Principle 11 Overview

PRINCIPLE 11:

The school assesses its implementation of character education, its culture and climate, and the character growth of students on a regular basis.

Baseball great, Yogi Berra, once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” This may sound somewhat silly at first glance, but it rings with truth. Schools must identify what they hope to improve or change through character education and monitor progress continuously.

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Assessing Implementation

Character education programs are easy to implement, but implementing character is a different story. Character is deeply personal and based in relationships and how people treat one another. Mandating character is like mandating love, which is why top-down, mandated character educator programs can be ineffective. Before a staff can assess the implementation of character education, each staff member must acknowledge their own interactions with others and reflect on their own character.

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Culture vs. Climate

These words are often used interchangeably by schools, businesses, and organizations and while both are important, they are different.

The climate of the school represents the attitudes of people in the school. A school’s climate will often fluctuate due to situations that can improve overall perceptions and/or create negativity. For example, you can predict how school climate changes following a salary freeze for all faculty and staff positions.

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Culture, on the other hand, is a deeper description of a school. It is based in shared beliefs, agreed upon values, and like-minded philosophies of stakeholders. Culture has been called the school’s personality. When a school has a reputation for being excellent or dismal, it is often the culture that is being identified.

Character Growth

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It can be intimidating for some educators to assess character because it is subjective; but, in truth, many academic assignments are as well. Because character education is not a hard science, it is imperative that schools know exactly what they hope to achieve through character education and assess goals regularly. It is also critical that students and parents understand what good character is, the meaning of the school’s core values, and how the school expects all stakeholders to demonstrate good character. While it may be challenging to measure, few would argue that it is obvious when a school’s culture is defined by good character and just as obvious when good character is never addressed.

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School Examples

Self-Reflection Questions

What is your school’s culture and climate like? Have you surveyed your stakeholders about the culture and climate? What is the next step you are going to take to improve your culture and climate and further embed the teaching of character?

In what ways do you assess your character initiative? How do you know your plan is working? What adjustments have you made when your plan was not working? What are your next steps to drive the teaching of character further into the school culture?

Which of the 11 Principles is your greatest strength? Which of the 11 Principles do you need to work on? What plan will you create to improve? Who will be involved?

Check for Understanding

The Character Committee at Jefferson Elementary School just implemented the 11 Principles of Effective Character Education. They just read Principle 11 and are trying to understand what they need to do. Which of the following items need to be assessed on a regular basis on their journey toward becoming a certified School of Character?

Research that Supports Principle 11

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“Because a positive school culture is central to student success and holistic school transformation, we must help all schools acquire the tools needed to develop and assess such cultures.”

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“It is most important that school climate be evaluated in an ongoing manner with measurement tools that have been developed in a scientifically sound manner.”

School Climate: Research, Policy, Practice, and Teacher Education, by Jonathan Cohen, Elizabeth McCabe, Nicholas Michelli, Terry Pickeral

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Authored by Amy Johnston, Ed.D.

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