, look what you've got here. You already got a good start right there.

Bill: We reduced our placements of in school suspensions in half. We have increased our attendance, our pupil attendance, every single pupil month as compared to the previous year, so created an environment, I think, of less problems in the classroom and in the school in terms of behavior, and a sense of students wanting to be at school.

Alicia: Our academic index overall, reading, math, every content area, we were at a fifty-three. We're now at an eighty-two and our math score is up to a ninety-four.

Joanna: Tell Jasmine what you think is special about her.

I like when you share with me.

Thank you-- Carolyn.

Joanna: The whole morning meeting not only sets a really good tone for the students, but it sets a tone for me.

Thanks for filling my bucket.

Joanna: How did they fill your bucket today, Jasmine?

Because they was real nice to me.

Joanna: They're excited, they want to be here. I've had parents say, "My daughter's sick today, but she cried 'cause she really wanted to come to school. You know, what are you all doing?"

Richard: Now stay in line, don't run, don't run.

I like this program and I see this program that's been implemented and it works, because I was here and I seen it for myself.

See you tomorrow, okay, buddy?

At the end of the day, those kids getting on those buses, with a smile on their face, my job is done. I can safely go home and say, "You know what, when they came this morning, they had smiles and when they left they had smiles." Our job is done, because of CARE.

Your mom's outside, remember, [inaudible] Madison.

Narrator: For more information about what works in public education, go to Edutopia.org.


Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis


  • Karen Sutherland

Associate Producer

  • Doug Keely

Camera Crew

  • Rob Weller
  • Mark Crowner

Coordinating Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Peter Coyote

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • Jefferson County Public Schools

Support for Edutopia's Schools That Work series is provided, in part, by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

© 2009 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All Rights Reserved

Comments (5)

Comment RSS

Was this helpful?

Six Seconds Social Emotional Learning Curriculum, called "Self Science - Getting Started with Social Emotional Learning" is one of two curricula recommended in Daniel Goleman's book, "Emotional Intelligence." Originally released in 1978, it has been updated and re-released this summer. It is a well developed and well proven curriculum. EQ Family Workshops for parents are available, as well teacher training, and assessments for students, adults and school climate. Please see www.6seconds. org.

Mental Health cum Education Consultant

I appreciate Edutopia of this

Was this helpful?

I appreciate Edutopia of this effort.

The video was simply beautiful.

To see a systemic work in action is always very satisafying.Children gain far more,teachers connect better, ambience is empowering.

The bits of many pieces will enthuse people to try.

SEL in action is better motivator.

Parent of 3 (middle, elementary, pre-k), PTA District Pres, Louisville KY

It is great to be in a

Was this helpful?

It is great to be in a classroom where this takes place. Younger children (grades k-1) love to be individually acknowledged, especially by their teacher. For older students it is about acknowledging your peers. While bullying is by no means completely absent, this environment encourages students to acknowledge differences and be respectful of one another. As a parent who is often in the schools as part of my PTA work, schools where CARE takes place are different. There is a sense of community and partnership rather than it being "just another day at school."

Instructional Designer | Canisius College

Great Initiative

Was this helpful?

This just makes sense. If it's the one thing students lack in high school and college is communication and soft skills. This initiative not only teaches those skills, but also teaches students to respect and appreciate each others differences.

Special Education teacher from Louisville,Kentucky

A School District's Initiative for Social and Emotional Learning

Was this helpful?

This was very informative and I was able to take information from it to use in CARE for Kids

see more see less