News – Compassionate Schools Project
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Alexis Harris presented at the most important prevention science conference—the Society for Prevention Research (SPR) Annual Meeting in Washington DC, May 28-31, 2024.

Findings presented suggest promise in the Compassionate Schools Project and the approach it represents for helping promote SEL and aligned mindfulness and compassion skills, as well as the positive impact on important behavioral characteristics such as efficacy for social problem solving and attentional control, especially in the context of high poverty.

Alexis is the CSP Project Director and Research Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development.

There is a pressing need to support youth wellbeing, emphasizing the importance of universal prevention efforts in schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2021). To address this need, the Compassionate Schools Project (CSP) tested a universal elementary school wellness curriculum called Flourish that integrates social and emotional skills, mindful awareness and compassion, mindful movement, and mindsets and habits for lifelong health. Through an innovative partnership model involving university researchers/intervention developers, civic leaders, a large public school district, and various philanthropic supporters, researchers conducted a five-year longitudinal randomized control trial of Flourish. The curriculum and professional learning were intentionally grounded in mindfulness and compassion and connected with a city-wide aspiration to engage citizens in building a more compassionate community.

The large RCT involved 45 elementary schools and over 4700 students randomly selected from schools located in a mid-sized US city and the surrounding area that serves an economically and ethnically diverse population. The sample of students was followed through two years of CSP implementation or the existing health and physical education curriculum and two years of post-formal implementation. By comparing growth over four years of time, we tested for the effect of assignment of school to CSP implementation on growth of a set of child social and emotional skills, attentional control (evidence of executive function), compassion and behavior and adjustment in school (emotional and behavioral problems, prosocial behavior, and academic engagement). We also tested for moderation of growth differences by condition by school poverty level, grade of students at outset of exposure, and student gender. Inferential analyses were based on 3-level longitudinal hierarchical linear models (HLM).

The partnership resulted in the successful continuation of the program in many of the study schools and was initiated in new schools after the research was concluded. Preliminary results of the analyses show that Flourish has significant benefits for students—including efficacy for managing social conflicts, improved classroom behavior, and increased ability to focus attention. In addition, preliminary results suggest that benefits are most evident in schools serving students from high poverty communities.

These findings suggest promise in this program and the approach it represents for helping promote SEL and aligned mindfulness and compassion skills, as well as the positive impact on important behavioral characteristics such as efficacy for social problem solving and attentional control, especially in the context of high poverty.


On Saturday Feb 4, 2023 the Compassionate Schools Project provided the Flourishing for Educators Professional Development workshop for JCPS teachers. CSP Director Alexis Harris and Implementation Coach Jennifer Beasley led teachers in practicing strategies for well-being that promote mindful self-care, professional growth and resilience.




The American Psychological Association (APA) interviewed Compassionate Schools Project’s Alexis Harris as part of its 2023 Trends Report. The article appeared in the organization’s APA Monitor.

The following is excerpted from the article:

“We can’t wait until people are suffering to apply what we know,” said Alexis Harris, PhD, a research assistant professor of education at Youth-Nex, the University of Virginia Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, and the project director for the Compassionate Schools Project.

With Compassionate Schools, Harris and her colleagues are studying a curriculum that builds on SEL by integrating concepts of mindfulness, compassion, body awareness, healthy eating, and exercise. The study is taking place in 45 schools with some 20,000 children and provides strategies to support educator well-being as well. This kind of holistic, mind-body approach is a trend in prevention science, she added. “After decades of research, it’s evident that there are common root causes and common protective factors that underlie a variety of mental, emotional, and behavioral problems,” she said. “Starting there, we can have a broader impact.”

As the field sets its sights on broadening and strengthening its prevention efforts, there’s also a call to move away from a predominant focus on individual choices and behaviors.

“In many approaches that are focused on promoting adaptive skills and positive behavioral trajectories, a lot of responsibility is placed on the individual. We see that so much with the attention placed on self-care, for example,” Harris said. “That obscures the fact that we need to pay more attention to the conditions in the systems that individuals are functioning within.”

Read “Psychologists are rebranding the field, expanding the one-to-one therapy approach

Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) is committed to helping its teachers remain in the classroom by addressing the often overlooked and unique pressures teachers face. One of the ways it is doing this is through its work with the Compassionate Schools Project, offering various professional development opportunities designed to support educators’ well-being. JCPS educators can search the Vector PD Tracker system to sign up for sessions of interest.

Read the full story: JCPS Tackles Teacher Retention with Multi-Faceted, Whole-Person Approach

The Compassionate Schools Project work in Charlottesville City Elementary Schools was recently featured in the inaugural issue of Amplify, a publication from UVA’s Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Read the article to learn how this collaborative project and research study among CSC, the School of Education and Human Development, and the Medical School is poised to help children across Virginia build resilience and the personal, social, and emotional skills to reach their highest potential. The article begins on page 21.

Read “Building Compassionate Schools in Charlottesville

November 12, 2021 — Kenwood Elementary School has been named a National Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Distinguished School for 2021, the first school in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) to ever earn the distinction and one of only 100 schools in the country recognized for the distinction this year.

The school was identified by the Kentucky Department of Education and the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators for excellence in serving its English learner population.

“Proud doesn’t even begin to describe the feelings this recognition brings,” said Jill Handley, principal of Kenwood. “The Kenwood community has worked tirelessly over the years to refine the systems and structures we have in place to support students, families, and one another. I am humbled to lead such an amazing group of educators who are committed to doing whatever it takes for our students and their families.”

The National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program recognizes qualifying federally funded schools for the outstanding academic achievements of their students. Schools demonstrate a wide array of strengths, including team approaches to teaching and learning, focused professional development opportunities for staff, individualized programs for student · success, and strong partnerships between the school, parents, and the community.

The program, which has been in place since 1996, showcases the success of schools in one of three categories:

• Exceptional student performance (and academic growth) for two or more consecutive years;
• Closing the achievement gap between student groups for two or more consecutive years; or
• Excellence in serving special populations of students.

Handley said she attended the National ESEA Conference four years ago, and during the recognition ceremony for the National Distinguished Schools told a colleague, “We are going to be on that stage one day celebrating all of the magic that occurs at Kenwood.”

“Fast forward four years and here we are,” she said. “One of only two schools in the entire state receiving this recognition, and the only school in JCPS to have received this honor.”

Follow JCPS online online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

View the press release at the Jefferson County Public Schools website.

Book Cover

In her new book, “The Trauma-Sensitive Classroom: Building Resilience with Compassionate Teaching”, Tish Jennings helps teachers manage challenging classroom behaviors. Jennings, a leader with the Compassionate Schools Project, helps teachers embrace a new mindset in order to help students who exhibit behaviors that may have proven adaptive in their lives but turn out to be barriers to learning in the classroom.

Here are five ways to build a trauma-sensitive classroom environment according to Jennings:

  • Let Go of Zero Tolerance
  • Reframe Student Behavior
  • Generate and Savor Positive Emotions
  • Draw on the Power of Story
  • Put On Your Oxygen Mask First

Read the Articles:
How to Build a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom Where All Learners Feel Safe
Changing How Educators See Negative Experiences in the Classroom

The book: “The Trauma-Sensitive Classroom: Building Resilience with Compassionate Teaching

The Compassionate Schools Project has been chosen as a beneficiary of Mindful30, a 30 day mindfulness challenge of meditation and mindful exploration.

Join us September 1-30 by signing up now at CSP’s unique link:

What You’ll Get: Mindful30 gives you exclusive online access to expert guidance and inspiration delivered to you each day:

Exclusive Mindful30 Facebook Live events & community

  • Daily themes designed to help you get the most from mindfulness
  • Over 6 hours of video & audio delivered in short daily guided meditations
  • Additional readings and expert Q & A
  • Exclusive Mindful30 Facebook Live events & community
  • Plus: a 1-year subscription to Mindful magazine. Current subscribers will have their subscriptions extended one year.

Mindful30 will help you experience the power of daily mindfulness to:

  • Navigate stress and reduce anxiety
  • Improve your health—physical and mental
  • Sharpen your focus, performance, productivity
  • Deepen your relationships with loved ones
  • Rewire your brain with new habits for a better you

Learn More: