When it comes to flourishing in school nowadays, scientific evidence is mounting that confirms what many of us have suspected all along—that if we want children to truly learn, and to perform better in life as both students and citizens, then we have to educate them in an environment that they see as safe, caring and nurturing. In short, school social climate matters, so social and emotional learning (SEL), combined with character education, just may be the magical combination that makes academic growth possible.
What's Happening in Character?
By Mark Hyatt
President & CEO
This Aug. 28 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech—or as we like to refer to it at CEP, his “Content of Character” speech.
From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, addressing more than 250,000 civil rights supporters who had gathered in 1963 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. King reportedly had not intended to list examples of his “dream.”
By Sora Wondra, Advancement Officer
CEP often receives inquiries from researchers asking about state-level character education legislation or from teachers and parents who are interested in finding a local National School of Character. In order to share this valuable information with a larger audience, Character.org has developed a new at-a-glance tool—the Character Map.
Four ‘Character’ Books to Explore
By Becky Sipos, Chief Operating Officer
When I was a teacher, I always looked forward to catching up on the pleasures of reading during summer vacation. I accumulated a big stack of beach reading and fun novels, but I also always took time to read some education books to improve my teaching and recharge my classroom practices.
The world lost a great leader when CEP's co-founder and Chairman Emeritus Sanford N. McDonnell passed away in March. The overwhelming outpour of emotions from those who knew him and whose lives he had touched inspired CEP to archive the sentiments and prepare a book of memories for the McDonnell family. Our Vice President, Joe Mazzola, shared his thoughts in a blog post shortly after Sandy's passing.
CEP VISION STATEMENT
Young people everywhere who are educated, inspired and empowered to be ethical and engaged citizens.
CEP MISSION STATEMENT
Providing the vision, leadership and resources for schools, families and communities to develop ethical citizens committed to building a just and caring world.
Exciting times for CEP! On August 27th, we officially entered our 20th year of operation. To mark this milestone and further honor the enduring legacy of our late founder, Sanford McDonnell, we have expanded our mission and vision now to include families and communities, everywhere!
If you live in Washington, DC area and have a stake in our nation's education, you are invited to reserve your ticket today to see the movie Bully for free. Only 250 tickets are available. If you do not reserve a ticket, you are not guaranteed admission to this event.
by Marvin Berkowitz, of the University of Missouri's Center for Character & Citizenship
I was recently asked how to convince people that character education actually works. The cynicism, skepticism, and conservativism out there often astounds me. Amy Johnston, the award-winning principal of 2008 National School of Character Francis Howell Middle School (St. Charles, MO), expresses the same frustration.
As the character education pioneer in her district, she often presents a comparison of her school’s academic and character data as compared with the other four middle schools in her district. Even early in her character education journey, she started to see her school pull away from the other four in both areas.
When other educators noticed the results she was getting, they began to ask for her secrets. She answered “character education.” To which they typically replied “No. Really. What did it?” So she would explain how she used character education to rethink and reform her school and would describe the specific initiatives she enacted, like looped, multi-aged “homerooms” and a collaboratively-generated set of four core values with a corresponding rubric crafted in part by students. And they would shake their heads and walk away seemingly disappointed. So she laments “they see the data, I tell them what we did, and they don’t believe it. What more can I do?”
Amy’s frustration mirrors the frustration of many educators who believe in character education and base their beliefs on hard data. I hear all too often that “there is no research on character education.” Well that is patently inaccurate.
Federal education conference emphasizes the importance of school climate
by Lara Maupin, Director SSOC/NSOC
Joe Mazzola and I attended the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools annual conference this week. We were quite pleased to see the Department’s emphasis on how school climate can enhance the conditions for learning reflected in the selection of keynote speakers and workshops. Researchers and practitioners shared how improving school climate can improve academic achievement and reduce bullying.
We were especially thrilled that the Department asked dynamic principal Kristen Pelster of Ridgewood Middle School in Missouri to be the kickoff keynote speaker. Kristen told her school’s powerful story of transformation from the worst school in the district to National School of Character. How did they do it? Character education! By holding kids to high expectations and giving them the support they needed to meet those expectations, Ridgewood culture began to change. Over time, Kristen was able to empower her teachers and students. Without changing anything about how they taught academics, Ridgewood students improved academically. Of course, this is a story we know well at CEP. We see it repeated time and time again in our
By Megan Jones, Senior Administrator at CEP
Topics: Character Education News
By Peggy Lobello, 4th Grade Teacher
Orrs Elementary, Griffin, GA
Students come to us in all shapes and sizes. They come in all abilities as well. It is an ongoing task charged to educators to find ways to challenge students at all levels of ability. Teachers at Orrs Elementary School work together to provide meaningful learning experiences at all level of mastery.
Lessons based on choice menus by interest or learning style is one way to challenge students. Another way to challenge students is to provide differentiated lessons to meet the needs of all learners. Teacher-led small groups in reading or math can provide challenging opportunities with teacher direction.
CEP's March focus is Principle 5: Providing Opportunities for Moral Action. The following service learning idea was submitted by Tina Sohn, Art Teacher & District Character Leader, Sullivan Primary School a 2010 Nationa School of Character, Sullivan, Missouri . We'd love to hear what your school is doing.
Sullivan Primary School (pre-K through first grade) weaves character into every facet of their day. At such an early age, students are given many opportunities to apply values in everyday discussions and play.
One project that started as a small building service project grew to a district-wide project that now includes every campus in the school district, community businesses, citizens, parents, children, and school staff. The “Bowls for Hunger “soup supper night brings all stakeholders together for an exciting night with donations of goods and services as well as building relationships.
This post was written by Jessica Skinner, School Counselor at Lake Carolina Elementary School in Blythewood, South Carolina
Building a caring learning community goes beyond the four walls of a classroom. At Lake Carolina Elementary, the faculty and staff have been deliberate in their approach to developing a caring community since the school opened in 2002. We have worked to foster authentic relationships among students, faculty, families, and other members of our surrounding neighborhoods. We acknowledge that each of these stakeholders is an essential part.
As a team of educators, we realize that in order to build a strong school community, it is imperative to invest in each other as colleagues. Teachers participate in professional workshops and outside-of-school activities to cultivate genuine relationships with each other and develop the faculty into a cohesive team. What we learn as professionals is then transferred into individual classroom communities by incorporating strategies such as daily morning meetings and end of day closure gatherings that give students the opportunity to connect with one another.
The following post was written by Barbara Gruener, Westwood Elementary Counselor and Lynn Hobratschk, Westwood Elementary Principal. Gruener will be presenting at the 17th National Forum on Character Education.
In a town settled by Quakers, otherwise known as Friends, Principle 10 wasn’t too difficult to sell. A small bedroom community outside of Houston, Friendswood was founded with core values in mind. But knowing about character and putting character into action are two different things, so in 1987 a group of 120 concerned citizens gathered to decide which values would be important to focus on for the students and families in the Friendswood Independent School District. And so our character education initiative began.
National Schools of Character (NSOC) winners are asked to do outreach to educators in surrounding schools. Below is an email highlighting the fruits of such outreach. Thanks to Barb Gruener at 2009 NSOC winner Westwood Elementary School in Friendswood, TX for spreading character ed!
Topics: Character Education News
How do we prepare our students for a future in which the jobs they will be doing do not yet exist and the technologies that they will be working with have not yet been invented? The answer to this question is varied and controversial. However, one thing we know for sure is we have to teach our students to lead, act responsibly and respect each other.
“We live more and more of our lives in the splendid isolation of the Internet with all the faux connectors like Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. Getting together is increasingly a rare and important privilege.” When I read these words by Nick Morgan, President of Public Words, Inc., I found myself nodding and thinking, “That is so true.”
Here's a community where commitment to character permeates everything they do. Four schools in the district have been recognized with National Schools of Character awards, and the school district was named a National District of Character. The mayor, city council, and Chamber of Commerce have also adopted the same core values, or expected behaviors, as the school district has. It truly makes for a community of character.
Last week my brother and sister completed RAGBRAI—the bicycle ride across Iowa. From the starting point in Sioux City to the end point in Dubuque, they rode 480 miles over the course of the week. They both came home tired but euphoric. They’d had a wonderful time.
My sister couldn’t stop talking about how friendly everyone was. “Iowa has to be the most hospitable state ever,” she said. At every stop, people from all walks of life offered their homes to the bicyclists (and there were a lot of them. One count on the first day reported 20,000). The bikers camped out in their yards, slept in their basements, and shared their family rooms.
Since my first blog post generated a response from a high school teacher wondering about what the Forum will offer for educators at the secondary level, I thought I’d feature one of our PreForum workshops today: Optimizing the High School Experience.
Just take a look at the takeaways:
Participants will learn how to help secondary students...
- Develop skills in perspective taking and empathy that lead to respectful and compassionate behavior.
- Appreciate diversity and work collaboratively with their peers.
- Build safe and respectful environments in their classrooms and school.
- Develop positive relationships with their teachers.
- Address underlying thoughts and emotions that interfere with learning.
- Become self-motivated and engaged learners.
- Identify their strengths, set goals, and prepare for their future.
I’ve been on the road for CEP lately, exhibiting at a few conferences. So I’ve had the opportunity to talk to quite a few teachers, and many are feeling burned out. They’re tired of being the media scapegoats for all that is wrong with education.
There’s even a Facebook page where teachers are posting Letters to Obama where they share their frustrations and concerns about education and hope to influence the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I’ve been dismayed by much of the rhetoric, and wondered how CEP can help.
By Claudia St. Amour, counselor
Posted by Brian McKenney, Principal, Long School
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, S.R. Covey suggests that when planning a program one should start with the end in mind. At Long School, before planning new initiatives, the character leadership team analyzes data from the CHARACTERplus® School Report, completed each spring, to get a basic picture of the current state of our school.
The CHARACTERplus® School Report is a survey of staff, students, and parents designed to assess individuals’ opinions, feelings, and beliefs about the school. That data provides useful information, from which the character education team identifies specific areas of need (e.g. Students’ Feelings of Belonging, School Expectations, etc.) that correlate with principles from Character Education Partnership’s Eleven Principles of Effective Character Education. At Long School, assessment plays the role of bridge between what has been and what should be. It is the end and the beginning of an endless cycle of school improvement.
The likelihood that character initiatives will survive and thrive over the years, regardless of changes in student population, personnel, and community is also carefully considered when planning new initiatives.
Submitted by Donna Dunar, principal, Alta Leary Elementary School
What’s that old adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention”? In 2009, we earned National Schools of Character (NSOC) winner status; in 2008, we earned standing as “finalist.” As a finalist in the NSOC process, our site visitors rightly recommended that we work on the integration of character education so as to make it more systematic. We took this feedback to heart as we grappled with what this actually meant.
This post was written by Nan Peterson, Blake School, Hopkins, Minnesota
Teachers can help students develop the skills to engage authentically across difference through a series of interviews with the end goal of composing and making a gift of a published account of their partner's story. The service is the gift of story and the gift of friendship. The highlighted character quality is respect.
This post was written by Ron Tucker, principal, Bayless Junior High School, St. Louis, MO
In this era of high-stakes testing and ever-increasing accountability, educators across the country have become familiar with the term “as evidenced by” when it comes to defending their school improvement plans. While testing is important, we know that developing healthy, responsible students is a mandate upon which we cannot compromise. As a native of the “Show-Me State,” I look for “evidence” that we are continually attempting to build a safe, caring school community that promotes tolerance for all of our citizens.
Submitted by Nan Peterson, Director of Service PK-12 at The Blake School, in Minneapolis, MN.
Topics: Character Education News
The following post was written by Marilyn Jackson, Guidance Counselor, Fox C-6 School District, Seckman High School
We have heard it said many times that “learning is power,” and while obviously this is true, we often do not examine how we empower the learner. How do we create an inviting atmosphere where students have autonomy? How can they apply the knowledge, skills, and values we have taught them to become moral, ethical people who are committed to themselves and the communities they live in?
From Merle Schwartz, CEP director of education and research
Before I came to CEP in August of 2002, I was a school psychologist in Maine, a learning & behavior specialist, and wrote the first graduate course at that time on PBIS for the University of Southern Maine. Before that, I was a special education teacher for many years. I mention this because, at that time, I had the connection on how PBIS could been done well—and how character education was a foundational missing piece in most schools. Understanding character education allowed me to evolve beyond PBIS.
Although the intent of PBIS (remember it is part of IDEA), was to be proactive and prosocial, it seems to have morphed back into standard behavior modification techniques. When I work with educators on this topic, and the need for the school to move beyond common “rule” to basic core ethical values, they quickly realize that PBIS does not help develop integrity. In many cases, when the reinforcers stop, the prosocial behavior stops as well.
By Joe Mazzola, CEP Executive Director
I’ve been following the trial of former Congressman William Jefferson in the Washington Post. (You probably remember the case. He was found with $90,000 stashed in his freezer. The money, marked by the FBI, was allegedly to be used to bribe the VP of another country. Jefferson was charged with 16 counts of bribery, racketeering and money laundering. ) Two recent articles really got me riled up. They summarize closing arguments by the defense counsel.
Basically, the attorney said his client was “stupid” and “exercised awful judgment,” but he was not a criminal. The lawyer made a distinction between ethics and the law, saying “prosecutors tried to turn what amounted to ethics violations into crimes. They’re trying to bend the law, stretch the facts to turn what is not a crime into a crime.”
The Character Education Partnership (CEP) has named seven public schools, one charter school, one private school, and one school district as 2009 National Schools of Character. Read the Press Release.
"Citizens of Character - the Foundation
October 29-31, 2009
Hilton Alexandria Mark Center
Topics: Character Education News
Here you will find articles from CEP Members, Leaders, Speakers, and select authors from around the country and the world. As a CEP Member please feel free to make comments about the articles you see here. We welcome feedback and suggestions!