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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Topics: school climate, assessment, Reflection

3 Ways to Assess School Climate & Character

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

At 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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

A Virtues-Based Community: More than just a Dream

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Oct 7, 2013 @ 07:10 AM

By Dr. Raquel Castrodad
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” – William Arthur Ward

The quote from what is a brilliant ad slogan, “Just Do it!,” should be the guiding light and starting point of this voyage towards achieving a virtues-based community. It was for us. We are just a rural school in the middle of a little island, but we had big dreams (and now have even bigger dreams). Stephen Butler Leacock may have said it best when he said, “It may be that those who do most, dream most.”

The attainment of a virtues-based community requires a vision, a plan, the will, and the courage to act. The vision begins. As the possibilities are explored, the vision expands. The journey has begun. It truly is as simple as that! “Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.” said James Allen.

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Topics: character, character education, school climate, character education in curriculum, National School of Character, National Forum, CEPForum13, community of character, virtues

Adventures in Student Teaching: My First Day at School (Take One & Two)

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Thu, Oct 3, 2013 @ 08:10 AM

First in a series--how a new student teacher tries to implement character education based on her experience attending a National School of Character before entering college.

With nervous energy and excitement, I arrived at the elementary school where I planned to begin my student teaching. It was superintendent’s conference day, and I was taking the opportunity to get a lay of the land. I walked into the second grade classroom and I could not find it. The heart of an elementary school classroom, it was missing. There wasn’t a carpet or a rug, or even a patch of open floor where the students could congregate around an easel or board. There were only desks. They were laid out in a U shape, with two rows in the center. I couldn’t imagine an effective way to facilitate discussion in this set up. Perhaps I was overly critical, after my professor had assigned us to read McKenna’s “Uncovering the Lessons of Classroom Furniture,” but I couldn’t shake the feeling that building a sense of community in this business-like room would be quite difficult.

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Topics: character, character education, school climate, student voice, teachers, student teaching

Extra Early Bird Promotion Discount Ends Soon!

Posted by Jesse Marble on Fri, Jul 12, 2013 @ 09:07 AM

 

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Topics: Forum Speakers, school climate, promising practices, school safety, National School of Character, National Forum, international summit

Empathy: To lead is to listen and to learn

Posted by Mark Hyatt on Thu, Jul 4, 2013 @ 14:07 PM

Thank goodness my wife opened my eyes to the importance of empathy before I became a father and a school leader. To be honest, for the first half of my life, I was so driven to achieve the task at hand that I struggled to understand why some people just couldn’t show up, get to work and do what they had to do. By definition, “empathy” is accurately understanding what another person is feeling.  If we understand the content of what the other person is saying, but cannot correctly identify the emotion that person is feeling, then we are not demonstrating empathy and we are not even aware of our deficiency. 

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Topics: CEPLeaders, role models, Forum Speakers, school climate, parent involvement, president's post, moral character, core values, National Forum, empathy

Reducing School Violence by Teaching Empathy

Posted by Sweta Haldar on Tue, Feb 26, 2013 @ 11:02 AM


By Ed DeRoche

"If your emotional abilities aren't in hand, if you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.
" -  Professor Daniel Goleman

Over the past month, we have had informal discussions at the Center about violence from bullying to bullets.  Teachers and parents, given the events of the past few months, seem to be struggling to find ways and resources to help their children be more in touch with their feelings and concerns about what happens to themselves and others.  Thus, I want to say a few words about empathy.

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Topics: character education, school climate, school safety, core values

Tips from the Trenches: Student Services

Posted by Sweta Haldar on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 @ 10:02 AM


By Dr. Stephen Sroka
During the last few months, I have had the chance to talk with several speakers who strongly affected their audiences. I started to think about the remarkable leaders with whom I have worked over the years and how they have made huge differences with their incredible wisdom, insights, and actions. I contacted some of them and asked them to comment on working in education in these difficult times. I asked them to share some take-away messages, things that if they were speaking, they would want their audience to remember.

Students are more than grade-point averages. Often they are faced with many barriers to effective education. Dealing with the whole child, and not just the academic child, can help  facilitate learning. Safe and healthy students learn more. Here are some "Tips from the Trenches" about the value of supporting students.

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Topics: school climate, school safety, testing, bullying advice

Tips from the Trenches: School Safety

Posted by Sweta Haldar on Tue, Feb 5, 2013 @ 12:02 PM


By Dr. Stephen Sroka
During the last few months, I have had the chance to talk with several speakers who strongly affected their audiences. I started to think about the remarkable leaders with whom I have worked over the years and how they have made huge differences with their incredible wisdom, insights, and actions. I contacted some of them and asked them to comment on working in education in these difficult times. I asked them to share some take-away messages, things that if they were speaking, they would want their audience to remember.

School safety was a front page story following the tragic shooting deaths of 28 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Students need a  safe school to learn. Most of these "Tips from the Trenches" regarding school safety were written before the Connecticut shootings.

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Topics: school climate, school safety

Committing to the Sandy Hook Promise

Posted by Sweta Haldar on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 @ 17:01 PM

 By Russell J. Sojourner, Ph.D

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Topics: school climate, school safety, resiliency, school shooting

Are You A Cathedral Builder or a Stone Chipper?

Posted by Adam Williams on Fri, Nov 2, 2012 @ 12:11 PM

Scott Taylor gave an outstanding keynote address this morning, using a mix of humor, entertainment, and experiences to share the importance of building strong relationships and maintaining positivity in schools. Principal Taylor shared stories from his own experience, and it’s clear that Principal Taylor practices what he preaches. Every day, he roams the halls of his school to spread positivity, and goes out of his way to let students know he cares. He checks in to every class, every day. He humorously wears 100 ties on the 100th day of class. And on Fridays, “Mr. T” raps about character. “I tell you what,” he said, after sharing an illustrative rap with this mornings audience, “you can teach a lot about character when you talk fast and rap!.” 

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Topics: character, character education, Forum Speakers, school climate, CEP2012

Back to School, Back to Social Garbage

Posted by Annie Fox on Fri, Aug 24, 2012 @ 17:08 PM

The following first appeared on Annie Fox's blog and she has graciously allowed us to share it. We are so thrilled that she joined us at our 19th National Forum on Character Education this year! Thanks, Annie!

So, summer’s winding down. I broke my arm, but at least I was enjoying a bike ride when it happened. Hopefully you didn’t have that kind of break. Instead, I hope you and your kids shared some quality, unplugged time and reconnected, as a family.

If school hasn’t already resumed in your community, it will soon. On the plus side, that means your children start a new chapter with new opportunities to learn and grow, academically, creatively and socially. A positive attitude from you goes a long way in easing any of the kids’ nervousness or anxiety about the new school year.

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Topics: school climate, parent involvement, student voice, bullying advice

From Classroom Rules to Class Promises

Posted by Dara Feldman on Tue, Aug 14, 2012 @ 12:08 PM

My last year as a classroom teacher, I finally got it! Making a list of rules, even if they were written in a positive way, was not the way to start the year off right.

At the kindergarten parent meeting, which was held the day before school started, I read the book Inch and Miles to the parents and guardians of my incoming kindergarteners. Inch and Miles is Coach John Wooden’s "Success Pyramid for Kids." I then asked the adults to describe what success in kindergarten would like for their child. Instead of talking about learning to read or to do math, they said things such as, their child would be excited to come to school (Enthusiasm), they would do their best work (Excellence) and they would play well with others (Cooperation).

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Topics: school climate, student voice, core values, teachable moments

'Bully'-- It’s Time to Stop Talking!

Posted by Joe Mazzola on Fri, Apr 27, 2012 @ 09:04 AM

Last Friday I had the honor of representing CEP at a special White House screening of the movie, Bully.  The movie is heart-wrenching.  When it was over, I felt sad, disappointed, emotionally drained and angry.  I can remember thinking to myself, “My gosh, how in the world can we as a nation allow this sort of thing to happen?  Aren’t we better than that?”

Bully, in the end, is really a graphic depiction of a breakdown of good character in many ways—on the part of the bullies, the bystanders, and even some school administrators and teachers.  It’s also a sad reflection on our culture—we as human beings.  After the film, several parents and students who were in the film spoke, along with the director, the Secretary of Education, the Sr. Advisor to the President and the Superintendent of Schools for Sioux City, Iowa, who showed great courage in opening up his school system for taping.

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Topics: CEPLeaders, school climate, bullying advice

Member of Post-Columbine Generation Reflects on School Shooting

Posted by Carol Dreibelbis on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 @ 16:02 PM

Monday, February 28th brought us news of another school shooting—this time in Chardon, OH. The entire country has been rocked by this violent act that killed three students and injured two others. This is news that we hope to never hear again.

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Topics: school climate, Education News, student voice

Resistance to Character Education

Posted by Sarah Twardock on Tue, Feb 7, 2012 @ 16:02 PM

The mere mention of the words “character education” inevitably sparks resistance among certain populations.

If my students don’t get certain test scores, my job is in jeopardy, asserts the overworked teacher. I don’t have time to teach math AND character.

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Topics: character education, school climate, what works in education

Attending the Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools annual conference

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Thu, Aug 11, 2011 @ 17:08 PM

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

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Topics: Character Education News, school climate, character education in curriculum, Office of Safe and Drug Free schools

International Comparisons

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Tue, Jun 7, 2011 @ 17:06 PM

We’ve all been hearing about great educational systems of nations such as Finland and Japan. If you haven’t yet seen “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” unveiled recently at an event attended by Secretary Duncan, John Merrow’s blog post provides a succinct summary of insights and a link to the report itself.

It’s worth taking a look at what these countries are doing to see if we can learn from them. If these countries don’t debate school choice, teacher accountability, or high-stakes testing, why do we? Will all of our interventions and measurements really make our students achieve more? Perhaps Merrow is right to point to our divergent state policies and lack of support or respect for teachers as weak areas of our educational system.

Even so, that leaves us with the question, “What do we focus on right now?”

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Topics: school climate, parent involvement, Education News, leadership, National School of Character, international education, community of character

Ways to Celebrate Our Teachers

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Tue, May 3, 2011 @ 17:05 PM

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day. What is your school doing to honor the hard work of its teachers? While some schools stretch out their celebrations throughout the full length of Teacher Appreciation Week with breakfasts and other recognition activities, other schools seem to let the day pass without any acknowledgment of any kind. Just take a look at some of the comments here (May 1st post) and here (May 1st post).

If you could come up with your own way to acknowledge the hard work of all of our teachers, school leaders, and the faculty and staff as a whole, what would you do?

Here's one idea that was recognized as a 2010 Promising Practice.

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Topics: character education, school climate, leadership, core values, teachers, community of character

Bullying in Schools: A Strategic Solution

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Jan 24, 2011 @ 18:01 PM

Written by Joseph W. Mazzola President & CEO Character Education Partnership

Bullying in our nation’s schools is rampant.

Consider the following data points from the 2010 Federal Bullying Prevention Summit: every day, 160,000 students stay home out of fear of getting bullied at school; 1 in 3 students will be bullied this year (about 18M young people); 75-80% of all students observe bullying; and, depending on definition, 15-35% of students are victims of cyber-bullying.

Fortunately, our elected officials and others are now taking bold action. To their credit, for example, 43 states have passed anti-bullying legislation. 

I had the honor of representing CEP at the Summit. The key takeaways were: (1) bullying in schools is widespread; (2) the ramifications are very serious; (3) we need to learn more through research; (4) several government agencies are truly committed to taking this issue on; (5) policies and definitions need attention and clarity; (6) there are 67 programs that claim to combat bullying; (7) none of them has been shown to be effective through research; and (8) there is no simple, silver bullet solution.

As with all complex and chronic problems in our schools, narrowly focused intervention strategies typically fail to make a lasting impact. Zero tolerance policies, hallway posters and such all sound very good in theory. There is no doubt that they are also implemented by well-meaning people who really do want to make things better. However, according to many experts, such measures are shallow in nature and thus fail to achieve their intended purpose, especially over the long haul.

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Topics: character education, school climate, character education in curriculum, discipline, National School of Character, bullying advice