Our Story

Many great ideas throughout time came to be from a simple – yet powerful – conversation at the kitchen table; the same can be said for the vision and the intrinsic drive of CSSR President and Co-Founder Joe DiMartino. Joe and his wife Pat are the parents of six children, four of which were adopted (two from Korea and two from Guatemala). Their son Erik said one evening, “I’m not stupid!” The comment represents one of the most heart wrenching and memorable conversations of Joe’s life, and it served as the springboard for his life-long commitment to personalizing the high school experience for each student. Since then, Joe has been a persistent advocate for student-centered learning. His drive is to help the hundreds of thousands of students in secondary schools – like his son Erik – to be emotionally, socially, and academically-ready life-long learners, who are valued and appreciated.

The CSSR team first took shape during Joe’s time as the Director of the Education Alliance at Brown University’s Redesigning Secondary Schools program. Serving as the chief architect, Joe and his team of nationally recognized school redesign experts collaborated with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to create Breaking Ranks®II: Strategies for Leading High School Reform. This game-changing publication focused on what must be done to graduate young people with the skills, habits, and convictions that are required in the rapidly changing culture of the global workplace. Secondary schools had done a good job educating some students, but not ALL students! BRII® was only the first mile of what has become a marathon for Joe and the CSSR team.

Since 2005, CSSR has been involved in numerous local, state, and national conversations, collaborations, and initiatives. Our work explores ways to increase student-centered learning by shifting focus away from standardized testing towards a performance assessment approach to learning and teaching – allowing the student to take ownership of his/her learning journey. Starting with the New Hampshire Department of Education, and expanding our scope and voice nationally through the Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) Grant Program of the US Department of Education, CSSR quickly established itself as a leading organization for changing the culture of schools, and helping teachers and students become professional learners and masters of their craft. Our success with more than 25 SLC secondary schools has resulted in additional redesign work with School Improvement Grants (SIG), teacher evaluation work in the State of New York, and an Investing in Innovation Grant to form the New England Network for Personalization and Performance (The i3 NETWORK). In helping schools and districts explore the possibilities and take advantage of the opportunities, our work continues to focus on transforming school culture through effective leadership, purposeful strategies and a commitment to change.

An unanticipated benefit of moving away from Brown was the opportunity to partner with Bill Bryan, a nationally recognized expert in organizational design. Thanks to the efforts of Bill and Joe, CSSR has become a high-performing team of school change coaches and instructional experts that are engaged in ongoing professional development and well-researched student centered best practices. Our influence can be felt from Napa, CA to Plymouth, MA; from Traverse City, MI to Springdale, AR; and from State Departments of Education to the White House! Our team is committed to working with school leaders, teachers, students, parents and community leaders in a way that builds capacity and sustains transformational change now, and into the future. The students of today are our leaders of tomorrow; we will continue our journey of improving the educational environment so that all students have the opportunity to release their inner genius and let their ingenuity take shape.