Reminders and statements of core ethical
and performance values are visible
throughout the school community.
Core values are visible everywhere—in the school’s documents and website and throughout the building itself.
The school has defined what the core values “look like” and “sound like” in terms of behavior.
Staff, students, and parents can identify the core values and recognize their importance.
The district incorporates core values in its community and public relations efforts.
The district establishes core values as part of its public documents and policies and promotes a school community with a commitment to excellence and ethics.
In National Schools of Character, staff and students do not regard core values as high-sounding words that appear in seldom-read documents; they consider them as living, breathing entities that define the school community. HOW these schools are able to achieve this feat is no easy task. It requires an intentional effort to make certain that staff, students, and parents see, hear, and act on the values many times during the school day. A district’s role is even more complex since it has an obligation not only to promote its core values in its documents and public relations, but also to energize the entire community with a commitment to observe them in daily life.
WHERE should we see a school’s core values?
Documents, such as the school’s mission and vision statements, letters to the parents
School website with examples of the values in action
School Discipline Code and Forms
PTA News, Meeting Agendas
Coaches’ Code of Conduct
School Mascot, Song*
Visual and Verbal Reminders throughout the Building, such as Murals and Posters*
Students’ Reflective Writing on Bulletin Boards**
Student Behavioral Descriptions: “Respect means…”*
WHY does collaboration promote the practice of the core values?
Schools or districts that have been highly collaborative and inclusive in identifying the values find that this spirit of teamwork also helps more people to internalize the values. By taking an active role in designing mission or vision statements as well as other visual reminders, the school community finds it easier to understand and to embrace the values.
HOW do you know if the staff, students, and parents can recognize the values and their importance?
The obvious way to find out if everyone can name and explain the values is to conduct random interviews in the halls, the cafeteria, and the playground. Focus groups of a particular segment of the population also give insight. However, the degree to which the school is actually practicing them can be seen through climate surveys, reporting of disciplinary infractions, bullying reports, classroom observations, teacher evaluations, and service-learning projects.
WHAT is the role of a district in publicizing the values?
A district should avoid doing “top-down” management of the character process; rather, it acts as the umbrella organization, the parent who supports the identified core values in its documents, website, letters to parents and the community, and public addresses.
In some districts, all schools observe the core values as explicitly written; in others, the schools use the district’s core values as the underlying framework but are free to use their own creative approaches in implementing them.
In terms of promoting the values, a district should do everything that a school does, but MORE:
Not only is it responsible for training of all personnel in the core values and the orientation of new hires, but also it must arrange for meetings of a District Character Education Committee.
Principles 2 through 11 detail a district’s multi-layered roles in providing a central site for character education information and curricula, and arranging for the progress assessment of the character initiative.
As the champion for service-learning, good sportsmanship, and academic integrity, the district must make sure that its schools follow through on these commitments.
Since the district serves as the real bridge to the wider community, its public addresses and its annual reports should accent some of these aspects, showcasing the correlation of academic growth with character building.
WHAT are some examples of how a
school or district can promote core values?
Rockwood School District
Rockwood School District in Eureka, Missouri, has been in the business of building character since 1998, became a National District of Character in 2006 and re-certified in 2016. When asked how a district guiding over 21,000 students housed in 31 different schools and spanning 151 square miles has been so successful in building character, a teacher responded, “We run this district like a family and not like a business.” Although its nine core values date back to 1998, Rockwood keeps them alive by encouraging each school to develop them creatively, in keeping with the needs of the school. Rockwood has built character education into its goals, professional training, curriculum, individual school improvement plans, hiring process, evaluations, curricula, and service-learning projects.
La Cima, a public charter school located in the heart of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York uses the motivational slogan, “Climb High,” to spur its 400 “scholars” to practice the C.A.R.E. principles of community, accountability, reconciliation, and effective effort. Vibrant, over-sized canvasses with the Climb High message adorn the entrances to the music rooms, the business office, and the hallways. Parents have no difficulty understanding the school’s approach to building character, for the school’s website clearly states: The C.A.R.E. principles are reinforced in several contexts; daily in classroom C.A.R.E. circles led by teachers and scholars, in a weekly grade-wide community meeting and in monthly all-school community meetings…scholars are asked to demonstrate exemplary behavior representing the principle and value of the month.
Sometimes students become very excited about making posters and designing t-shirts about the core values. How can we steer them to the idea that practicing the values is the most important thing?
Our school has been honoring a “Student of the Month” who exhibits the identified core value and giving prizes to the “winner.” Shouldn’t we discourage this extrinsic motivation? How can we do it without quenching the enthusiasm that it has engendered?
Many of our high school students act wildly at our sports pep rallies. What is an effective way of encouraging respect at these events?
Check for Understanding
1. Your district has just added a category on class climate to the teacher classroom evaluation form. Some teachers are livid, claiming it is all due to this “character education” thing that the high school is adapting. You are the chair of the high school Character Education Committee. What do you think would be a wise course in this situation?
2. Your school has chosen integrity as one of your core values. The kids don’t seem to know what it is. What are some ways of helping them understand it and practice it ?