What's Happening in Character Education?

How Reflection Can Transform Your School

Posted by Lynnda Nadien on Wed, May 20, 2015 @ 11:05 AM

At 2014 National School of Character, Smith Street School, reflection is so important that the school made it one of its core values. Principal, Lynnda Nadien, reflects on the impact that reflection has had on the students, the teachers and the school culture.

by Lynnda Nadien

As building principal, I am extremely proud of my students' accomplishments in terms of their academic and character development. This year alone, I have witnessed children fundraising, sharing ideas, and literally directing programs to support our school touchstone which includes respect, responsibility and reflection.

Taking time to reflect is very powerful for the entire operation. This allows us to know what works, and what does not work. Reflection has allowed us to build our team’s capacity for all facets of social and emotional well-being of children. Children are highly involved in all aspects as well and they have developed skills to be decision makers and to produce high quality work in all areas. Reflection is an ongoing process, as each day is a challenge and we feel that we have high expectations and each child is meeting those expectations, via reflection. For example, a first grader said she knew her “decision was not a good one”, but “if I can think about it, maybe I can do better tomorrow.”

Read More

Topics: school climate, assessment, Reflection

Celebrating, Assessing and Setting Goals

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, May 18, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

As the school year draws to a close, it’s time to celebrate successes, reflect on challenges. 

Dr. Thomas Lickona, psychologist and character education expert, has said that if schools wish to make a lasting difference in students’ character, “they need a comprehensive, holistic approach (one where schools) look at themselves through a moral lens and consider how virtually everything that goes on there affects the values and character of students.”

Read More

Topics: assessment

The 2015 National Schools of Character Press Event

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Fri, May 15, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

At Character.org we frequently reflect on our mission and our role in the greater landscape of education. In addition to working directly with schools, we strive to serve as “bridge builders” connecting teachers, students and administrators to researchers and policymakers. This aspect of our mission was abundantly clear as I looked around the room at our 2015 National Schools of Character Event the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Wednesday morning.


Our attendees were quite a varied group including elementary school students, high school students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, legislative assistants, a representative from the Department of Education and a congresswoman. What did all of these people have in common? They are committed to character.

They came to hear about the dedicated work of the 64 National Schools of Character and 3 National Districts of Character that earned recognition in 2015. Since we didn’t have time to talk about each and every school, President & CEO, Becky Sipos highlighted specific school’s practices that were representative of the whole group’s accomplishments. Throughout the year, we will continue to highlight these practices of our National Schools of Character, but until then these examples help to depict the trends that she noticed.

Read More

Topics: Schools of Character, Community Involvement

3 Ways to Assess School Climate & Character

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Tue, May 12, 2015 @ 10:05 AM

IMG_3141At Premier Charter School, assessment is a big part of school life, because as Head of School, Julie Frugo, so wisely put it, “how do we know what we are doing is even working if we don't assess it?”

Recommended Strategies

Give students surveys about character & climate regularly

Julie said: “One of our main formal assessment strategies is a survey that is given to students each trimester, asking questions that directly correlate to the character initiatives and climate in the classroom. We also survey the teachers each trimester to get their input on what's working and what they need help with. This is all done through survey monkey so it's free ( or cheap because we have a paid account). There are great analytics with survey monkey so we are always looking at the data for trends and to set goals.

It is also beneficial to find ways to share that data with the students. In our middle school we have used the bulletin boards hanging outside classrooms to share the data. Students stopped to look at the data and ended up having conversations with teachers and peers about ideas for improvement. We have found that when you are intentional about being transparent and inclusive with the students, they will think critically about problem solving. They care about having their voices heard and they come up with ideas that we as adults wouldn't necessarily think of without their perspective.”

Read More

Topics: school climate, assessment

Deflated Reputations: An Ethicist's Take on Tom Brady's Actions

Posted by Dave Keller on Thu, May 7, 2015 @ 16:05 PM

by Dave Keller

Yesterday was not a good day for Tom Brady.

Lots of folks are weighing in today on the NFL’s report from yesterday (known as the Wells Report) regarding the infamous “Deflate-Gate” incident where the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots were accused of attempting to gain an unfair advantage by intentionally altering the air pressure of the footballs in their January 18 conference championship game.

Yesterday’s Wells Report (all 243 pages) paints a relatively scathing picture of the incident, summarized in the following excerpt:

“For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that … it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.  In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that [the official Locker Room attendant for the Patriots] and [an equipment assistant for the Patriots] participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee. Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities … involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”

(Wells Report, p.2;  NOTE: bold/underline/italics added for emphasis for this article)

“More probable than not.”

Hmmm.  Not exactly 100% conclusive.  

And yet, somehow, in this instance --- at least to me --- those words ARE conclusive. I read major portions of the report this morning, and it is very obvious that Tom Brady knew the balls were being manipulated to his preferences. He clearly engaged in conversations with equipment personnel regarding the topic, including getting angry when the balls were not inflated to his preference.

He knew.

Read More

Topics: Sportsmanship

Appreciating Teachers: How Can Principals Show They Care?

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Wed, May 6, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, parents across the country are organizing luncheons, baking cookies and buying gifts to thank teachers. Students are making cards and writing notes. What do principals do to appreciate the teachers at their school?

Amy Johnston was the principal of Francis Howell Middle School (Missouri), which was recognized as a National School of Character in 2008. Amy always made it a priority to listen to teachers, value their ideas and collaborate with them to make lasting school change. She emphasizes that teacher appreciation is much too important to limit to a designated day or even week.

"Showing teachers that they are appreciated should be embedded in the very culture of a building.  Appreciation should be ongoing and authentic and not based solely on something a teacher does, but for who they are and what they bring to the table.  True appreciation is beyond the Bagel Breakfast in May; it is asking, listening, grappling and learning with teachers every day.  Giving teachers a voice, honoring their wisdom and experience and making them true partners in school improvement is how great leaders appreciate teachers."

Bob Freado was both a principal and the Coordinator of Character Education for Peters Township School District (Pennsylvania), a 2010 National District of Character. He indicates one important way principals can appreciate teachers is by respecting their time. He begins his reflection with a quote and shares his teacher appreciation strategies.

Read More

Topics: Teacher Appreciation, Professional Development

Character.org Staff Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week

Posted by Heather Cazad on Mon, May 4, 2015 @ 08:05 AM

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Character.org staff took time to reflect on the some of their favorite teachers.

Becky: Mrs. Frazier, my fifth grade teacher, really stands out in my memory of favorites. I recall coming in from recess after lunch every day. Everyone was hot and fired up from activity until she started to read to us. Every day another chapter. We got quiet and attentive. It seemed strange to be read to as most of us were already good readers and would have said we were too old for it, but she enticed us all with great books. Not only did she read wonderful works, she introduced me to books I would have never picked up on my own. It wasn't just the literary arts. I recall our debates on the civil war, the perspective taking, the research, the passion we brought to the activity. And math lessons that really developed understanding. Just thinking about my fifth grade year makes me smile.

Iris: As a very quiet student in the recently integrated school zone of Rock Creek Park, I was often ignored by other students and even some teachers. However, my middle school Algebra 1 teacher was different. She noticed me, learned my name and treated me with respect. In that environment, I thrived. My grades were excellent, and I felt gratified. Though sometime over the many years since middle school, I have forgotten her name, I still remember exactly what she looked like and how appreciative I felt being in her classroom.


 Dave: A teacher that particularly stands out was my first grade teacher, Mrs. Maniscalco. She lived in my neighborhood in the Houston suburbs. It was a different world then, and I used to walk to the store with my little red wagon every day during the summer following my first grade. Probably twice a week, I would modify my walk to pass by Mrs Maniscalco's street. I’d ring her doorbell and wait patiently until she answered. Most days, she invited me inside to see how my summer was going - and read with me.  Before long, I started to bring my own books in the wagon. She always read with me. Years later, I reflect on how intrusive my visits must have been.  I'm married to an educator, and I know how precious summer break is. But Mrs. Maniscalco never made me feel unwelcome. She always seemed genuinely happy to see me. I've never forgotten her, or the times we read together that summer.

Read More

Topics: Teacher Appreciation

Character Resource Roundup: How Do I Assess School Climate?

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Fri, May 1, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

During the month of May, the Character.org blog will be highlighting Principle 11, “the school regularly assesses its culture and climate, the functioning of its staff as character educators, and the extent to which its students assess good character.”

As I’ve been reading Schools of Character applications and making site visits, I’ve found that Principle 11 is one that schools often struggle with and I completely understand why. In an era of standardized testing, the idea of adding climate surveys on top of that can seem daunting, but it is important to remember, they can help you improve your school.

Schools that excel at principle 11, do not simple give out these surveys, they collect the data and study its implications. The staff works as a team to discover innovative ways to address the concerns that arise. This thoughtful and intentional approach begins with choosing a survey that is a good match for your school.

Read More

Topics: school climate, Character Resource Roundup

Connecting Character and Content

Posted by Gary Smit on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 @ 11:04 AM

by Gary Smit

Finding time for building character in schools and in students within the context of the academic curriculum can be a challenge. Since school is the first social structure the child encounters, the setting provides an excellent opportunity for character building. However, this must be more than a poster on the wall, a favorite maxim to share or selection of a monthly student of character.

Richard Jones has said, “It is primarily the teacher’s responsibility to engage the students, as opposed to the teacher expecting students to come to class naturally and automatically engaged.”  With this understanding, character building requires a proactive approach through planned learning experiences and activities within the classroom. By being part of a school-wide initiative, we realize that character and values should be weaved through every aspect of school life, including the academic curriculum, co-curricular activities, staff modeling, and all human relationships.

How then can character traits and values be taught within the context of the school curriculum? I have come to understand that there are four ways for the classroom teacher to directly instill values in students, regardless of the students' ages.

Read More

Topics: character education, character education in curriculum, Curriculum Integration

How a Meaningful Curriculum Can Help Prevent Cheating

Posted by David Wangaard on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 @ 09:04 AM

by David B. Wangaard, Ed.D., President/Director, The School for Ethical Education

Teaching a challenging curriculum is a double-edged sword in regards to academic integrity.  Challenges that are useful to students to achieve mastery learning can help students rise to the occasion and persist in their studies.  Challenges that are perceived to be unfair and of little relevance to student interest or needs can lead to increase student rationalizations to cheat.  Some students in high-achieving schools have been noted to claim a “right to cheat” as they cite the multiple academic challenges they face (extreme workloads, poor instruction, demands for perfection) and argue their school circumstances are unjust and unfair. 

Academic integrity has a direct connection to many of Character.org’s 11 Principles for Effective Character Education.  At the heart of completing work with integrity is the recognition that core values such as honesty, responsibility and fairness are relevant to students and teachers (Principles 1 & 2) and that academic integrity should be reflected in how teachers lead their classes (Principle 3.3) and teach ethical analysis[1] (Principle 3.2).  Academic integrity is clearly one measure of how students demonstrate moral action (Principle 5) and seek to develop their own intrinsic motivation (Principle 7).  And with the focus of this current Blog on Principle 6, let us examine how academic integrity is particularly strengthened as teachers implement strategies to teach a meaningful and challenging curriculum.

The research on academic integrity consistently points to certain teacher and student behaviors that either support academic integrity or contribute to increased student cheating. No teacher wants to encourage cheating, but student cheating is recognized to increase when students disengage from learning or perceive lessons to be busy work, or completed to achieve status (grades or prestige) and not mastery of the subject.  Thus, as Character.org encourages teachers to practice learning strategies such as cooperative and experiential learning to engage students in authentic learning; these strategies also help reduce the tendency for student cheating.

Read More

Topics: Academic Integrity