SCHOOLS OF CHARACTER
Center For The 4ths and 5th Rs
The National Schools of Character Program is not a competition—but rather an opportunity to receive feedback as well as recognition for growth and excellence in the area of character development. Applicants will find tremendous benefits of the schools of character process.
Schools gain insights into what high-quality character education looks like in schools, helping them to improve and strengthen their own programs. Schools have the opportunity to reflect on their practices and programs and assess their level of implementation against a recognized standard of excellence. Schools receive guidance, feedback, and recognition. All schools that apply and are determined to have met a standard of excellence are recognized as National Schools of Character and are helped to create a plan for outreach to others.
National Schools of Character: NSOC hold their designation for 3 years. 4TH & 5TH RS showcases the NSOC in an annual publication and on its website. NSOC receive press coverage and have the right to use the NSOC name and logo. 4TH & 5TH RS honors the NSOC at its various international Forum on Character Education and assists them with their outreach efforts.
Preparing to Apply
In the months prior to completing your application, you will want to assemble a team that will collect and reflect upon the relevant data and information. Doing so will not only enable you to put together an excellent application; it will give you a snapshot of where you are on your character journey and where you want to go.
11 Principles Stakeholder Self-Assessment
Assemble a group of knowledgeable stakeholders that includes staff, parents, and students (if appropriate). This group can be an existing leadership group such as a school improvement team or character education committee or it can be specially formed to lead the school through the NSOC application process. The stakeholder group should assess your school or district’s character education initiative using the revised 11 Principles of Effective Character Education. The Scoring Guide can be found on the back inside cover of the 11 Principles document. An Excel score sheet that automatically calculates your scores is also available. You will be asked to submit the average scores of your self-assessment as part of the Application Papers. If your school community has not yet selected core values, this group should determine a process for doing so and begin that process.
During the application process, you will be asked how you know that your character education efforts have had an impact on your school culture and climate. The best evidence you can provide is climate survey data. Your school may already give climate surveys each year. If not, be sure to conduct a climate survey of students, staff, and parents prior to submitting your application.
During the application process, you will be asked to demonstrate the impact of your character initiative on student behavior and academic achievement. Gather data on attendance, disciplinary referrals and infractions, suspensions, test scores or other measures of academic achievement, performance of at-risk students, drop-out rates, and graduation rates as well as rates of college attendance (if applicable).
Principle 11 is your opportunity to make a persuasive case that your school has thoughtfully implemented character education. To demonstrate positive and significant results, be prepared to provide specific qualitative and quantitative evidence such as full data and analysis from climate surveys and other measurements. Plan to use numbers, not percentages, when reporting changes in student behavior (such as referrals or suspensions). Your narrative and supporting artifacts should clearly demonstrate that your community has gathered data, reflected upon it, and then acted as needed.
Implementation of the 11 Principles
You will be asked to explain how your character education initiative exemplifies the 11 Principles. Brainstorm responses to the following questions:
1. What are your character education goals?
Define your school’s view of character education and the values your school community has agreed upon. Describe your philosophical approach, and explain what your character education initiative is trying to accomplish. Explain why you are doing what you are doing. Citing the texts, publications, or experts that have influenced your initiative helps evaluators understand your philosophy.
2. What is special about your school? In what ways is your school a model for others?
Explain what is special about your accomplishments in character education. What feature of your initiative would 4TH & 5TH RS want to hold up as a model of exemplary implementation of the 11 Principles?
3. How are you implementing character education?
Describe your accomplishments in each of the 11 Principles. Note that each principle has three or four “scoring items.” Include specific, illustrative examples and insert artifacts that address the scoring items. Keep in mind that to receive a score of 4 on an item, you must show evidence of all the key indicators of exemplary practice described under each scoring item. Refer to the 11 Principles document.
Tip: Many NSOC in the US report that their teams used the following strategy. They put large sheets of newsprint around the room – one for each of the 11 Principles. They then asked each member of their broad stakeholder group to write activities or strategies that they knew were happening in the school that fit under each of the principles. This method of brainstorming gave the application writers a list of possible strategies to write about for each principle.
Gather artifacts that will amplify and support your claims. Examples include: Data on positive behavioral or academic change, School climate survey results, Mission statements and school mottos, Examples of student work or student reflections, Lesson plans or assignments that integrate character education into the curriculum, and Documentation of staff development or staff meetings
Tip: Limit the use of photos.
Additional Information to Gather
If your school has previously applied, include and identify the changes that you have made since the last application in your narrative. If you see your school as a leader in helping others schools with their character education efforts or if you have outreach plans, describe your leadership efforts in Principle 9. Be aware that evaluators may look at your website to see whether it reflects your character education initiative. Schools gain insights into what high-quality character education looks like in schools, helping them to improve and strengthen their own programs. Schools have the opportunity to reflect on their practices and programs and assess their level of implementation against a recognized standard of excellence. Schools receive guidance, feedback, and recognition. All schools that apply and are determined to have met a standard of excellence are recognized as National Schools of Character and are helped to create a plan for outreach to others.