JCPS expands Compassionate Schools Program to 25 more schools - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS expands Compassionate Schools Program to 25 more schools

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, along with JCPS leaders and other education officials, announced Wednesday the Compassionate Schools Program is expanding to more schools.

Last fall, three pilot JCPS schools started using the curriculum for all K-5 students twice a week. Those schools were Jacob, Cane Run and Slaughter Elementary. After monitoring how students performed, the program is now being implemented in 25 schools for two years each. 

Researchers will study the schools over that time and compare the data to 25 other schools using the traditional Practical Living curriculum.

"To see our young students go through this transition of what I call having an open mind and an open heart for caring for each other... it's something that we're blessed to have in this community," Mayor Fischer said. "And I hope we can share it with the rest of the world."

The curriculum focuses on mindfulness-based instruction, social-emotional skills training and attentive movements. It was developed by professor Patrick Tolan from the University of Virginia.

Each day the students start with breathing exercises. Those are then tied into social skills and emotional lessons.

"There's a lesson that comes out of how you breathe and how you hold yourself,” Tolan said. ”That goes to how do you understand different ways people think about things from different backgrounds. So they learn about working with people and living with people that are different from them. And that's the beginning of compassion."

Tolan said JCPS schools were chosen to test the program because of the diversity found in the Louisville-metro area. If the curriculum is successful, the hope is other school districts across the country will adopt it as well.

Kenya Natsis is the principal at Rutherford Elementary School. The school started using this program starting this school year, and she says she is already seeing a boost in her students’ confidence.

"They love it,” Natsis said. “They're taking it not only from the classroom but also into their daily lives and sharing the information with their families."

During the program announcement, JCPS superintendent Donna Hargens said the district has seen a 10-point increase in student math scores, the four-year graduation rate has hit over the 80 percent mark and 63.4 percent of students are college and career ready.

Hargens said that’s 32 percent increase since 2010, adding that she knows the district is moving in the right direction and making improvements. But she believes implementing the Compassionate Schools Program will now help improve non-cognitive skills that don’t show up on test scores.

The program is funded through collaboration of private philanthropy and local and national foundations and is supported by staff and resources from the University of Virginia and JCPS. In all, $6.4 million has been invested. The goal is to raise $11 million.

Twenty-thousand students will be impacted by this new way of learning.

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