George Lucas Educational Foundation

Character Education Research and Results

Character Education Research and Results

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The Character Education Partnership ( selects schools annually that are really committed to comprehensive, effective character education. These are our National Schools of Character. For 2012 we have selected 24 schools and one school district. ( We choose these schools based on how well they exemplify each of our 11 Principles of Effective Character Education. While many people say that character education can't be measured, we have developed guideposts that schools can use to plan and evaluate their character education programs. Here's what we learned from our 2011 National Schools of Character: •Bullying is rare (Principles 3 and 4: The school uses a comprehensive, intentional, and proactive approach to character development; the school creates a caring community) 87% of students attending 2011 NSOC reported in climate surveys that they felt safe school or that bullying was rare (with 27 of the 44 NSOC reporting data in this category). Eldridge Park Elementary School: 100% of 3rd graders report feeling safe at school in exit polls. Fuguitt Elementary School: 98% of students report feeling safe at school Mark Twain Elementary School: The school reports an 85% reduction in incidents of bullying over the past 6 years. Union Elementary School: 93% of students surveyed say they have never been bullied. •Cheating and discipline problems decline (Principle 1: The school community promotes core ethical and performance values as the foundation of good character) 89% of the 2011 NSOC that reported disciplinary referrals either experienced declines in that area or had rates that were extremely low. 90% of the 2011 NSOC that reported suspensions either experienced declines or had rates that were extremely low. Bingham Farms Elementary School: After-school detentions have been completely eliminated. Brigantine Elementary School: There have been no out-of-school suspensions in the last two years, compared to a state average of 4% Duffy Elementary School: From 2000-01 to 2010-11, suspensions decreased 95% (from 22 to 1). •Test scores, grades, and homework completion go up (Principle 6: The school offers a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners, develops their character, and helps them to succeed) Most of the 2011 NSOC made AYP. Only 22% of the public schools recognized as 2011 NSOC did not make AYP in 2009-10, compared to 38% nationwide. 100% of the 2011 NSOC reporting experienced an increase in state reading and math scores – or have passing rates above 90%. Roosevelt Primary School (72% economically disadvantaged): 89% met state reading standards and 97% met state math standards in 2010, compared to rates of 52% and 46% in 2004. Joseph A. Catena School: In the first two marking periods of 2010-11, more than 75% of students in grades 3-5 earned honors distinctions. •Attendance and graduation rates are high (Principle 7: The school fosters students' self-motivation) The average attendance rate at the 2011 NSOC was 95%, compared to 92.1% nationwide. Two of the three 2011 National High Schools of Character reported graduation rates above 90% (95.9% and 98.5%). The third school, with a free and reduced lunch population of 73%, reported a graduation rate of 75%. The 2011 National District of Character, Fort Bend Independent School District, with nearly one-third of its students considered economically disadvantaged, reported a high school completion rate of 94%. At Fox Middle School, the number of D and F grades dropped from 898 in 2004-05 to 199 in 2009-10. •Dropout rates are low (Principle 7 also) In the 2011 National District of Character, Ft. Bend ISD, the dropout rate for 2009-10 was 1.1%, despite having a student population with 30.9% considered economically disadvantaged and 43% identified as being at risk. •Achievement gaps are narrowed (Principles 6 and 7) In the large, diverse 2011 National District of Character, Fort Bend Independent School District, the percentage of students passing state math tests increased from 66% in 2003 to 87% in 2010. During this period, the percentage of African-American, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students passing state math tests increased by 33 points. District officials report that the achievement gap is “shrinking on all assessments.” Walnut Street School (over 90% minority, 45% economically disadvantaged): Named New York High Performing / Gap Closing School; has met or exceeded AYP every year; mean proficiency rates since 2005: 82% in language arts; 95% in math; 99% in science; 98% in social studies. Mark Twain Elementary School: Named a Blue Ribbon School; scores in reading and math have advanced from the 30th to the 80th percentiles. Oakwood Elementary School: The percentage of African American students passing state math tests soared from 56% in 2005-06 to 79% in 2009-10; the corresponding figure for Hispanic students increased from 40% to 100%. During this same period, the percentage of students passing state reading tests rose from 56% to 72% for African American students, and from 40% to 75% for Hispanic students. South Brunswick High School has narrowed the achievement gap in language arts, with 91% of African American students, 90% of Latino students, and 92% of economically disadvantaged students passing state tests. •Teacher retention and satisfaction are high (Principles 8 and 9: The school staff is an ethical learning community that shares responsibility for character education and adheres to the same core values that guide the students; the school fosters shared leadership and long-range support of the character education initiative) Brigantine Elementary School: No new hires in over 6 years. Renfro Elementary School: 2010 staff surveys indicate that 89% of staff feel intrinsically rewarded for doing their job well and 93% feel they belong. •Parent satisfaction and engagement rates are high (Principle 10: The school engages families and community members as partners in the character-building effort) Bayless Elementary School (43% minority, 61% economically disadvantaged): Through the school’s Practical Parenting Partnership, parents are recruited and trained, and become active participants in school events that educate other parents on parenting skills and the importance of academics while engaging families in interesting and lively activities. Uthoff Valley Elementary School: 100% of parents participate in teacher conferences, thanks to the school’s arranging for transportation and scheduling phone chats when necessary. Oakhurst Elementary School: Volunteers logged a total of 5,400 volunteer hours during the 2009-10 school year, exceeding the district average. •Student engagement and involvement is high (Principles 2 and 5: The school defines "character" comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing; the school provides students with opportunities for moral action) Nearly 100% of the students attending 2011 NSOC participated in service learning projects. Alan B. Shepard Jr. Elementary School: When a survey revealed an increase in student anxiety in regard to test-taking, students took the lead in resolving the concern. They investigated the issue, wrote skits, created a TV broadcast on strategies to reduce anxiety, and shared their findings with the student body. Muskogee High School has over 40 student groups and organizations. Participation in the Advocacy Program grew from 150 students in 2008-09 to over 1,000 students in 2010-11.

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Hifi's picture
Character Education Researcher and Critic

In other words, the criteria could be met by random factors coming together - having nothing to do with character or character education in these schools.

Hifi's picture
Character Education Researcher and Critic

The bolded text after each bullet point. Nothing ties any of those numbers to character or character education. Random effects, arbitrary recognition.

Character Education Partnership's picture
Character Education Partnership
Leading a National Call to Character

Actually, the effects are related to the school's intentional commitment to character education. The results happen year after year in school after school, and the only thing that has changed at these schools is their commitment to developing character in their students through the 11 Principles of Effective Character Education. Please review it when you get a chance: As you will see from the description of this free publication, we have developed quality standards, which provide clear metrics for schools to determine their level of success for each principle. The principles relate to students succeeding academically, treating each other respectfully, and engagement from the community, among others.

The fact that these schools are seeing improvement in the students' performance and moral character year after year after purposefully pursuing these principles is neither random nor arbitrary.

Please take a look at our website and YouTube channel for more evidence that character education truly does make a difference and helps students develop good character.

Hifi's picture
Character Education Researcher and Critic

I'm familiar with the 11 CEP principles, and the 6 pillars and the 8 values, and the 31 traits, etc. etc. This in itself, makes the whole thing ludicrous.

The correlations you point to aren't scientific validation. In fact, there are no scientific studies to back your claims.

However, October 2010, a federal study, the largest and most thorough ever conducted, found that school-wide Character Education programs produce exactly ZERO improvements in student behavior or academic performance.

It's no surprise. Just take a look at the lists of values and goals of the dozens of competing CE offerings. The lack of agreement between the lists is one of the most damning aspects of character education! It also becomes obvious that the majority of the values follow a conservative agenda, concerned with conformity, submitting to authority, not making a fuss...

One thing all these programs do agree on is what values are NOT included on their lists of core values. Not found, even though they are fundamental to the history and success of our nation are such noted values as independence, calculated risk, ingenuity, curiosity, critical thinking, skepticism, and even moderation. "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!" the famous saying by Ms. Frizzle on the much celebrated TV show, The Magic School Bus, embodies values that would be antithetical to those found in today's character education.

Matthew Wilson's picture
Matthew Wilson
High school math teacher in Los Angeles, CA

Initiatives like this do so much damage to our public education system. Not because character education isn't important - it certainly is - but these 11 principles are education 101. Pretty much every school in America implements these principles as best they can with whatever resources they have.

I'm not trying to criticize what you do or the services you provide. I just believe that all of us need to pause and consider the message we are unintentionally delivering. When anyone who is concerned with but not directly involved in education reads studies like this the logical implication is that these principles aren't the norm - and that the problem with education stems from a core of educators and administrators that don't really care about their students.

Promoting ethics, morals, self-confidence/self-esteem while providing a rigorous, challenging curriculum isn't as simple as reading a pamphlet and attending PD for teachers who teach 40+ students per class - especially when more than half of those students are 1-6 years below grade level, have no parent support and are homeless or work a 3rd shift job to help support their single mother and siblings.

We need to remember that a lack of character in our young people is not the cause of our problems, it is merely a symptom.

sushma sharma's picture
sushma sharma
Lecturer Govt Girls School Jabalpur India

Schooling is a word that contains every thing.From habits ,beliefs, opinions up to soft skills like humor and flexibility.I think if we teach every thing folded with subject content then the schooling is worth.It is a kind of mold that shapes the human beings and wise teacher chisels it.So school is a comprehensive phenomena.

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