CRS History

As a teacher-to-teacher organization, all of our professional development offerings and our products are developed by and with input from educators. Since 1981, Center for Responsive Schools, Inc. (CRS) has grown from a small laboratory school and consulting group to the nationally recognized developer of the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching.

Here are some milestones in CRS’s journey:

1980s—A Strong Foundation
A group of public school educators meet in January in Greenfield, Massachusetts, to discuss new approaches to education. This meeting leads to Marlynn K. Clayton, Nancy A. Danie, Dalton Miller-Jones, John Lord, Ruth Ross Charney, and Robert A. “Chip” Wood creating and founding Northeast Foundation for Children (NEFC) and Greenfield Center School, an independent lab school. Greenfield Center School opened its doors in September with 40 students in grades K–8.

In collaboration with the Gesell Institute of Human Development, NEFC founders conduct a developmental assessment for Augusta (Maine) Public Schools. This collaboration helps put the fledgling organization on the map in the field of child development.


NEFC publishes A Notebook for Teachers: Making Changes in the Elementary Curriculum, a guide to child development and developmental curriculum based on a fundamental vision of “a love of children, a trust in the unfolding of learning, and a belief in the natural order of growth” (from the Introduction to the Revised Edition).


NEFC’s founders conduct the first weeklong “Teacher to Teacher” workshop for a group of more than 30 teachers in the Augusta, Maine, area. Participants focus on child development, the writing process, discovery science and math, and the use of unit blocks in early childhood and primary classrooms.

Greenfield Center School welcomes more and more visiting educators to observe practice in action and meet with the founders.


NEFC included in the April issue of Newsweek magazine in a cover story on developmental education; the article garners international attention and visits to GCS by educators from South Africa and Taiwan.


Co-founder Marlynn Clayton creates the video “Places To Start: Implementing the developmental Classroom,” which is sold as an accompaniment to Notebook for Teachers material. A key administrator from District of Columbia (DC) Public Schools purchases it and shares it with an assistant superintendent, who sends a team to visit Greenfield Center School. This relationship evolves into a multi-year contract with DC Public Schools.

1990s—Responsive Classroom Comes to Life

The founders coin the term Responsive Classroom to describe the teaching approach that NEFC is sharing with elementary educators in DC Public Schools and elsewhere.


First advertised Responsive Classroom workshop delivered to 65 teachers from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

Caring to Learn: A Study of the Impact of the Social Curriculum, funded by the Xerox Foundation in partnership with Savin Rock Community Schools, West Haven, CT, is the first evaluation of Responsive Classroom. Cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control (C.A.R.E.S.) are identified as the core set of social and emotional competencies in the Caring to Learn study.


Teaching Children to Care: Management in the Responsive Classroom by co-founder Ruth Sidney Charney is published, setting a vision for the future of teaching and implementation of Responsive Classroom.


Co-founder Chip Wood writes Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4–14 to translate child development theory into practice with educators and parents in mind. In November, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) publishes his article “Responsive Teaching: Creating Partnerships for Systemic Change” in their journal, Young Children, which introduces NEFC and Responsive Classroom to a wide audience.


The Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete is published, providing teachers across the country with access to one of the key Responsive Classroom practices.

2000s—Research and Growth

NEFC wins their first Independent Publisher award, for The First Six Weeks of School by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete.


NEFC branches off from Greenfield Center School as an independent nonprofit entity dedicated to expanding the Responsive Classroom approach.


Responsive Classroom is identified as an exemplary social and emotional learning program by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) in Safe and Sound: An Educational Leader’s Guide to Evidence-Based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs.


NEFC offices move from Jarvis House in Greenfield to Colle Building on Avenue A in Turners Falls, MA.


Key findings from the University of Virginia’s Social and Academic Learning Study (SALS) associate Responsive Classroom practices with higher math and reading scores, improved student social skills, more high-quality instruction, and a greater sense of teacher self-efficacy.


US Department of Education awards University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education $2.9 million to conduct the Responsive Classroom Efficacy Study (RCES) to examine the efficacy of the Responsive Classroom approach with a special emphasis on the extent to which the approach relates to classroom quality during mathematics instruction and ultimately children’s math achievement.

2010s—To Middle School and Beyond

The Responsive Classroom approach is one of 23 programs included in Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs (Preschool and Elementary Edition), a landmark guide developed by CASEL.


Northeast Foundation for Children becomes Center for Responsive Schools (CRS) to better reflect our relationship with educators across the country.


Following three years of research and development with middle school educators, Responsive Classroom expands to middle school, with resources focusing on young adolescent development, engaging academics, and teaching self-discipline.


CRS is awarded a grant from the NoVo Foundation to underwrite the operational expenses for developing Fly Five: The Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum.


CRS is awarded a grant from the James E. and Constance L. Bell Foundation to underwrite the operational expense of developing Fly Five: The Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum.


CRS’s monthly Journal of Social and Emotional Learning is launched.

Avenue A Books launches as an imprint of CRS Publishing and releases four books.

2020s—Fly Five Takes Off

Fly Five: The Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum pilot is launched.


Fly Five: The Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum is released.

Responsive Classroom is used by elementary and middle school educators in all 50 states and more than 29 countries.

CRS Publishing releases six new books, bringing its total to 48 books in circulation.