What's Happening in Character?

Five Things You Can Do That Will Make You a Better Educator Right Now

Posted by Phil Brown on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

By Philip Brown

A recent article (July 20) in the Washington Post by parenting consultant Meghan Leahy entitled Five things you can do that will make you a better parent right now captured my attention because each of her five points are also sound recommendations for educators. I’ve reworked her five points – see if you agree that school culture and teachers lives would be much saner if we kept these in mind and took them to heart:

1. Cultivate a value system in your classroom and school. Of course core ethical and performance values are core aspects of the 11 Principles of Charcter Education, and Character.org has emphasized the importance of including stakeholders in the process of creating core values. Beyond establishing core values as the bedrock for your school culture, the important word here is ‘cultivate.’ As Leahy points out, “Americans don’t have a common parenting culture that has been passed down to us. Our wonderful mix of religions, ethnicities, worldviews and customs means that we are able to create our own parenting and family mores.” This means as well, that, if we are lucky, children bring those diverse values into the school house, and we must send a very clear message in our cultivation that just as families need to have their values to function effectively, so must our classrooms and school. And if there are values conflicts, a discussion with parents early in the school year is important to avoid misunderstandings and support both diversity and the need to adapt to American school culture.

Read More

Topics: school climate, teachers, 11 Principles, Back to School

A Tale of Two Schools: Valuing Development Over Control

Posted by Dr. Philip Vincent on Mon, Aug 8, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

By Dr. Philip Vincent

At least 15 years ago I received a letter (people still wrote those then!) from an educator who had recently heard me in her school district.  She shared with me how she had moved to a new large school district, interviewed at two schools and accepted the job at one of the schools. The letter really impacted me and I was honored that she shared it with me.  Now the actual letter is long gone but I remember it in great detail and will now share it with you in her words. The following is her story.

Read More

Topics: school climate, teachers

Considerations for Adopting a School Climate Survey

Posted by Linda Inlay on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 @ 08:04 AM

By Linda Inlay, retired principal of The River School, a National School of Character

Those of us who have been talking for years about the importance of school culture or school climate and how it can improve student achievement, are heartened by the inclusion of this topic in the national conversation about school improvement. ESSA’s requirement for a non-cognitive measure in assessments has given school climate credibility as a serious focus of consideration.

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools recently shared its findings of the “robust relationships” between school climate, teacher retention, and student achievement. And Education Week published a blog on the U.S. Department of Education releasing a free, web-based survey that schools can use to track the effectiveness of school climate efforts and resources on how to best improve learning environments for students.

I’d like to offer in this posting some considerations before deciding on the school climate survey for your school or district.

Read More

Topics: school climate, assessment, assessment and 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

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

Character Resource Roundup: How Do I Assess School Climate?

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

Principle 11 is a very important part of the 11 Principles of Effective Education, but it is often seen as a daunting aspect of the process.

Let's take a closer look at 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 be overwhelming, but it is important to remember, they really are worth the effortl.

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. Below you'll find some helpful reads for getting started and tools you can use to make the assessment process more manageable.

Read More

Topics: school climate, Character Resource Roundup

Remembering Columbine

Posted by Dave Keller on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 @ 16:04 PM

Remembering Columbine

by Dr. Dave Keller, Character.org

Today marks the 16th anniversary of the horrific Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado.  On April 20, 1999, the world watched in unspeakable horror as Columbine students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered twelve fellow students and a teacher --- and wounded 23 others --- before both committing suicide. 

In many ways, it is hard to fathom that it has been 16 years since that awful day.  It still seems far too fresh and all-too-sadly relevant. 

In the years since then, there have been several other ghastly incidents of school violence and tragedy across America and the world. Each of these heinous events impacted local communities and national consciences.  The collective pain of these events impacts each of us in real and tangible ways, often on a daily basis.

Read More

Topics: school climate, school safety

Starting Your Character Education Journey

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Wed, Jan 14, 2015 @ 11:01 AM


By Becky Sipos

For me, the New Year always brings an attitude of fresh start along with a reflection on accomplishments or disappointments of the past year. Pick up any magazine and you can see the imperatives: Lose 10 pounds in two weeks, plan more nutritious meals, get fit in only 15-minutes a day and so on.  

For schools, the imperatives usually revolve around better classroom management, helping low-achieving students to be more successful, getting all faculty onboard with positive school goals, or meeting state and federal testing requirements.

The trouble with most New Year’s resolutions is that the adopters are often looking for a quick fix. Unfortunately, neither losing weight nor transforming school culture is a quick fix, but both are worthy goals.

For educators looking to change their school culture, Character.org’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education offers guidelines for an effective program. But teachers sometimes think they are designed to be a step-by-step recipe beginning with #1 and progressing through step #11. But really, you can start with any principle. If you are looking to jump start your character education journey this year, here are four suggestions for ways to get started now.

Read More

Topics: character education, school climate, leadership, what works in education, teacher development

School Safety Summit Recap: Part 1

Posted by Rob McManamy on Fri, Nov 8, 2013 @ 07:11 AM

Part 1 of a blog reporting on CEP’s 2013 National School Safety Summit on Oct. 24. The summit included presentations and discussions which largely fell into two broad categories: preventing violence with improved school climate and engagement, and crisis management responses to active situations of violence. Look for the second part on crisis management and active shooter situations in coming days.

School safety promoted by engaging students, parents and promoting dialogue

Meeting in the wake of yet another school shooting—this one in Sparks, NV—speakers and attendees at CEP’s first-ever School Safety Summit Oct. 24 in Washington, D.C., rallied around the ideas of  greater student engagement, wider community involvement and more robust support from the federal government.

Dr. Michele Borba, the first speaker at the summit, said school safety is not only about preparing for a crisis—it’s about creating a safe school climate where bullying is reduced and students trust faculty and staff. Since most school shooters tell someone (usually a peer) before the event, creating trusting relationships with adults and mechanisms for students to anonymously report threats can make huge strides in preventing a tragedy.

Read More

Topics: character education, school climate, Borba Michele, school safety, school shootings

Q. What can schools do to keep students safe?

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Nov 4, 2013 @ 20:11 PM

From the 2013 NSOC magazine: Edited by Joseph Mazzola with permission of the authors

In the wake of too many school shooting tragedies, we at CEP know that educators and parents in every school community are looking for solutions that work, so we posed this question to several national experts, and here is what they had to say.

A. From studying thousands of schools, we know that many students feel very unsafe.
We also know that educators and parents underestimate how unsafe the students feel. There are many experiences—individual, interpersonal, and organizationally—that can contribute to students feeling and/or being unsafe. And there is not a simple or single solution to this very complex problem. Short term curriculum and programs do not typically make a difference. However, there are some school-wide processes, as well as teaching strategies and one-on-one methods, which can lead to students feeling and being safer in schools. Here are some that align perfectly with CEP’s Eleven Principles of Effective Character Education and our Center’s school climate reform efforts.

Read More

Topics: school climate, school safety, school shootings, community of character