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.”
For most, the end-of-year assessment comes in the form of tests and surveys. But the challenge comes when you actually look at the results. You need to mine the data for deeper insights.
I like the story of Petway Elementary School. When they saw an increase in discipline referrals, they dug deeper and discovered that most were happening on Mondays. So they instituted Monday morning class meetings where students could discuss issues that happened over the weekend, and that helped reduce the problems.
La Cima Charter School, a newly announced National School of Character, believes that there is an opportunity gap for their scholars instead of an achievement gap so they have been really exploring their academic data. Staff are digging deep to analyze which students undersand a lesson and which ones do not. Each teacher has a coach during the year who observes lessons and meets weekly to discuss what has taken place and to assess instruction. In addition to these weekly evaluations, teachers meet at the end of each trimester to determine precisely, on the basis of data, what has worked and what has not worked in their instruction.
Other schools, wondering at the lack of parent participation at meetings and events, have gone on home visits to discover why. Using data to improve academics, school climate, and community-building through comprehensive assessment is not easy and often requires moral courage as Dr. Maurice Elias wrote in his recent blog: “It Takes Courage to Make Schools Better”
He writes, “Making one's school better requires honest conversation, and that requires courage. Maybe it should not have to, but in most cases, it does.” He offers some questions to get you started:
- What is one practice in which you are currently engaged in your school that you would stop doing?
- What is one practice you are not doing in your school that you would start doing?
- What is something you are doing in your school that you question and would finally want to resolve?
As you mine your data and ask hard questions, you will discover some issues that may surprise you and some that may confound you. This is when our network of character educators can be most helpful. You will find others who have creative solutions to similar problems. That is why we are here to help.
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