Character Education Ideas for Middle Schools
Sixty-four Suggestions for Teachers and Administrators
- Identify levels of virtuous conduct and plan for virtue. Look for specific virtues amongst goals and objectives when planning lessons and extra-curricular activities; post clearly labeled good, bad, and indifferent examples of conduct from the curriculum and from student work.
- Read about virtue. Does the library have a good supply of character-related materials and books? Teachers should use these materials and integrate them into their classroom.
- Emphasize the relevance of virtue. Stress the connection between virtue and adult success; that is, the success of both prominent citizens and honorable adults from the community.
- Praise virtue by identifying a weekly or monthly virtue (such as loyalty, honesty, respect, kindness, etc.). Teachers and the class can clearly define its meaning and appropriate behaviors can be described and role models can be identified. Students can be encouraged to practice the appropriate behaviors and the classroom or library can display relevant books and stories.
- Honor virtue by ensuring that school or class newspapers or correspondence with parents properly praises the virtues displayed by individual or groups of students. For example, teachers can ask that student conduct on field trips be appraised by the place(s) they visit and that appreciation notes from "hosts" be mailed back to the school and communicated.
- Praise and/or correct students in terms of their virtuous behavior. Select a student(s) of the week or month and post a classroom display showing exactly what virtue(s) the pupil(s) displayed. Institute a Character Honor Roll.
- Praise virtue and denounce wrongdoing. Regularly discuss in class those examples of positive and disrupting behavior mentioned in local or national media and evaluate the effects of those behaviors. Stress simple, non-political examples and post clippings on a bulletin board.
- Encourage the pursuit of virtue. Have students keep diaries with a focus on their own behavior and pursuit of virtue. Adopt a policy of privacy for these diaries.
- Recognize and reward virtue. Make virtuous behavior equivalent to academic achievement in recognizing students for weekly, monthly or end of year awards. Hold regular informal ceremonies, such as breakfast with the principal, for students, their parents and teachers to recognize such behaviors. Use the media to praise virtuous behavior in their broadcasts and transmit news releases to them about pupil achievements, especially those regarding student character.
- Strengthen school-home ties by requiring teachers to make home visits or phone calls to each new student's parent(s).
- Keep parents informed through notes, phone calls, newsletters and meetings emphasizing that you want them to be promptly informed about their children's progress and behavior.
- Heighten group loyalty. Symbolize your school or classroom community with a logo or motto and a school song.
- Strengthen the school community by organizing the school program so that students have increased and more intense contact with a limited group of faculty and pupils. For example, elementary teachers can move through several years with the same students; middle school and high school teachers can teach the same subjects (e.g., algebra, geometry, algebra II, etc.) to the same group of students over successive years.
- Treat patriotism seriously. For example, the flag salute should be conducted as a brief, respectful, on-time and daily ceremony.
- Strengthen student ties to their community by having older students mentor younger ones and by having all students perform community service. Upper elementary students can read to younger children; high school students can help elementary students with sports activities and homework, etc. All students can perform helping activities in their communities by visiting a nursing home, painting over graffiti, etc.
- Enjoy each others' company by ensuring that each school as an effective social committee to increase sociability amongst the faculty.
- Give character a priority in school planning. Provide time at staff and administrative meetings for regular discussion of character-related issues and policies. Write and educational philosophy in clear and comprehensible language articulating the character and academic goals of your school and disseminate it to parents and students.
- Evaluate student character formation, and re-assess policies if necessary, through such activities as conduct at assemblies, politeness towards school visitors, levels of theft and vandalism, levels of involvement in extracurricular activities, number of discipline referrals, and treatment of students with disabilities. Document character progress on student report cards.
- Communicate about character. Evaluate the school and classroom(s) formal communication system for character related themes.
- Hire faculty and staff who care about character. Principals and others making hiring decisions should identify traits of for-character teachers; for example, those willing and able to handle extracurricular activities and those with a commitment to improving pupil character formation.
- Lead by example by picking up trash, using appropriate language in class, speaking respectfully of colleagues and maintaining a professional demeanor in behavior and dress.
- Heighten faculty consciousness about morality by using moral terminology, e.g., "we have a responsibility to...", "my neglect led him to...". Admit mistakes and offer to correct them and encourage students to do the same. It is difficult to practice a virtue or principle when lacking a vocabulary for expressing it.
- Maintain order. Have a faculty committee, perhaps with student and parent input, annually review and recommend revisions in the school discipline and dress codes, and expectations for behavior in the school and on school grounds.
- Establish a dress code covering unacceptable clothing or offensive logos on clothing, hair length and earrings for boys, hats or caps worn in class. Schools may wish to consider a uniform dress for all students.
- Make student conduct relevant. To the extent legally possible, develop and maintain records which identify notably good and bad student conduct which will remain as part of the student's permanent record.
- Constrain classroom interruption by the PA system.
- Test school discipline. Do students feel safe in school bathrooms? Are they kept clean?
- Stimulate diligence by ensuring that your grading system invites even the best students to perform well by improving their work.
- Show the relevance of immediate learning to future life roles by inviting employers/parents with related jobs to talk to students about connection between school subjects and job success. These adults should also discuss the job-related benefits of appropriate attitudes such as good work attitude, diligence, courtesy, literacy, neatness.
- Encourage diligence by adopting a classroom monitoring system of rewards and sanctions to back up homework requirements and tardies. Follow up on problem students by direct contact with parents. Emphasize students' moral responsibility to work hard at school.
- Celebrate learning by holding a formal, celebratory opening of the school year. In some countries the school year begins with a parade and students bring flowers to teachers. In other countries the whole society has a set aside day to honor teachers. In our country, by contrast, students are seen on local news programs bemoaning the end of a long summer vacation.
- Use graduations to motivate lower grade students. Most graduations are only for graduates, their relatives and friends. But some schools hold two successive ceremonies, the second ceremony to inspire continuing students to want to improve so that they too can continue their schooling.
- Foster respect for heroes by having students write papers on real people they admire and why. These heroes can come from personal contact, the media or formal reading.
- Honor those who have achieved in the past by contributions to the nation, the state or the local community. Collect portraits and other memorabilia of your school's namesake or other prominent local citizens along with clear texts describing why they are honored.
- Study important people from history to acquire a sense of justice and compassion or of greed and cruelty learned through such study.
- Study heroes, but don't confuse celebrity with virtue.
- Use alumni as role models and bring back those who have led successful lives as citizens, workers or parents. Display photographs of graduates who have won significant awards for heroism or contributions to their fields. Such displays enrich the tradition of the school.
- Memorialize the present by encouraging students and faculty to do things worthy of memorialization and chronicle those actions on a prominent school display case and in a permanent scrapbook.
- Encourage teamwork. Teach students about competitions, helping them see when it is valuable and when it is not.
- Recruit students from local universities or community colleges, many of which encourage service learning for their students, to help improve the school's sports program or to mentor students.
- Teach good sportsmanship by defining what it means and explaining its relevance. Hold students accountable for proper conduct in athletic events. Have coaches draft a code of conduct for participants and themselves.
- Analyze your classroom or school ceremonial life by holding frequent, well designed and varied ceremonies that support the character goals of each class or the whole school.
- Open and close school assemblies with a flair--colorguards marching to the stage, or an appropriate song. Some elementary schools have the high school band open their significant ceremonies.
- Use art and music to promote virtue by displaying prints of historic people or inspiring proverbs to decorate classrooms or halls and having the school band learn and play patriotic music at assemblies.
- Use music that can be shared, and sung, unlike most rock music of today. One important function of music is to channel the emotions and shape the soul, important functions of education as well.
- Build community spirit and pride by having students, teachers and administrators assist in keeping the school grounds clean. Don't use this community responsibility as punishment or leave it only to the school custodian, but make it a responsibility of all students.
- Encourage reflection by starting each day, or each class, with a brief period of silence.
- Teach ethical reflection by encouraging students, when controversies arise, to get the facts, discuss issues with others, weigh the evidence, and make a decision.
- Practice empathy by teaching students to understand and interpret the conduct and attitudes of others and to appreciate others' hardships and disadvantages.
- Foster gratitude by having students write thank-you notes to former teachers or others they should be grateful to, such as bus drivers, custodians, school board members, parents, administrators or community members who have volunteered time or money to the school. Hold "Thank You" occasions for those special people.
- Explicitly teach social skills such as learning that feedback is essential to success and how to give and take criticism.
- Teach commitment by providing varied activities such as an instrumental music program, intra-mural sports, school newspaper, extracurricular academic group projects, school helpers where students are both encouraged to participate and subject to higher expectations, and establish a no-quit policy after the first week or two.
- Suppress wrongdoing by establishing simple, unpleasant, means of deprivation. Though students may be involved in the formation of their classroom rules, they should not be responsible for monitoring and maintaining classroom order.
- To be effective, punishment for disruptive behavior must be clearly disliked by students. Though they must not be perceived as cruel, punishment must deter.
- Foster kindness by activities such as assigning an older students to mentor younger ones, or otherwise defining ways students can help each other.
- Teach thrift and money management by soliciting the help of a local bank to establish a school bank.
- Maintain justice by suppressing student efforts to scapegoat other pupils.
- Teach courtesy by having students and teachers greet each other by name each morning.
- Teach responsibility by holding students accountable for completion of homework, returning books on time to the library.
- Discourage drinking. Help students form a Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) chapter.
- Make sex education wholesome. Emphasize chastity, and if applicable, the concept of secondary virginity. Teach it to single-sex groups.
- Do not discriminate against religion by selecting textbooks and readings that ignore the very real role played throughout the history of America by religious leaders such as the Pilgrims in the 17th century and Martin Luther King in the 20th.
- Always remember that conflicts not settled fairly erode the moral sense of the school.
- Always remember that work is one of the basic ways to affect the lives of others. Academics and character go hand-in-hand. High standards are expected in each or both will fail.
Promising Practices from the 2011 Virtues and Character Award Winning Schools
(Excerpts from the applications)
Edison Computech School (782 students; 7th - 8th grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93706
Principal: Jeremy Ward
Computech’s goals for character education include helping students become responsible, productive citizens in their school and neighborhood communities. This goal is enhance when students feel like they are an integral part of their environment.
Classes [at Computech] begin with a schoolwide pledge of allegiance as a way of promoting patriotism and citizenship. Throughout the day, teachers greet students as they walk the halls between classes and enter the classrooms. Respectful interaction between students and their peers and between students and adults is modeled and expected.
As a result of our participation in the district’s Safe and Civil program, we have made a concerted effort to promote positive behaviors that improve the atmosphere and the safety of the campus. At the beginning of the school year and again at the beginning of the second semester, students watch short videos demonstrating appropriate behavior in the hallways, in the cafeteria and in the bathrooms. Videos also focus on the negative results of cheating or tardiness and the positive results of respectful personal interactions. These videos are made by the students at Computech for the students at Computech. One video is shown each morning for one week. Each day, members of the faculty discuss the video with their classes and reinforce the message. As a result, we have noticed a dramatic improvement in behaviors both outside and inside the classroom.
Another practice of character education infused in our program is the earning of spirit points. Spirit points are awarded to first period classes resulting in a reward each semester for the winning class. Points are given weekly or wearing school colors on spirit day and given quarterly for club membership, playing on a sports team, and earning at least a 3.0 grade point average. Spirit point also can be earned by participating in special Friday activities and in games at rallies. The purpose of spirit points is to offer a way for students to be more involved and connected to school. Students who feel that they are a part of their school community do better in school and have a more positive self-image.
Every day of the week during the lunch period, there are activities available for student participation. These activities include physical activities musical activities, game rooms, drama and academic help. The activities offer safe places for students to spend time and give students a chance to become active participants in the school. Mondays are “Music Madness Mondays”. Various types of music, from appropriate present day to period music, are played in the quad. Tuesdays and Thursdays offer a game room where students can play board games, card games, dominoes, etc. There are classrooms open on these days where students can get help in math, English or history. Tuesday is also the day the chess club meets to learn more moves or to participate in tournaments. Wednesdays offer cooperative team activities. Every Friday the leadership class organizes a fun, competitive activity for students to participate in and earn spirit points for their first period class.
Some examples of how teachers encourage the development of good character can be seen in Core classes. In some of the 8th grade Core classes students are involved in the “Pay It Forward” project. Students are asked to do something for someone that is completely unexpected. Once completed they write a reflection on the circumstances they helped out with, how they felt after doing the unexpected helpful act, and what reaction they got from the people receiving the help. They also write personal letters of appreciation to someone close and deliver them.
Another project involves writing biographical book reports. Students read a book about a notable American. They then write a report about how this person exemplified the six character traits of Character Counts! and compare their own character to the person in the book. Also, students study children’s literature and determine the message conveyed by the story. They then write their own children’s books, bind them, and donate them to an elementary school in eastern Kentucky for use in the first and second grade classrooms. Seventh grade Core classes also infuse their curriculum with the discovery and analysis of good character. This is done through the evaluation of characters in literature and historical figures in their study of history. Resiliency of great historical figures is noted with discussions about what aided their success and greatness.
Our sports teams promote “Victory With honor”. Students are taught good sportsmanship, integrity, and the importance of congratulating your opponent after a game well played. The coaches encourage the development of problem-solving abilities, teamwork, and integrity, which are all qualities necessary to be a successful and productive person. After each game, the student athletes vote for a student on the opposing team who exemplifies the traits of good character through good sportsmanship. This allows the students to look for examples of good character within their peer groups and gives them something for which to strive.
Community service is another way character education is reinforced and is seen in a variety of ways at Computech. Service comes in acquiring donations of time money, and products. An example of a project that supports non-profit organizations through financial donations is Pennies for Patients. Students collect money to donate for leukemia and lymphoma research. Donations of time and donations of products come in many other forms.
Green Acres Middle School ((1,178 students; 7th - 8th grades)
Visalia Unified School District, Visalia, CA 93291
Principal: Angela Sanchez
The staff at Green Acres Middle School believes that developing character of students involves:
- Student success must be based on a partnership between home, school, and community.
- Student learning is directly linked to high expectations of students, staff and parents.
- Developing student character is essential to our democratic society.
- Each student must receive a core curriculum and technology based instruction. Additional assistance during or after school is essential for student success.
- A strong extracurricular and elective program is needed to promote the development of the well-rounded student.
- To continue to improve our school, we must strive to be innovative in our educational approach and practices.• People, as well as programs, make the difference in quality education. This is Green Acres strength.
- Students who are connected to their future do well in school.
Green Acres Middle School has developed its’ character education program through the establishment of a CHARACTER COUNTS! committee and a site coordinator, assistant principal Adriane Ashford. A site handbook has been developed to give background on the Six Pillars of Character, an in-depth description of each pillar, and suggestion on how teachers may incorporate the six pillars into curricular lessons. Our program is reviewed and monitored for progress by our staff committee and Student Leadership class, as well as our parent/teacher/student organization.
One of our Principal’s daily public address (P.A.) slogans is “Students of Character, Work Hard, Get Involved, and Do the Right Thing. Based on the Six Pillars of CHARACTER COUNTS!, these core values are displayed in every classroom and throughout the campus. They serve as daily reminders and guidelines for conduct at our school.
Green Acres character education program features a teacher handbook that is used to develop lessons into the core curriculum. Each of the Six Pillars of Character is developed and discussed throughout the year. While many lessons are given orally over the public address system, teachers use their CHARACTER COUNTS! handbook to expand and incorporate character traits into their daily lessons. Teachers may use the stories and situations found in weekly lessons as classroom free topics in their English classes.
To also recognize, as part of the already established Student of the Month program, teachers may nominate students who best emulate the character pillar of the month. Each month a CHARACTER COUNTS! pillar trait is highlighted, then the staff nominates students for recognition at the school wide “Student of the Month Breakfast”.
A school must be equipped with services that provide for a safe and caring learning environment. This effort at Green Acres stems from the strong counseling department and the various issues that arise during the course of a middle school day. Such topics as friendship problems, not getting along with parents, grieving, and violence are addressed through this department. In addition to the counseling efforts the entire Green Acres staff have support the anti-bullying program and participate in a program called W.E.B. – Where Everybody Belongs. These support systems result in a staff promoting equity and students practicing caring and respect for others.
It takes a sincere staff, that is not only trained, but one that models fairness, caring and respect for students in order to achieve a secure learning environment.
Besides our annual Christmas canned food drive, the students participate in a Thanksgiving food drive, and a gift exchange sponsored by one of our many clubs, Christians on Campus. Our students participate with and are recognized annually by our community service clubs for student achievement and service (Kiwanis and Rotary). Each year an area veteran is asked to participate in our school wide Memorial Day assembly. This assembly helps students understand the personal meaning of Memorial Day, and the contributions our military throughout history. International Week is also a highlight of the year that features various cultural groups and food contests on campus to promote an understanding of all facets of our community.
Green Acres Middle School is a 7-8 school in Visalia, California. It has a student population of 1178 students. 63% are Hispanic, 25% White, 6% Asian, and 3% African American. With this diverse student population, we derive our school motto – “Diversity is our Strength”. Our character education program has been active for the last fourteen years and we believe we are reaping the benefits on a daily basis. Our average attendance is 95% and our suspension rate is down. More importantly, we continue to see our students treat each other with civility and respect. A major contributor to this trend has been our participation in the Partnership for Character Education Program (PCEP) Federal Grant and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.
Rafer Johnson Jr. High School (456 students; 7th – 8th grades)
Kingsburg Elementary Charter District, Kingsburg, CA 93631
Principal: Ruben Diaz
We believe that Character Education teaches students to work together for the good of a common goal. Seven years ago our administration, staff, and School Site Council chose to adopt the Character Counts program and the six core ethical values: Respect, Responsibility, Caring, Citizenship, Fairness, and Trustworthiness. We continue to acknowledge good student behavior and citizenship by rewarding those individuals who exemplify these positive characteristics on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. Along with the School Site Council, our staff and administration agreed to adopt the Six Pillars of Character and Rafer Johnson’s motto “Be the best that you can be” as our core value. Our gym displays six banners, each representing one of the six traits of character (see attached). Character Counts posters are visible in every classroom, office and library. The Essential 55 (“Never settle for less than your best”) posters are also prominently displayed in classrooms. All of these are a daily reminder to students and faculty that our school believes in an atmosphere of positive attributes.
This year our school adopted a program sponsored by Fresno County Office of Education called Rachel’s Challenge. We held a school-wide assembly in September where every student heard the positive message of how to honor one another and recognize acts of kindness. The theme emphasized by the parents of Rachel Scott, the first student killed at Columbine, was “You just might start a chain reaction.” After the program we trained 36 seventh grade and 32 eighth grade students, who are involved in a leadership role of some type on campus, on how to be a positive influence in people’s lives. These students are now part of the Chain Link Club, and helped organize “Mix it up Day” in November. Prior to the assembly our entire school participated in daily lessons for five days. Lessons included, “Connection to Character” messages, and reading and responding to “My Ethics, My Code of Life” essay written by Rachel Scott. Students had discussions on how good character is formed, and completed lessons on respect, choices in life, and taking the initiative to do what is right.
Three years ago we adopted the Safe School Ambassador Program by recognizing the importance of having students provide leadership in setting the emotional climate on campus. This program helps to harness the power of positive student influence to make our campus a more safe and nurturing place. Ambassadors were part of organizing “Mix It up Day”. This nationally recognized day is where students were randomly organized into groups, not normally part of their social group, to help build student relationships. Each group had questions for students to answer, promoting conversation and acceptance of one another.
Teachers continually model fairness equity, good ethics and positive character traits. Writings and discussion of good character traits follow the English Language Arts (ELA) frameworks. The ELA department follows State Standards by teaching autobiographical writings of current or historical persons who exhibit positive character traits. Classes read a biography on Harriet Tubman, which elicits many discussions of fairness and responsibility that Harriet took on as the Conductor of the Underground Railroad. Students have a better understanding of what people have gone through for the freedom that we take advantage of today. Class discussions are frequent and reflect the six pillars of character. Cause and effect discussions in class, along with assignments, help reinforce healthy student behaviors and good decision-making skills. Problem solving discussions, that emphasize cooperation and sharing, rather than competing, help promote social development. Our ELA classes use ethical standards by having students define a character trait in writing poetry. Students also analyze a character’s transformation, write essays discussing positive attributes of successful students, and write narratives demonstrating qualities of characters and how they interact, create, conflict and transform.
Citizenship and responsibility are emphasized daily through classroom instruction. The Math framework states the curriculum is to “create and maintain a classroom environment that fosters a genuine understanding and confidence in all students…”. The importance of honesty on test taking is emphasized along with the respect of each other’s personal space, time, and need for working in a quiet environment.
Rafer Johnson teachers promote social development and group cohesion in various ways. Our Drama class role-plays different scenarios regarding various social situations, helping students learn positive ways of handling different group dynamics. The Yearbook class teaches media and print ethics along with proper work and job ethics which students are expected to use while composing the school yearbook.
In Science, students are learning the basic tools of courtesy that pave the way for success in any field of endeavor. Students practice shaking hands, looking someone in the eye, and giving a greeting upon entering class each day. During class students are asked to evaluate their own work first before turning it in so they develop the judgment skills necessary to produce quality work. Students work with partners and are coached in body language signals that encourage active participation and reflect active listening—all life skills that will be useful to them as adults. Students also learn teamwork in the laboratory by designing a lab group name using consensus techniques.
Our History classes emphasize character development by studying the character traits of past presidents. Discussions take place regarding slavery, wars, and women’s suffrage. Other discussions focus on the development of our nation’s values compared to those of other countries.
Our library/computer lab infuses character education and group cohesion by featuring monthly themes. Poetry Month, and Black History Month help students recognize and accept possible differences in each other.
Rafer Johnson Jr. High provides students opportunities for moral action in many meaningful ways. Students can be involved in various athletic teams after school, where fairness, teamwork and respect are emphasized. The P.E. curriculum is organized to meet the needs of all students by stressing fairness, honesty, teamwork and respect of others on a daily basis. Students are involved in goal setting activities, and self-asses their own academic and behavioral growth. By learning different cultural dances, such as Serbian, Greek American & Israeli, students learn an appreciation of different ethnical backgrounds & customs.
Since 2007 RJJH has implemented several new programs. Our 23 Safe School Ambassadors (SSA) are trained to help recognize and intervene when they see acts of bullying on campus. Records show that the SSA program has a positive impact on the attitudes of many students and the culture of our school. Two years ago we began the “Torch Award” program where students are honored each month for good citizenship as part of our Character Counts program. To earn a “Torch Award” students must “go above and beyond the basic standard” of showing good citizenship. The last three years we have hosted the “Champions for Today” assembly for our entire student body. The assembly features former NFL athletes who are trained to address life’s issues. They discuss the importance of character and values, helping students make positive life changes. They talk about the importance of values such as honesty, caring and responsibility while explaining how they have been able to overcome problems in their lives through their personal experiences.
Kings Canyon Middle School (890 students; 7th – 8th grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93727
Principal: Clark Mello
Kings Canyon Middle School is a diverse campus in southeast Fresno. A review of the school demographics give indication of the challenge: 100% of students eligible for Free/Reduced lunch; approximately 30% of students designated as English Learners; an ethnically diverse student population of Hispanic and Hmong, combined with smaller populations of African-American, Laotian and Anglo groups. With these challenges, the entire staff of the school considers it our obligation and our opportunity to serve as a positive influence in the development of young people who will possess academic skills as well as social and moral competence.
In 2004, the school developed and implemented character education guidelines known as E5, or the Essential Five Behaviors, based on the book The Essential 55 by Ron Clark. The E5 code has become an important facet of the educational process for students and teachers alike at the school and has given rise to additional closely aligned efforts to address character and individual responsibility. The code offers students five simple personal standards:
- When you are in public, act in a polite manner
- Always obey and respect your teachers and other adults
- Take care of the school
- Don’t be a bully and don’t tolerate bullying by others
- If you know something bad is going on, tell an adult
- In the years immediately following the introduction of E5, the suspension rate was reduced by 10% and the expulsion rate was reduced by 66%. During the current school year, Kings Canyon is on track to reduce suspensions by as much as an additional 50% over the previous year.
In 2008, Kings Canyon Middle School joined other Fresno Unified schools in a professional development effort titled Safe & Civil Schools. The committee integrated the new with the existing work and became known as the “E5 Alliance Team”.
At selected intervals during the year, all Kings Canyon teachers teach E5 lessons in their classrooms. The original lessons provided by the E5 Alliance Team have been taught regularly for the past two years to address basic student needs such as personal courtesy, honesty, bullying prevention and care for the school environment. In 2010-11 the lessons were supplemented with additional topics to address other common daily school topics such as hallway behavior, the importance of homework and acceptable use policies for electronic devices.
In 2008, Kings Canyon Middle School implemented a continuing program known as “E5 Agents”. In this effort, students are selected and then trained in means to empower others with positive behaviors. Students are taught how to counsel peers, intervene peacefully in potential conflicts and encourage good decision-making. In this way, the E5 Agents influence the behavior of others throughout the school day. It is also significant that the E5 Agents accept their roles and responsibilities without public recognition or promise of reward. These students accept the task for intrinsic satisfaction, the knowledge they are doing something important and the reward of being involved with positive adult role models.
The importance of a safe and inviting learning environment is actively promoted. Through the E5 code, students are encouraged to “Take care of the school”. Members of the Student Leadership class regularly decorate the school with encouraging posters; glass display cases have been added to the central hallway to highlight student work and achievements; landscaping has been added throughout the campus. Student volunteers participate in recycling efforts.
During the 2009/10 school year, students originated the idea to fund raise for a local elementary school that had lost their playground equipment in a fire. Students raised approximately $1000 to donate to the elementary school. During the summer of 2010, staff and student volunteers partnered with community faith-based organizations to plant needed shade trees on athletic fields and finish other campus landscaping projects. In addition, Kings Canyon students participate, or have participated, in other charity efforts including Pennies for Patients (cancer fundraising), relief to a school damaged by Hurricane Katrina, relief to Haitian earthquake victims, holiday food donations and visitations to community elder care facilities.
Live Oak Middle School (738 students; 6th – 8th grades)
Tulare City School District, Tulare, CA 93274
Principal: Tracey Jenkins
Our character education program is born out of concern for the Six Pillars of Character: Respect, Responsibility, Trustworthiness, Caring, Fairness, and Citizenship. These attributes originate from the national CHARACTER COUNTS! Office founded by Michael Josephson. His philosophy and framework for public school character education is built on the premise that character development comes from core ethical values that transcend political, cultural, socioeconomic and religious differences.
Every day begins with morning announcements that include a reminder of being people of good character. It is a way to start the day right thinking about how to spend the time we have. Live Oak Middle School supports students value of academics and good character through the curriculum and additional strategies such as student requested academic counseling, use of technology, monitoring attendance and grades, and high school, college and career planning. Additionally, all students on the honor roll are awarded an Academic Card of Excellence three times a year.
To ensure our staff is addressing all levels of students through equity and caring qualities, we provide two intervention class periods where the educator as well as a classroom aide provide daily mentoring both socially and academically, to a group of fragile students. The beginning of the school year, 160 students composed of 7th and 8th grade AVUD and Leadership students received Effective Teens Leadership in Action Training from the Premier Company. This student achievement workshop uses Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens to assist teens in developing their personal leadership skills.
Student needs are realized and addressed from the beginning of the educational experience on the Live Oak campus. Resource teachers, special education teachers, as well as the counselor, school nurse and administrator monitor every incoming Grizzly. Special academic placement is made for both at-risk and high achieving students to ensure accommodations’ are arranged for the particular needs of the student. Second Step, a violence prevention education program, is provided by all sixth grade teachers. As an extension of this process the school counselor uses this curriculum in small group counseling, and in training 6th through 8th graders as Peer Mediators to help provide conflict resolution.
Students are encouraged to grow socially, emotionally and physically through many activities that take place on the Live oak campus. Student Council members elected by their peers organize “Say Yes to Life” (anti-drug and alcohol) activities during Red Ribbon Week and throughout the year. They promote school spirit though noontime activities and dress-up days.
The WEB program is an eighth grade mentoring program where the WEB Leaders work throughout the school year with seventh grade students as well as with students trained in Peer Mediation to help the sixth, seventh and eighth grade students resolve conflicts. The student WEB Team, under the guidance of the school counselor, develops and hosts an end of summer seventh grade WEB Grizzly Social. At this event, incoming seventh grade students are introduced to their WEB Leader, play get-to-know-you games in small groups, learn dances, take school ours, and learn how to become a successful Grizzly. This promotes inclusion, caring, respect and good citizenship.
To expose our students to the importance of service learning and giving back to your community, the Live oak student body donates toys for less fortunate children in Tulare through the Toys for Kids program sponsored by the Tulare Police Department. They also organize an annual canned food drive. Further, for the last nine years, students at Live oak have created the Tulare Activity Directory as a Service learning project. The directory catalogs every club and event available to young people in the community and is used by many agencies throughout Tulare.
Since receiving the Virtues and Character Recognition Award in 2009, some program changes have been put into place at Live Oak Middle School. We are keenly aware of our needs in the area of character development and are committed to the task of improvement. Some of our efforts for enhancing character development include:
- Family Initiatives project (FIP), a new parent-training program initiated this year to support parent education and become successful role models for their children.
- Live Oak is a Six-year GEAR-Up middle school “On the Move” for 2010-2011.
Los Tules Middle School (637 students; 6th – 8th grades)
Tulare City School District, Tulare, CA
Principal: Gary Yentes
As our school mission declares, we are a school community where character is of utmost importance in developing the social and moral conscience of our students. Los Tules, though only eight years old, has presented itself as a leading middle school in California! 2010 Academic Performance Index of 743 has revealed an upper 10% ranking of the 18 middle schools in Tulare County. The rigorous academic program offered by a highly-qualified staff sets in motion the tone of a campus that not only holds academics in high regard for each individual child, yet also focuses on social and character development as these scholars continue their path into adulthood.
The CHARACTER COUNTS! Framework provides our school with the resources and character education goals for TEACHING our students character development. The six core ethical values are referred to through behavioral expectations as well as the curriculum alignment throughout the day. Along with teaching our students the difference between right and wrong, it is essential that our staff ENFORCE the thoughts and actions we expect through recognition and praise as well as discourage the bad behavior by imposing fair and consistent consequences. A complete character development cannot exist without ADVOCATING for character and encourage students to live up to the six pillars of character. Our students are referred to as scholars – our expectations are high and uncompromising when it comes to moral conduct. Lastly, we cannot expect our scholars to live up to these standards and walk alone. As Los Tules Middle School Staff, we dedicate ourselves to character development through MODELING these six pillars of character even when it is difficult. Current measurement of such an effort is brought to us by the participation of the Federal Partnership in Character Education Program through the Tulare County Office of Education. As a result, we have developed an implementation plan that includes the outlined TEAM approach for character development goals. Through this implementation plan components to monitor progress of stated character education goals are in place through pre and post surveys, focus groups and anecdotal stories shared by our school community.
Each morning begins with Ms. Avia LT’s (Los Tules) Vice Principal, speaking to the students on the importance of being an LT scholar, yet a respectful member of the LT community. The school day begins with not only the flag salute, but the Character Counts pledge. Students understand the core principals of Character Counts and the staff continually reinforces the core standards. This sense of individual and school pride encompasses all academic and social functions held at Los Tules. To capture this moment of intrinsic advocacy, one can observe the morning announcements and know that at the time of saluting our American flag everyone whether in the classroom or walking across campus will stop – set their eyes on the school flag pole – hand over heart and pledge their allegiance to their country. For the message of respecting self, others and their country is unequivocally an expectation for the LT community.
Teaching of these core ethical values exists through direct curriculum alignment from the art class where expression of these values is created through a collaborative assignment. This assignment enforces the need for LT scholars to apply these definitions of respecting others, working together, and doing your part in order to create the final art piece displayed on the art room walls. Other examples of curriculum alignment are evidenced through various genres in Language Arts. To extend a more intense focus of support for students, Los Tules has 54 students that are currently enrolled in AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) classes. Ms. Berg and Ms. Garcia have had extensive training in assisting our teens in the development of their personal leadership and academic goals. The 8th grade AVID uses Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, to help students set and evaluate their goals.
The classroom day further emphasizes the importance of teaching character development through the elective program at Los Tules. A Leadership Wheel was created for an elective class in the 2010-2011 school year. This trimester-long class was designed to promote additional opportunities for students to discover ways to make good choices within and outside the school community.
Enforcing good character is often the most exciting part of a school’s environment. For Los Tules, this is no exception. Enter into the multipurpose room at the beginning of a student recognition assembly and you will delighted to hear upbeat music, students and staff greeting each other and see that honoring others is an important ingredient in life that can be fun and respectful all at the same time. Each month each staff members choose students to be recognized at a monthly assembly based on their character and academic accomplishments and attendance. Our intent is to enforce and reward the exemplary character of LT scholars and build the confidence of those who are making the efforts to live a life of integrity.
Ensuring a secure, safe and caring learning environment involves all staff, students and parents of the Los Tules Middle School community. Modeling the pillar of citizenship is evident when you see that the classrooms are clean and orderly and provide a safe learning environment reflective of student work and current curriculum. We have a school cafeteria that provides students with a breakfast and lunch program and is used as a multipurpose facility for large-scale programs and meetings. The school library provides students with supplemental reading materials and provides additional educational resources. The school grounds are kept clean and well maintained for student play, recreation, and athletic activities. Our school community takes pride in our well-maintained buildings and landscaping.
Teaching students to serve is a very important concept at Los Tules Middle School. Volunteering and helping others not only exists on our LT campus, but is also an extension into our larger community. During the past four years Los Tules has selected the Madera Children’s Hospital as their focus for service learning. Proceeds of items sold on campus such as school supplies of pencils, erasers, and school snacks such as beef jerky are dedicated to annual fundraising. Spring fundraising concludes with the Kid’s Day Newspaper Sales. To date, Los Tules students have contributed over $10,000 dollars to various charities.
Since winning the Bonner CHARACTER COUNTS! Award two years ago… we continue to honor scholars of character at our monthly Student of the Month Assemblies. Instead of teachers choosing an outstanding student from any of the pillars of character, we emphasize a pillar each month and teachers then choose a student from their class that most closely identify with that pillar. We also have added the Monthly Responsibility Certificate to our Student of the Month assemblies. Students are recognized if they have completed all their classroom work and homework for the month. Twice a year we also give out certificates for Honor Roll.
Alice G. Mulcahy Middle School (660 students; 5th – 8th Grades)
Tulare City School District, Tulare, CA 93274
Principal: Terri Slover
Named after long‐time Tulare educator, Mrs. Alice G. Mulcahy, our school is dedicated to the principles of hard work, honesty, and community service‐‐all hallmarks of Mrs. Mulcahy and her family. Our school motto: “Proud, Tough, Determined” represents members of our school community, past and present, who are proud of their family and school, tough enough to do what is right, and determined to be successful in life. We believe that our motto not only describes what a Mulcahy student is all about but also acts as the bridge to character education. The adoption of the CHARACTER COUNTS! philosophy and strategies meets our character education goals by complimenting the qualities of our students and the core values held by the Mulcahy family, and fostered by our school since 1958.
The teaching of character development begins prior to the first day of school where members of the school community including parents, students and the staff participate in an orientation assembly. School policies, student behaviors, and responsibilities are discussed. The core ethical values are used as a model for expected student behavior. Academic school planners are given to every student. The planners contain information supporting our character development program and are used as a tool to promote responsibility.
Enforcing core ethical values can be found throughout the campus in the form of a variety of visuals. Posters are displayed in every classroom depicting the Six Pillars of Character with descriptive phrases reinforcing behaviors. All rooms display signage that further supports strong ethical development through the “Big Three” (Proud, Tough, Determined) and The “Fantastic Four” (Dignity, Class, Poise, and Respect). Advocating for the character development of our students and informing the school community about the superior work being accomplished takes place through positive school-community activities, which occur each trimester. Activities include: Academic Awards, Academic Showcases, and Athletic Award. Additional annual activities include College Awareness Week, College: Making It Happen Night, and Cool Night. Continuing the TEAM approach, all students receive an introduction to the Six Pillars of Character during the months of August and September. In October, after conducting a school-wide review, each student constructs a Thinking Map that is tailored to reinforcing their understanding of the core ethical values found within CHARACTER COUNTS! At the conclusion of this school-wide activity, all students who have successfully completed their assignment are invited (along with their parents) to attend the annual CHARACTER COUNTS! BBQ and Dance. Ultimately, our goal is that through this activity, students embrace the virtues of the program early on and that they conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the Six Pillars of Character. We believe however, the most powerful method in which to foster the true meaning of the Pillars is to provide students with the opportunity to observe and model ethical behavior on a daily basis. Our teacher-based, advisor/advisee program, has allowed for students and staff to develop a stronger relationship with each other. Teachers have become mentors and, as such, powerful models of strong ethical behavior.
Keeping character development a priority for our school community requires continual monitoring of our progress. …we experienced a sharp decrease in suspensions and an attendance ratio over 96%. We have had numerous parents at our awards recognition assemblies for Honor Roll, CST performance, and Kids of Character awards sponsored by the Tulare County Office of Education. In addition to classroom instruction, we take advantage of every opportunity to recognize and enforce the behaviors of students that are consistent with the pillars of character:
- CHARACTER COUNTS! Trimester Student of the Month
- Tulare Advance Register – “Job Well Done”
- Stallions of the Month
- Tulare County “Kids of Character”
- Caught Being Good – Positive Notice Postcards
- Official Member Mulcahy Pride T-Shirts
- Graduation Recognition
- Mulcahy Merit Raffle
Since 1994, Mulcahy has become a major contributor to Children’s Hospital of Central California, having sold over 50,000 special edition “Kid’s Day” newspapers. Mulcahy students routinely volunteer to participate in civic service activities and make charitable contributions. Students and staff work together organizing and collecting food items to be donated to local aid agencies. Students also participate in “bell-ringing” for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season. Staff and students are proud of the fact that Mulcahy has been recognized as the top K-8 school participant in “bell-ringing” citywide for the past seven years. Mulcahy has the prestigious honor of being an AVID School Certified with Distinction. As a Nationally Recognized Program, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teaches students how to prepare for college. Through AVID, the Mulcahy staff has focused on peer tutoring to develop a stronger sense of community, both academically and socially. It is our belief that by utilizing peer tutoring, we are able to teach our students the value of working collaboratively, making personal connections with members of the community, and capitalizing on our own personal strengths. CHARACTER COUNTS! has provided our school with a powerful program, which serves to enhance and strengthen the core ethical values and characteristics of the members of our school community. Last year, the Student Council inducted an individual(s) into its CHARACTER COUNTS! Hall of Fame. The inductee represented the qualities of citizenship and community service so valued by Mrs. Mulcahy. This award continues to serve as an inspiration and a challenge to our students to continue their efforts to strengthen their character
Scandinavian Middle School (615 students; 7th – 8th grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93726
Principal: Julie Goorabian-Raley
The mission of Scandinavian Middle School is proficiency for all students in each subject area, and development of strong character. We are committed to the Fresno Unified District Goals: All students will excel in reading, writing, and math; All students will engage in arts, activities, and athletics; All students will demonstrate the character and competencies for workplace success; and all students will stay in school on target to graduate.
In 2007 Scandinavian Middle School opened our doors to incoming 7th grade students with the WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) Program for the first time in FUSD. Scandinavian’s WEB Program has become a model for FUSD. WEB is a national middle school transition program that helps incoming students feel more comfortable, connect with an eighth grade leader, and develop a positive attitude toward their new campus. It is built on the belief that students want to and can help other students succeed. The goals of this program are to increase student attendance, build strong character, and improve academic performance for all students. Positive results are evident. Scandinavian students are empowered to take ownership of their campus by not only hearing and seeing the possibilities but leading them. Other student leadership opportunities that promote caring, respect, responsibility, and good citizenship include Scandinavian Student Council, Peer Mediators, and The Interact Student Service Leadership Club sponsored through the East Fresno Rotary.
The Scandinavian Middle School culture and climate has been transformed by students taking ownership of their school and their education through experiences and opportunities that promote core ethical values and academic excellence in a safe, nurturing environment. Student achievement results, based on GPA, have shown significant improvement and we have experienced a significant decrease in suspensions, office referrals, and student conflicts on campus.
- Peer Mediation-- The Peer Mediation Program has emerged as a focal point in providing a secure and caring environment for students at Scandinavian Middle School. Students involved in a dispute agree to sit down with trained student peer mediators and work through the process of reconciliation, in a systematic, calm manner.
- Warrior Buck Program-- The program was started to provide incentives for students to make correct and conscience choices in life. The students are rewarded with “Warrior Bucks” for providing a good deed on campus.
- Sports-- The Scandinavian Middle School sports program follows the concept of TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More). Students are encouraged to become involved from the moment they are escorted around campus as sixth graders. Through their athletic experience, students gain valuable lessons, which build their character. They learn to respect everyone associated with the game, no matter how small or large their contribution and to play by the rules and be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. They also come to understand that perseverance, self-discipline and accepting responsibility are essential for success.
- AVID-- Advancement Via Independent Determination (AVID) was designed for implementation at the middle school level to support students who have the potential to attend college. AVID targets the population of students who begin at average performance and lack support systems and mentors to advance academically and socially. The AVID program reinforces the six pillars of character through direct instruction, group interaction, and extension activities. Activities such as student leadership presentations, fieldtrips and tutorials reinforce and teach responsibility, trustworthiness, integrity and citizenship.
- Safe and Civil Schools-- Scandinavian Middle School is in its fourth year of participating in the Safe and Civil School Program offered by Fresno Unified School District and Dr. Randy Spricks. The goal of the program is to create a safe, civil, and productive school.
- BEP-- We are in the first year of implementing The Behavioral Education Program. BEP is a Tier 2 behavior modification intervention designed to help the 10-15% of students who fail to meet school-wide behavior expectations, but do not require the highest level of behavior support. Students are selected based on the level of referrals accrued in the office for disciplinary action. Students selected for this Behavior Education Program are required to get daily progress reports from all of the student’s teachers. The students focus on all character virtues and are rated on the way that they carry out those virtues.
- Scandinavian Behavioral Intervention Program--The Behavioral Intervention Program, also new this year, is an on-campus program designed to bridge the gap between inappropriate student behavior and the positive behaviors expected of all students here at Scandinavian. Students who exhibit disruptive or defiant behaviors in or out of the classroom are given the opportunity to reflect on their decision-making processes in a classroom environment with teacher supervision. Students are required to complete a Character Journal every day to reflect on their actions.
- Just For kids Inc.--This year Scandinavian Middle School formed a new community partnership with Just for Kids, Inc. to target the needs of “at risk” students. It is a school-based prevention program with a mission to provide early intervention services to youth and their families. It is designed to reduce the number of school related problems, juvenile delinquency, substance and alcohol abuse, family dysfunction, and gang involvement. The program utilizes the tools of character development in Character Counts when initializing its wrap-around approach to family based intervention.
- WEB-- Since 2007, WEB students have provided services for volunteer projects such as the Kid’s Day newspaper sales fundraiser for Valley Children’s Hospital. This year WEB is working toward building servants’ hearts in the lives of our leadership students. The goal is to learn to put others’ needs before our own. A new event the students have become a part of is the Hinds Hospice Angel Babies Run. WEB students were able to reach out to those who have experienced the loss of their child. We cheered on the families as they walked the park with heavy hearts. We took pictures of them with the wooden Angel wings that displayed the name of their child. Our hearts grew bigger that day as we felt their pain and hugged strangers who needed comfort.
- Horticulture Club-- A successful community partnership began when the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA), in conjunction with Reedley College, developed a Career Pathways program at Scandinavian and Duncan Polytechnic. When it began, it was part of the After School Program and expanded to our school day. The program continues to focus on promoting the character competencies for workplace success and increased appreciation and awareness of the world around them. Students have led a campus beautification programs, planted garden areas, ecosystem and a composting systems. They have committed time to make their school and community a better place. As they plan for, nurture and maintain a garden, students learn to protect and value the environment.
Sequoia Middle School (876 students; 7th – 8th grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, CA. 93702
Principal: Katie Russell
Each and every person on the campus of Sequoia Middle School is a teacher of character.
Administrator, teacher, office staff, custodian, cook, parent volunteer, and student all contribute to the character of our campus. Through our site commitment to the principles taught and reinforced through Character Counts!, we strive to develop, strengthen and encourage ethical values that can be seen in and out of the classroom. We involve all students in the promotion of character at school, spilling into their homes, as well as the community as a whole. Sequoia includes students, families, community members and site staff in the development process of promoting core ethical values by utilizing several sources. We rely on information obtained from the California Healthy Kids survey, parent and staff surveys, as well as feedback from our Safe and Civil Schools Team as sources of relevant data. Additional committees meet monthly and include community members, teaching staff, and administration. In these meetings, areas of concern and brainstorming sessions are held to address issues where additions or improvements to current programs can be developed.
The consensus of our teams determined the study of character to be an integral part of our curriculum and paramount to the teaching of the whole child. In assessing our Character Counts! Program, we have also taken into account data from several sources to assess what changes or additions need to be planned and implemented. As summarized in our 2009-2010 California Healthy Kids Survey, 55.7% of students agree or strongly agree that they feel close to the people at this school. Also, 51.6% of students feel that there is a teacher or adult that really cares about them at school. Another interesting data point is that 72.3% of students believe there is a teacher or adult who believes they will be a success. However, this data proves there is more work to be done.
We have a yearlong school wide focus on celebrating diversity with a focus each quarter which includes class projects, school wide contests, assemblies and lunch activities. For example, next month we will have a school wide focus on black history. All month we have many different activities in honor of Black History Month including standards based classroom enrichment activities as well as an assembly, and student incentives for participation. Lessons based on Respect, Caring, and Fairness will be taught in every classroom as we connect the principles from Character Counts! to leaders in African American history. In addition to our Black History Month celebrations, we also devote learning to Hispanic and Asian heritages as these are the cultures our community represents.
- The Character Counts! Tickets continue to be one of our most powerful tools in reinforcing responsible choices and acts of kindness. Each morning during announcements, a quote is read illustrating the character trait of the month. We also have a Character Counts! bulletin board filled with quotes from notable authors, celebrities, and philosophers. Staff members are given tickets with the current pillar to hand out to students showing good character.
- Sequoia’s Awesome Characters Pursuing Academics and Character (SAC PAC) celebrates multiple phases of success as a Lumberjack. Excellence in citizenship, grades, and attendance are rewarded on a quarterly basis. Students who have demonstrated good character, with no more than four tardies, no D’s or F’s, a minimum GPA of 2.0, and no administrative suspensions are celebrated through SAC PAC.
- Student of the Month is a long time tradition. Each month eight students, one from each department are acknowledged and honored by their teachers.
- Character Counts! Award is a prestigious award that we began in 2006. This award is presented to one eighth grade boy and girl who demonstrated exemplary character throughout the year.
- Assertive Discipline Model. As a staff we have developed and implemented an assertive discipline model. . As partners in education we meet and conference with parents on a regular basis to ensure more consistent behavior and clarity of expectations between school and home. We feel this policy is a main contributor to our decrease in referrals and suspensions.
- The Raise the Grade Challenge continues to be a strong factor in teaching, modeling, practicing, and celebrating goal setting and achievement. Students learn about their GPA and how to take responsible actions to raise their grades. One of our school wide PowerPoint lessons engages students in learning what makes up their grade and helps them learn how to calculate their own GPA. Every two to three weeks students write goals and an action plan in their agenda on how they can raise their grades.
- Junior Doctors’ Academy was created to identify, educate and advance annual cohorts of disadvantaged students from middle school through college and health professional schools. Further reinforcement of Responsibility and Caring through JDA strengthens our students to become competitive applicants to advance to the esteemed Doctor’s Academy program at Sunnyside High School.
- Our Safe and Civil Schools Team meets regularly to assess current actions, develop and implement positive policies and procedures to ensure continued safety for all members and visitors to Sequoia Middle School.
- Our Peer Mediation program connects Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Fairness, Respect, Caring and Citizenship as key components in taking on the role of peer mediator. It is the goal of our Peer Mediation Program to provide our students with tools to solve their own conflicts. Our program involves twenty to thirty students as mediators, who also serve as role models in the school on how to embody the pillars of character. One of our goals is to guide students toward finding responsible ways to resolve conflicts with each other.
Tehipite Middle School (500 students; 7th – 8th grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93701
Principal: Yvonne Zysling
Integral to education in the twenty-first century is the teaching of “good manners”, or as we know it today, “Character Education”. The teaching of virtues and character and the work of enhancing moral thinking and the positive behavior of students must be a priority on the public school campus. Tehipite Middle School is dedicated to involving students in worthwhile school activities, allowing students to test themselves and their belief system. Beyond “academic standards”, Tehipite students have the opportunity to develop their social awareness and the opportunity to practice appropriate social conduct. Tehipite Middle School teachers believe that an articulated, intentional, and proactive system of character education and the teaching of character expectations will ultimately lead to fewer discipline problems, less student to student conflict, and more productive interactions between students and between students and teachers. Tehipite is a place where diversity is valued, educational excellence and equity are expected, individual responsibility and participation by all is required, collaborative adult relationships are essential, and parents, students, and the community as a whole are vital partners. Tehipite staff members have identified the character traits of Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship as values that are intertwined into every aspect of school life and are dedicated to recognizing and promoting these CHARACTER COUNTS! traits. Students are challenged daily to “Always have the Courage to try!”
Tehipite Middle School utilizes the vehicle of the Tehipite Civility Committee (TCC) to work proactively to assist students in making the transition from elementary school into grades 7 and 8. The TCC is made up of teachers, the Campus Culture Director, the School Social Worker (SSW), and administrative staff. The TCC meets every two weeks to plan events, examine and review program/practice, and coordinate responsibilities. The goal of the TCC is to promote a positive cultural environment in all aspects of school life.
In order to ascertain whether or not school-wide goals are being met in the area of character education, the TCC monitors data including daily referrals to the office, tardies to class, attendance, number of suspensions, student academic achievement, and academic preparedness. As students arrive at school each morning and walk through the gate, they are greeted by an administrator and a dress code check is done. The school day begins with an advisory period during which time the bulletin is read and students participate in the flag salute. The Character Trait of the month is memorialized each day via quotes and information about the trait. Every Friday a “binder check, agenda check, and ‘goal card’ check” is conducted. This data is also reported out weekly. Each quarter the classrooms that have 100% participation are awarded a Pizza Lunch in their classroom.
Some examples of lessons that incorporate core values include:
- The Social Science Department organizes a school-wide Veteran’s Day Assembly to honor our country’s veterans; students make real life connections with the community and actively participate in classroom activities leading up to this event
- Mock elections and political debates in Social Studies classes familiarize students with the democratic process; student body elections & campaigns done via Social Studies class
- Cultural diversity and appreciation of ethnic groups is celebrated through units taught during Cinco De Mayo, Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Muslim Cultural Celebration, and Hmong New Year; the Mariachi class represents the cultural diversity of the student population, celebrates the Mexican culture, and incorporates students’ individual musical talents
- Science teachers emphasize integrity within the scientific process and the responsibility to perform accurate research; also teach the students to respect the research and findings of ALL scientists • A.V.I.D. (Advancement Via Individual Determination) students plant a community garden each season to learn about the different foods that are a part of the diverse student population; the garden harvest benefits the Tehipite community
- English classes use literary selections and writing assignments to support moral decision making and character analysis; analysis of novels and short stories often include character studies and the assessment of ethical choices that impact the theme of the literature. Students are encouraged to relate the lessons being studied to their own life experiences. Examples include The Diary of Anne Frank, The Outsiders, The Human Family, The Rose that Grew from Concrete, Touching Spirit Bear, The “I have a Dream”speech/Dr. King and the “Yes we CAN” speech/Obama, etc.
- Cooperative learning activities are infused throughout the curriculum to foster collaborative spirit and approach to problem-solving
- The Leadership class promotes the character traits and gathers quotes and explanations for daily bulletin announcements; they organize Friday activities for students of all capabilities; the leadership curriculum addresses various cultural stereotypes in order to improve leadership skills and promote equality and understanding of peers; service learning is a requirement!• Students are recognized for academic responsibility during Honor Roll assemblies and the fall CST Recognition dinner; citizenship awards are presented to students with outstanding attendance
Tehipite teachers promote and model fairness, caring, and respect in the following ways:
- Build meaningful relationships and rapport with students and their families
- Acknowledge the needs of the students and their families and assist students and families outside of classroom time with social-emotional issues
- Give each student the time and attention required to learn, by name, by need
- Identify student weaknesses and re-teach for mastery of a concept; allow students to succeed academically in a variety of ways
- Treat all students with patience and understanding
- Listen to students with peer conflicts and serve as a mediator to defuse student conflicts
- Acknowledge and validate the cultures, religions, and languages of ALL students
- Celebrate student progress on a daily basis throughout the entire school year
- Create standards based lessons that reflect the lives and experiences of the students and their families
The character education program is an ever‐evolving “work in progress” at Tehipite Middle School. As a staff, we continue to examine our practice and the systems we have in place to BEST meet the needs of students who navigate the ‘Belmont Corridor’ on a daily basis. We are ever mindful of the community we serve and the challenging neighborhoods in which our students live. On a daily basis our students contend with poverty, including evictions, unemployment, and 12% homelessness. The area generates 64% of the CPS contacts made in Fresno County. 49 registered sex offenders are in the immediate area and the neighborhood houses a large population of parolees. The crime rate within a one‐mile radius is higher than any other area in the City of Fresno, thus our students are constantly exposed to graffiti, violence, drugs, gangs, vehicle theft, and crack prostitutes.
Tehipite students and staff are reminded daily to “Always have the courage to try!”; however, Courage…doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”
Tioga Middle School (770 students; 7th – 8th grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93726
Principal: Ray Avila
At Tioga Middle School our goals are to give education and experiences to students so they can develop good character virtues that will stay with them for a lifetime. Tioga is designed to foster and perpetuate the values necessary to maintain a free and democratic society and offer each student the educational opportunities to be a responsible and productive citizen. These goals have been determined because it is in the best interest of our students, and society as a whole, for us to teach and model character education. We believe it is our job to teach, guide, model and re-teach virtues and character traits to our students.
In the past three years Tioga has made great strides in improving and maintaining a safe and civil campus that produces citizens of great virtue. Our school has a peaceful climate and our students feel safe and cared for when they enter the gates each morning. We can measure our gains in many ways on our campus. Tioga has reduced the suspension and expulsion rates in a very impressive way over the last three years. We have experienced a 93% decrease in expulsions and a 50% decrease in suspensions. We credit our staff for effectively teaching and modeling positive behavior, and our students for accepting high expectations and following through to keep themselves out of the office and in the classrooms learning. Our test scores have steadily increased over the past years and this too is attributed to the culture of our campus and the safe and secure learning environment that we have worked so hard to develop. Tioga’s Healthy Kids surveys and our Parent surveys have shown a steady increase in the positive feelings that our campus brings to our families. Our kids state that they feel cared about, they know whom to talk to if they have a problem. They know that they are valued as a part of our school community. Parents state that they feel that the school is a safe place for their children. They also state that they feel welcomed on campus and that they are an important part of our school community.
Tioga fosters an intentional and comprehensive approach to its core values in all phases of school life. • In the Television Studio. Tioga Middle School’s television studio and leadership class provides students with an opportunity to display talent, professionalism, and most of all, responsibility as they create news packages based on campus events. However, these qualities were not on display early in the year when two students decided to steal markers from the class. With thousands of dollars of high quality video and editing machines at the students’ fingertips, trust and responsibility are not just words to guide but carry financial weight from our Micro Society budget. The class decided to write letters explaining the importance of trust along with their idea of what responsibility looks like in a studio environment. The following day, both students who made their mistake apologized to the class and returned the markers.
- In History Classes. Fresno Unified provided six character pillars that schools base many programs on. Teachers are also encouraged to show how these behaviors impact the students' lives. In the History classes, the most obvious characteristic, citizenship, is constantly taught, whether it's about the presidents or how American citizens can get involved in politics. We teach that the government is responsible to the American public and what happens when a government is irresponsible. We constantly ask students if certain cultures were treated fairly or with respect. We show what happens when people are proven trustworthy or when they show kindness and caring to their fellow American, like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., people who are discussed in hushed reverence for the work they did. Character education is a constant theme in our Tioga story where students are continually analyzing and emulating.
- In AVID ( Advancement Via Individual Determination). In the AVID classroom, students are taught, guided and evaluated through maintaining an organized binder, completing their agenda and taking Cornell Notes in their core classes without the prompting of their teacher. Through these requirements, students are able to grow in the area of being a responsible citizen.
- In the After-School Program. Students in the After-School Program know the importance of responsibility and prove this by completing and turning in their homework and attending one of our 15 homework\tutorial centers every day after school. Even our student-athletes must complete their work before heading off to practice. The After-School Program also offers a diverse range of enrichment activities that promote individuality, gives ownership of the school to students, and sparks learning among our students.
- In our School-Wide Environment. At Tioga, we take great pride in providing a safe and effective learning environment. Our high expectations are evident by the posters that are up around school in the form of the “Tioga Top Ten”:
- I will shoot for straight A’s and advanced test scores.
- I will attend school every day.
- I will be on time to all my classes.
- I will tell the truth and take responsibility for my actions.
- I will learn from my mistakes, not repeat them, and move on.
- I will start to prepare for college and carrier now.
- I will be in dress code every day.
- I will come to school with all my assignments, school supplies, and fully prepared to learn.
- Adults are in charge and here to support you.
- NO EXCUSES!
At Tioga students create a microcosm of the real world through the establishment of the on‐campus “City of New Fresno.” This MicroSociety embodies all aspects of developing virtues in our students and provides them with the chance to lead and decide how our city will run. The students practice leadership and collegiality as they take on productive roles within our society. Teachers facilitate learning and community members are called upon to mentor students as they establish their ventures. Students have developed good manners through the lessons addressing good customer service skills. Students practice these skills through their interactions with the community volunteers and mentors.
Wawona I.B. World Middle School (985 students; 6th – 8th grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93704
Principal: Mike Darling
Wawona International Baccalaureate World School promotes a campus culture that is caring, engaging and supportive of instruction. Wawona I.B. World School promotes core ethical values as the basis for good character.
Wawona I.B. World School, as part of the Fresno Unified School District, supports the Character Counts! model of character education. We believe that character education happens every minute of every day. We promote the core ethical values of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship as the basis of good character. We encourage ourselves to be I.B. Learners by being communicators, inquirers, balanced, caring, open-minded, reflective, knowledgeable, principled, risk-takers and thinkers.
America’s future is economics, technology, and global awareness. In today’s world our students must be prepared to show responsibility, trust and integrity. All phases of technology from phones to the internet are concerned with the respect of others and good communication skills. Only through the awareness of others and of our part in society will our students learn how to be ready for careers of their own. The core values of character are a stepping off point for instruction in essential social behaviors such as manners, service learning, and tolerance.
The character education goals for Wawona were developed by the staff under the guidance of our Safe and Civil School Team. Our guidelines for success are called the W6 and are referenced every morning during announcements and are posted for student review in every classroom. They are specific rules—the W6--for being and doing your best at school and for job success in the future.
- Be on time every day for every class.
- Be courteous respectful and cooperative.
- Adhere to the FUSD dress and grooming policy.
- Be prepared with supplies and to fully participate in the learning environment
- Don’t be a bully and don’t tolerate bullying.
- If you know about a problem, see an adult.
Service Learning and caring for others in our community is measured by the logging of service hours. Students and staff log their time through reflection sheets that are collected by the Campus Culture/Activity Center. Students and staff are encouraged to donate their time and talents on and off of the school campus.
We start our school year, (since 2003), with a school wide program called Mission: Possible. All students are given the opportunity to learn and understand our school expectations. Special workshops are held for routine things like how to properly line up for the buses and, and how to walk on the right side of the hallway. Knowing these expectations help our students to be respectful and courteous.
Character education is addressed in each subject area as it pertains to the lessons taught. • In Physical Education the California State Standard #5 is a focus of our teaching and assessment. Students must “show responsibility” (5.6) in a physical education setting as well as, “express encouragement”, (5.4) and “demonstrate an acceptance of differences.”(5.3). The Physical Education Department models and teaches these standards strongly and consistently.
• Language Arts teachers use core literature and writing to encourage students to discover their inner character and character traits that authors want to portray in their stories. The teachers involve the students in discovering how to be better people and to be better members of our society through role-playing, scenarios and logic. This is our second year participating in a school-wide read. Our novel; The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis, follows the life a young girl in Afghanistan. It was powerful and intriguing to our students as they found out about how children in less fortunate countries live and survive. • Humanities Classes regularly provide forums for students to discuss matters of ethics, current events and social justice. Our I.B. format encourages the teachers to allow the students to be open-minded, balanced and reflective. The social studies classes sponsor our school wide Student Council Elections and with the assistance of the Music Department they introduced our “Peace Tree” in 2010.
• Science classes focus on the world as a place we must respect and protect. The environment is important and how we take care of it and each other is a lens through which our Science Department looks. They ask the students to discover and think about what is above and beyond the California State science requirements. Recycling, community gardens, and our use of energy and resources is researched and shared, so we can all do our part.
• The Leadership Elective class is made up of all grade levels and is part of the “elective wheel.” During the year almost 100 students were given the opportunity to take Leadership. Skill building and service are the foundations of the Leadership curriculum.
Wawona’s campus is clean and inviting to guests. Our school community, staff and students keep it that way. From the custodians to the Principal, from the athletes and the Functional Skills students, all are responsible for keeping the campus clean and secure.
Our cafeteria workers, office staff, and custodians all take the responsibility of modeling and expecting good behavior from our students. They wear “Spirit Shirts” and support the Campus Culture activities presented by the staff. They are important in the environment of our school and are respected by the school community. All of our school family are “teachers” who are role models, monitors, and mentors of our Wawona students. The Athletic Department promotes character education at every practice and game. The students and coaches sign a “Code of Conduct” and are taught that “Pursuing Victory with Honor” will be the Wawona Code. A Character Award medal is presented to someone on the opposing team at every home game. At the end of each sport’s season, each coach presents several students with awards for integrity and sportsmanship on the playing field.
We have donated time, money, and goods to Community Food Bank of Fresno, Dakota House, Coats for Kids, Valley Children’s Hospital Kid’s Day Newspaper sale, American Heart Association Hoops for Heart and Jump Rope for Heart. Our P.E. Department sponsored the A.H.A. activities as a way to donate and a way to promote lifelong fitness habits. We encourage our staff and students to join forces in Pennies for Patients (Leukemia Foundation) and the Special Olympics.
This year, 2011, we organized and sponsored our 5th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. We planned our “day on, not a day off,” for the MLK holiday and invited two other schools to join us. Dailey Elementary, Wawona Middle School, and Fresno High School, staff and students participated in a paint and clean-up at Storyland and Playland at Roeding Park. There were over 250 students and 100 adults working together to prepare the attractions for the spring opening.Top
Promising Practices from the 2009 Virtues and Character Award Winning Schools
(Excerpts from the Applications)
Ahwahnee Middle School (670 Students 7th and 8th Grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93710
Principal: Lisa DeLeon
Ahwahnee Middle School has established programs that promote core ethical values in a safe and caring environment. The slogan that students hear each morning, "Warriors, be the one to make a difference," embodies our vision that each student can make a contribution to make the world a better place.
To kick off the school year, we have a Welcome Back Assembly with character education skits presented by the leadership class. Students are given a positive start to the year and encouraged to participate in school activities, academics, and sports with the focus to "Be the best you can be".
Campus culture goals are established through review of the Healthy Kids Survey and the Search Institute's "40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents" with a strong emphasis on character education. Our vice principal holds a focus group quarterly with students to evaluate goals and determine if we are on target with student needs.
Students are reminded regularly of good character in the morning announcements and activities. All faculty members have "Step-Up" cards to randomly give to students who step up and show good character. These cards enable students to step up to the front of the lunch line and are highly prized.
Students are nominated monthly by teachers for the Warrior Pride Award. The Warrior Pride Award recognizes good behavior, hard work and a student's ability to exemplify the character trait of the month.
Ahwahnee has a leadership class that is centered on character education. Students provide service to staff, teachers and students throughout the year and as one student said, "We have fun doing it." Students are taught lessons from the Josephson Institute of Ethics Curriculum. Each character trait is defined, explored and discussed and continually reinforced. Students then create and organize activities for the student body that foster character development.
One of our meaningful activities is our "Commit to Character Week". Each student signs an individual contract that emphasizes each of the 6 pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. Students color and decorate the contracts and they are posted in the office for the community to see.
Each year we have assemblies to emphasize good character, respect, and anti-bullying. Last year Fresno State Basketball Coach, Steve Cleveland, was a keynote speaker and encouraged students to put forth their best effort and "touch all the lines." Roosevelt School of the Arts Improv Group, "Space -4-Rent", came and performed skits to teach tolerance and ethical behavior to all students.
Our case manager, social worker, and academic counselor cheerfully greet students each morning and they teach at- risk classes on tolerance, behavior and study skills along with other faculty members, coordinate the mentorship for our Peer Mediator Program. This program, in conjunction with Fresno State, provides training in conflict resolution.
Last year Ahwahnee was honored to be selected as the Fresno Unified Environmental Magnet. We have a gardening class that helps to beautify our campus and provides vegetables for our cooking class. Our deaf and hard of hearing students are responsible for a worm farm. Students learn to recycle at lunch as they sort items for the compost pile or recycling bins as they dispose of their lunch refuse. We also have the club "The Green Machine" that recycles classroom bottles and cans weekly.
Service in the community is emphasized on campus. We participated in the Denim Drive for Habitat for Humanity. We were able to recycle much needed denim for insulation. Also we participated in a Canned Food Drive and gave over a thousand cans to our local agency "Stone Soup". Leadership students visited the elementary schools and enjoyed reading to the first graders on "Read Across America Day". In February and March students will participate in The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Pennies for Patients Program.
We have many sports teams at Ahwahnee and coaches work hard to instill the importance of academics and sportsmanship with our athletes. Standards for being an athlete are strictly upheld. In order to participate, a student must maintain a "2.0" average and have good citizenship. Each semester we honor students at a sports award banquet. Emphasis is placed on performance and improvement. Students are nominated for the "Pursuing Victory with Honor Award" at the end of the year. We also have an active intramural program at lunchtime that mandates good sportsmanship to participate.
We celebrate scholarship each quarter with an assembly or breakfast. We also honor our students who maintain perfect attendance. All students receive certificates, recognition and special coupons.
Character education is addressed throughout the curriculum. We have a safe and caring campus where students are valued. One wonderful indicator that we are making strides in character education was expressed by a new staff member this week. She said, "Every time I come to the office and a student is entering at the same time, the student politely holds the door open for me. I sure appreciate that kind of respect." We truly believe that by investing in kids we can teach them that everyone can succeed and make the world a better place.
Baird Middle School (605 Students 5th-8th Grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93704
Principal: Janetta McGensy
"Baird Middle School-A Magical Place Where Children Thrive" is just one of many tiled art projects so beautifully visible on the walls, gardens, and classrooms at our school. Our mascot is an Explorer, an Explorer finding his "way" in the world. Over time, our character education plan has come to be known as The Baird Way. We consider it to be so important, we conduct a three-day camp in the summer for all students new to Baird in order to help them literally and figuratively find their way around campus.
A more recent addition to our curriculum was the decision to become an AVID school. AVID is a national program that sponsors Advancement Via Individual Determination, an intense program of preparing students to succeed in college.
The AVID program helps students learn to become responsible for their own learning. They work directly with college tutors, tour college and university campuses, and show evidence of their learning through documentation of their learning as amassed in their individual binders, a sort of portfolio of learning.
Our eminently qualified staff share unique and varied life experiences with students and offer them opportunities to transcend the traditional classroom work through clubs, electives, and activities such as: art, crochet, French, gardening, guitar, History Day, knitting, literature, Math-o-Rama, quilting, Science Olympiad, solar cooking, Student Council, surfing, writing, woodworking, and a variety of athletic pursuits.
At Baird, character education begins as soon as students step off the bus. There is a staff member there to greet students and to make sure their shirts are tucked in and that they are not chewing gum. A second check is at the classroom door. Teachers quickly learn their students' names and greet them as they enter class. The reinforcement of the old standbys, "please," "thank you," and "excuse me," are held in high regard. Our morning announcements begin with a reminder about our "shirts tucked in" policy and end with a final thought or inspirational quote for students to consider as they begin their day. Through consistent attention to the common courtesies from grades five through eight, we have found over time that students easily comply with these standards and present themselves as ready to learn.
Each of the four grade levels handles character education in a way that best meets and appeals to students. One example is in the seventh grade. When the monthly character focus is announced, fairness, for example, each homeroom teacher takes a few moments to directly teach the concept of fairness. He or she might share a few examples of their own before asking students to include a few more. Once everyone understands how to apply the concept to their choices and behaviors at school, the teacher announces that they will receive Character Counts! Bucks when a teacher observes them demonstrating this trait. Students write their names on the Character Counts! Bucks and place them in a large tub. At the end of the month, there is a Character Counts! rally, where teachers don crazy hats, glasses, and costumes and play music related to the celebration. Teachers draw winning Bucks from the tub and pass out gift cards to Jamba Juice, Starbucks, of Edward's Theater. Students are applauded for their value to the school in exhibiting the quality of fairness and encouraged to continue their focus on the other qualities as well.
Academic Study Time is offered each morning during the 20 minutes before school begins. If a student needs to use a computer, finish work, ask for missed assignments, or get help, he or she may go to an open classroom to use this time for that purpose. Students are expected to follow a code of conduct in each classroom (rules) such as the three B's: Be punctual; Be prepared; Be courteous.
Our campus is clean, especially with the addition of more recycle bins. There are also separate recycle bins for paper and plastic/cans in the classrooms. Students learn about "going green" in their science and agriculture classes and act responsibly when it comes to disposing of their trash. Students have all participated in creating grade-level garden or patio areas, so they take pride in keeping the campus clean.
Character education is addressed at Baird throughout the curriculum. Across all grade levels, students observe and learn about virtue and character through the choices characters make in stories and books. In history and social studies, students learn from the past that good character counts toward positive results.
After the 9/11 assault on America, our Student Council proposed we create a plaza to memorialize peace and tolerance, to acknowledge the wrongdoing in the world, but also to offer hope and courage in mending whatever challenges or troubles may come. Today that plaza is one of the highlights of a stroll about the campus. Community artisans created sculptures recognizing the Holocaust, the Japanese Internment, the Armenian Genocide, and the 9/11 Terrorists' Attack. Students use the area to socialize, as an extended classroom, and to visit more formally on the anniversary of each event.
Over the years, many students have stepped forward to show they care about others. We have collected items for Shoeboxes for Soldiers, served soup at Poverello House, sold Kids' Day newspapers for Valley Children's Hospital, created commercials for the SPCA, starred in a bus safety video which was shown throughout the district, sponsored debates between the mayoral candidates in our cafeteria. Through these activities, standing side-by-side with caring adult, students have built trust, become trustworthy, learned what it means to have integrity, and formed their own paths toward responsible citizenship.
We set out to a create a school that reflected what society could be, a vision of tolerance, achievement, commitment, and hard work. The foundation of that very tall order lay in building and growing character and virtue in our students. Our high California Standards Test scores indicate that the students have indeed achieved academic excellence, but it is the pleasure of their character and company is what we savor.
Live Oak Middle School (701 Students 6th-8th Grades)
Tulare City Elementary School District, Tulare, CA 93274
Principal: Paula Adair
"The Right Place at the Right Time" has been Live Oak's school motto and driving inspiration since it was established in 1989. The well-being and development of the whole child are major goals of every highly rigorous academic offering and myriad of social events available to students. The center of every lesson and event is character.
On the walls [of our Multipurpose Room] are banners of honor where responsible student's names are displayed. Those there have achieved honor roll status academically. On the back wall are student's names that are achieving million-word reader status. Monthly newsletters contain information about the pillars of character, ways to achieve character and those who are achieving in one-way or another. Parent conferences are another avenue Live Oak staff uses to communicate the importance of character. Monthly night meetings are conducted for the Live Oak Community to promote education topics grounded on the Character Counts! Pillars and the parent-training program called Passport to Success.
To ensure our staff is addressing all levels of students through equity and caring qualities, a team provides mentoring weekly, both socially and academically, to a group of fragile (ARI-Academic Review Intervention) students. Teachers take students as classroom aides in order to mentor them. At times, the school counselor selects specific students to work in the student store so they can be mentored. Modeling the 6 pillars of character is our greatest strength at Live Oak.
The student Leadership Class develops, as a final project, a Fifth Grade Academy to prepare incoming Grizzlies for their middle school experience. From the Tulare Union High School Counseling Department, leadership students receive some training in how to organize large group activities, which coincide with the Link Crew program. They organize tours, introduce teachers, and put on skits of school rules and regulations for how to be a successful Grizzly, teach a dance and a cheer. During the student orientation, school Administration welcomes parents. This project allows students to put into practice what they understand of the 6 Pillars of Character.
The beginning of the school year 160 students composed of 7th /8th grade AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and Leadership students received Effective Teens Leadership In Action Training from the Premier Company. This student achievement workshop uses Sean Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, to assist teens in developing their personal leadership skills. All 8th grade language arts core classes read and discussed The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens the first few weeks of school.
Live Oak staff has utmost respect for others and treats every incoming student as a future success story. Student needs are realized and addressed from the very outset of the educational experience on the Live oak campus. Special academic placements are made for both needy and GATE students and accommodations arranged for the particular needs of the student.
Recognizing that bullying is a problem in our society, Second Step, Violence Prevention education is provided by all sixth grade teachers. As an extension of this process, the school counselor uses this curriculum in small group counseling, and in training 6th through 8th graders as Peer Mediators, to help provide conflict resolution.
Live Oak is fully committed to seeing all students achieve exemplary character. This cannot happen unless students are willing to contribute in meaningful ways to the school community. Student leadership activities promoting respect, responsibility and good citizenship include a Live Oak Student Council. Student council members elected by their peers organize "Say Yes to Life" (anti drug and alcohol) activities during Red Ribbon Week and throughout the year. They promote school spirit through noontime activities and dress up days.
Every student who is responsible and qualifies is encouraged to join the California Junior Scholarship Federation. Members of CJSF are actively involved in community service and tutoring. The club gives a scholarship every year to a former Live Oak student who is graduating from high school. The school newspaper and yearbook celebrate the school culture and promote school spirit, respect for school and good citizenship.
To expose our students to the importance of service learning and giving back to your community, the Live Oak student body donates toys for less fortunate children in Tulare through the Toys for Kids program sponsored by the Tulare Police Department. They also organize an annual canned food drive. Further, for the last nine years, students at Live Oak have created the Tulare Activity Directory as a Service Learning Project. The directory catalogs every club and event available to young people in the community, and is used by many agencies throughout Tulare (Social Services, Tulare Police Department, Youth Services Bureau, Tulare Chamber of Commerce).
Since receiving the Virtues and Character Recognition Award in 2007, some program changes have been put into place at Live Oak Middle School. Some of our efforts for enhancing character development include:
Operation Start On Time This is a full staff involvement program. Teachers are at the classroom greeting students as they arrive. When the bell rings door is shut and locked. All students out on campus are collected and taken to the office. In addition, any student that leaves a classroom is required to wear an orange vest. This allows administration the ability to visually discern students are in the appropriate location. Tardies and absents have drop significantly from 07/08 - 08/09 school year.
Positive Referral Slips Staff give positive referrals to students recognizing when students are doing the right thing and directing the focus on the positive. Students with positive referrals are put in drawing for VIP seating at Positive Recognition Assemblies.
WEB Where Everybody Belongs (Middle School version of Link Crew) Eighth grade students mentor 7th grade students. There are 35 WEB leaders. This is our first year with WEB. WEB has been incorporated in as an elective class. Students apply and must meet criteria to be selected as a WEB leader. There is a required full weeklong training camp for all selected WEB leaders. The camp is conducted a week before school begins. The WEB program has provided a positive climate for our campus.
Los Tules Middle School (648 Students 6th-8th Grades)
Tulare City Elementary School District, Tulare, CA 93274
Tel: 559-687-3156Principal: Gary Yentes
It is the mission of Los Tules Middle School to develop a social and moral conscience that will enable students to make good decisions in life.
Each morning begins with Mr. Jenkins, LT's (Los Tules) Vice Principal, speaking to the students on the importance of not only being an LT scholar, yet a respectful member of the LT community. For the message of respecting self, others and their country is unequivocally an expectation for the LT community.
Teaching of these core ethical values exists through direct curriculum alignment from the art class where expression of these values is created through a collaborative assignment. This assignment enforces the need for LT scholars to apply these definitions of respecting others, working together, and doing your part in order to create the final art piece displayed on the art room walls. Other examples of curriculum alignment are evidenced through various genres in Language Arts. A recent Language Arts highlighted assignment utilized the You-Tube technology to produce a two minutes public service announcement discussing the pillar of respect and accepting cultural differences.
Enforcing good character is often the most exciting part of a school's environment. Enter into the multipurpose room at the beginning of a student recognition assembly and you will be delighted to hear upbeat music, students and staff greeting each other and see that honoring others is an important ingredient in life that can be fun and respectful all at the same time. Each month staff members choose students to be recognized at a monthly assembly based on their character and academic accomplishments and attendance.
[A sampling of] descriptions of our enforcing strategies for our LT scholars are listed below. These efforts ultimately round out the intentional and comprehensive approach to character education:
- Kids of Character: Throughout the year each grade level is given a deadline in which to nominate a student for each of the 6 pillars of character. Those students have their pictures taken and sent to the community paper. Included with the student's photo is a short explanation of why that particular student was chosen.
- Parent Education Program: This is a four-part parent information institute. The resource teacher and the counselor teach the sessions. CHARACTER COUNTS! Philosophy is shared during the first session in order to support the root of our mission.
- Pillar of Responsibility: Monthly Responsibility Certificate to our Student of the Month assemblies. Students are recognized if they have completed all their classroom work and homework for the month.
- Tag a Tiger Program: Two "Tag a Tiger" wristbands are given to a scholar of character caught showing Tiger Pride. They wear one and the other they give to a scholar they see exhibiting a pillar of character as well.
- Tel-A-Parent: Any LT Scholar knows a phone call home could also be a good call! Thanks to the "Teleparent" Phone Messaging System. Teachers are able to record a positive message for parents and have it automatically sent to the home.
- Los Tules MVT (Most Valuable Tiger): Los Tules teachers choose scholars randomly to be recognized. The counselor then prints the student's picture and attaches it to the MVP form, which is then displayed in the office.
Modeling the pillar of citizenship is evident when you see that the classrooms are clean and orderly and provide a safe learning environment. The school grounds are kept clean and are well maintained for student play, recreation, and athletic activities. Our school community takes pride in our well-maintained buildings and landscaping.
Our school band consists of approximately 140 students from grades 5-8. Parents assist at our band events, such as the Los Tules Jazz Festival, band concerts, and band parades. Our School Site Council, English Language Advisory Committee, and Migrant Parent Advisory Committee have active parent boards.
To further ensure fairness and equity at Los Tules our students are counseled frequently on how to best display the six pillars of the character when disciplinary actions occur. All staff members implement discipline procedures to assist students both inside and outside the classroom. The disciplinary action that is taken is firm, fair, and consistent. Students are held accountable for their actions at all times. Another popular component to Los Tules Middle School Tigers is the successful after school sports program, which allows students to stay involved in athletic programs throughout the school year. Additional tutorial assistance for our LT scholars is made available before school, during the school day, and after school.
Relationships best describe another attempt to maintain a safe and caring environment on LT's campus. Take notice of the paper made buckets located pinned to the office and classroom walls. Students are taught the importance of "filling someone's bucket" instead of being a "bucket dipper." When you want to thank a person, or just give them positive feedback, students and teachers fill out a raindrop and give it to that person. The drop is then added to their bucket, thus "filling your bucket."
Teaching students to serve is a very important concept at Los Tules Middle School. Volunteering and helping others is also an extension into our larger community. During the past four years Los Tules has selected the Madera Children's Hospital as their focus for service learning. Proceeds of items sold on campus such as school supplies of pencils, erasers, and school snacks such as beef jerky are dedicated to annual fundraising. Spring fundraising concludes with the Kid's Day Newspaper Sales. To date, Los Tules students have contributed over $10,000 dollars to various charities.
Our Triple-A-Cards continues to be a success. Scholars receive one at the end of each month if they did not have any absences or tardies. In the past two years we have raised the bar and added they cannot receive any referrals to the office or tardy between classes for the month. We continue to have one of the highest attendance percentages in Tulare City Schools.
Alice G. Mulcahy Middle School (626 Students 6th-8th Grades)
Tulare City Elementary School District, Tulare, CA 93274
Principal: John Pendleton
Our school motto: "Proud, Tough, Determined" represents members of our school community, past and present, who are proud of their family and school, tough enough to do what is right, and determined to be successful in life. We believe that our motto not only describes what a Mulcahy student is all about but also acts as the bridge to character education. The adoption of the CHARACTER COUNTS! philosophy and strategies meets our character education goals by complimenting the qualities of our students and the core values held by the Mulcahy family, and fostered by our school since 1958.
The teaching of character development begins prior to the first day of school where members of the school community including parents, students and the staff participate in an orientation assembly. School policies, student behaviors, and responsibilities are discussed. The core ethical values are used as a model for expected student behavior and academic school planners are given to every student. In addition, all students participate in Advisory held on the first Friday of each month. The major goals of our advisory program are to enhance student –teacher relationships, develop interpersonal skills, discuss school related issues, build group cohesiveness and school spirit, foster affective growth and development, and present positive adult role models.
Posters are displayed in every classroom depicting the Six Pillars of Character with descriptive phrases reinforcing behaviors. All rooms display signage that further supports strong ethical development through the "Big Three" (Proud, Tough, Determined) and The "Fantastic Four" (Dignity, Class, Poise, and Respect). Advocating for the character development of our students and informing the school community about the superior work being accomplished takes place through Academic Award Nights, Academic Showcases, and Athletic Award Nights. Additional annual activities include College Awareness Week, College: Making It Happen Night, and Cool Night. Continuing the TEAM approach, all students receive an introduction to the Six Pillars of Character during the months of August and September. Ultimately, our goal is that students embrace the virtues of the program early on and that they conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the Six Pillars of Character. We believe however, the most powerful method in which to foster the true meaning of the Pillars is to provide students with the opportunity to observe and model ethical behavior on a daily basis. Our teachers have become mentors and, as such, powerful models of strong ethical behavior.
We refer to the 2006-07 term as the "Birth of a Nation." The renewed school spirit enjoyed by members of the Mulcahy Nation continued in 2007-08, leading to an improved attendance percentage (95%) and the District's largest API increase (39 points). In addition, we experienced a sharp decrease in suspensions. Mulcahy incurred the fewest suspensions among the middle schools with 56 (in comparison to the other schools 98, 106, and 135). To date, Mulcahy still maintains the fewest suspensions, has increased its attendance rate to 95.85% (an increase of 1.71% over last year during the same period of time), and recently drew over 300 parents and guests to the Academic Awards Night. In total, 386 awards were distributed.
Students actively participate in a number of valuable community service projects designed to promote social development while fostering the principles of character development and strengthening community partnerships. Since 1994, Mulcahy has become a major contributor to Children's Hospital of Central California, having sold over 50,000 special edition "Kid's Day" newspapers. In addition Mulcahy students and staff work together organizing and collecting food items to be donated to local aid agencies. Students also participate in "bell-ringing" for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season. Staff and students are proud of the fact that Mulcahy has been recognized as the top K-8 school participant in "bell-ringing" for the past five years.
Mulcahy has the prestigious honor of being an AVID School Certified with Distinction. It is our belief that by utilizing peer tutoring, we are able to teach our students the value of working collaboratively, making personal connections with members of the community, and capitalizing on our own personal strengths.
The following opportunities exist throughout the school year and for students in an effort to promote and model fairness, equity, caring, and respect for others:
- Poetry and Prose Festival - Spelling Bee - Math Super Bowl - Art Exhibitions
- Band and Auxiliary Performances - College Awareness Week - Athletic Teams
- Pride Dances - DARE/GREAT Graduation - Red Ribbon Week Activities
- Academic Showcase
Mulcahy is also home to an active Student Council. In order to be eligible to run for Student Council, students must demonstrate behavior consistent with the Six Pillars of Character and be in good academic standing. This year, the Student Council will induct an individual(s) into its CHARACTER COUNTS! Hall of Fame. The inductee will represent the qualities of citizenship and community service so valued by Mrs. Mulcahy.
In August of 2007, Mulcahy initiated its Advisory program. Designed to provide group guidance and foster a strong trusting relationship between staff and students, Advisory has allowed teachers to move beyond their role as instructors to that of mentors. Our school has taken the initial steps needed to develop a true balance between academics and social development.
On August 16, 2009, Mulcahy Middle School celebrated its 50th Anniversary with an assembly that featured guest speakers, all graduates who have gone on to accomplish great things within our community. As a school, members of the Mulcahy Nation celebrated the true belief that they not only share the same character and values as those who came before them, but equally as important, they believe that they can be just as successful and contribute to their community in a positive manner.
Rio Vista Middle School (1280 Students 7th and 8th Grades)
Central Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93722
Principal: Tim Swain
Rio Vista Middle School employs the Character Counts! education program which focuses on the six pillars of character. Students often make mistakes and it is the goal of our Character Counts! program to assist students in learning from their mistakes and to become better citizens in the process. Rio Vista employs a firm, fair, and consistent assertive discipline model with students. Behavior expectations are clearly stated. It is important for students to understand the "why" of their mistakes and to emphasize the feelings and rights of others and how their behaviors may have a negative impact on others within the school and outside community.
At the beginning of each school year, teachers, administrators and staff review and reinforce with students and parents our expectations for student behavior. Students utilize a daily planner with the Character Counts! monthly pillar displayed as well as examples of how to display aspects of the monthly pillar. In addition, each week the agenda focuses on "People of Character", individuals who have shown qualities of the pillar of the month.
Rio Vista Middle School employs a variety of methods to promote Character Counts! values throughout all aspects of our school. These methods include:
- Titan of the Month Luncheon-to recognize students who display character qualities.
- Leadership in the Movies-movie clips from recent popular movies are shown and discussed that focus one the CC! pillars.
- Pursuing Victory With Honor--athletes attend a session with coaches and administrators that focus on the six pillars. One 8th grade athlete is selected by teammates and coaches to receive the athletic Titan Award for each sport season. One female and one male athlete, per team are given the Titan Award.
- Character Counts! banners-banners promoting the six pillars are displayed around our quad area.
Rio Vista's goal is to ensure that students and staff have a clean, safe, and secure learning environment free from drugs, alcohol, and crime. Students who provide active tips, which are investigated and result in an arrest, are monetarily rewarded. Furthermore, our liaisons are trained in conflict resolution and counsel students who have conflicts with each other and how to properly discuss and share their feelings in a non-threatening manner. Many fights and other altercations have been avoided through the use of conflict resolution.
The school utilizes information culled from the Healthy Kids Survey administered each year that addresses students' perceptions of safety on campus. Additionally, each year Rio Vista updates our Safe School Plan to ensure all students and staff has a safe working and learning environment. Rio Vista has also implemented a new program on our campus called Safe School Ambassadors. This program enlists thirty 7th grade students and ten 8th grade students to help prevent and stop cruelty among their peers. This program focuses on the power of bystanders who willingly allow mistreatment of their peers to take place on campus.
Through our Character Counts! education program, teachers and staff promote and discuss the six pillars of character with our students. When students choose to make poor choices, teachers and administrators always discuss the "why" behind a student's decision and how it applies to the six pillars.
Rio Vista's two most successful clubs on campus include the KICS club (Kids in Community Service) and the Recycle club. The KICS club has volunteered to the local organization "Tree Fresno", provided military care packages to troops stationed overseas, and offers babysitting services to the organization "Little Mended Hearts" for parents with children born with heart defects. The Recycle club promotes recycling habits and educates students, parents and staff on the importance of recycling plastic bottles and cans. Students place recycling containers around the campus as well as walk the capus collecting bottles and cans from students during break and lunch.
Each holiday season Rio Vista students and staff donate canned goods to our "Holiday Joy" campaign. Our Leadership students volunteer one Saturday in December to help pass out food boxes to Central families at God's Family Church. Additionally, Rio Vista collects coats donated by local businesses and provides them to students on campus who are in need of a warm coat over winter. This year Rio Vista passed out 40 coats to needy students.
For the past seven years, Rio Vista students volunteer to sell Kids Day newspapers to raise money for Children's Hospital of Central California.
All 7th grade students participate in completing Science Fair projects and numerous students compete in the Central Unified district Science Fair. Rio Vista students travel across the street to River Bluff elementary School to assist younger students with reading and math through our "Cross Age Tutoring Program". Many students choose this class as their elective and enjoy the benefits of working with younger children on a daily basis.
Scandinavian Middle School (702 Students 7th and 8th Grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93726
Principal: Julie Goorabian-Raley
The mission of Scandinavian Middle School is proficiency for all students in each subject area, and development of strong character. We are committed to the Fresno Unified District Goals.
In 2007 Scandinavian Middle School opened our doors to incoming 7th grade students with the WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) Program for the first time in FUSD. WEB is a national middle school transition program that helps incoming students feel more comfortable, connect with an eighth grade leader, and develop a positive attitude toward their new campus. It is built on the belief that students want to and can help other students succeed. On the opening day of school each year 60-80 eighth grade student WEB Leaders facilitate a half day retreat and take charge with all activities for 7th grade students that culminates with a Rally and BBQ.
We start the school year with a 3 week School Success Start Up Plan. During Advisory Period students are introduced to the Parent/Teacher/Student Handbook and the Character Counts Agenda. We review and teach academic and behavioral student expectations, school procedures, and dress code. The character pillars are introduced and reviewed weekly in morning announcements. Students develop weekly goals based on the monthly character pillar and record these goals in their Character Counts Weekly Agenda.
We provide numerous incentives, student awards and activities offered to recognize students who exemplify the character pillars throughout the year. Scandinavian recognizes students of exemplary character every month through the Student of the Month Character Pillar Awards. As part of this award, students are recognized at a luncheon with the East Fresno Rotary. Our Warrior Buck Program rewards students for Random Acts of Kindness every week. Other student recognitions include quarterly academic and athletic awards assemblies and music awards. We honor students at our Annual Awards Dessert and Character Awards Dinner. We also celebrate student accomplishments through Field Trips, Rallies, Dances and Activity Days. This year we are recognizing all students staying on target to graduate and who demonstrate a positive work ethic and personal responsibility by achieving a 2.0 GPA without any "D" or "F" grades. Student achievement results have shown significant improvement and we have experienced a significant decrease in suspensions, office referrals, and student conflicts on campus.
Scandinavian Middle School provides a Campus Culture Team. The team consists of a Campus Culture Director, teachers, and administrative staff. The Campus Culture Team meets monthly to plan events, review programs, and coordinate responsibilities. It is the goal of the committee to facilitate character building through activities designed to promote a positive cultural environment at our school site. We offer a wide variety of sports and activities to meet the vast differences in cultural and individual needs.
The Scandinavian Middle School sports program follows the concept of TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More). The coaches are dedicated to facilitating the development of mind, body and spirit for all student athletes, who pass through the Warrior Sports Program. Students are encouraged to become involved from the moment they are escorted around campus as sixth graders. Through their athletic experience, which includes a daily tutorial prior to practice, students gain valuable lessons, which build their character. They also come to understand that perseverance, self-discipline and accepting responsibility are essential for success. Student athletes are rewarded for their ability as well as their spirit, through Sports Awards Assemblies and each week as Character Award medals are given to athletes who exemplify true sportsmanship..
The Peer Mediation Program has emerged as a focal point in providing a secure and caring environment for students at Scandinavian Middle School. Students involved in a dispute, agree to sit down with trained, student peer mediators and work through the process of reconciliation, in a systematic, calm matter. During the 2008-2009 school year, there have already been thirty, successful mediations. With daily access to peer mediation, students are choosing to find resolution to their relationship difficulties, through the help of their peers.
Scandinavian Middle School is participating in the Safe and Civil School Program offered by Fresno Unified School District and Dr. Randy Spricks. The goal of the program is to create a safe, civil, and productive school. With the thoughtful meaning of "STOIC" in mind, a five step systematic approach is being implemented: Structure/organize all school settings for success, Teach students how to behave responsible in those settings, Observe student behavior (supervise); Interact positively with students, Correct irresponsible behavior calmly, consistently, and immediately in the setting in which the infraction occurred. Through student and staff input, we have identified "respect" as an integral pillar to address within this program. As a result each academic department has developed and implemented lessons to teach the various elements of respect throughout the year.
Scandinavian targets the needs of "at risk" students through the STOP program (Students Targeted with Opportunities for Prevention). STOP is a school-based prevention program with a mission to provide early intervention services to at-risk youth and their families. It is designed to reduce the number of school related problems, juvenile delinquency, substance and alcohol abuse, family dysfunction and gang involvement. Services provided by staff and community organizations may include; anger management, family and individual counseling, conflict resolution, mentoring, tutoring, recreational activities, interactive theatrical productions, and gang education and intervention.
A very successful community partnership began when the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA), in conjunction with Reedley College, developed a Career Pathways program at Scandinavian. This magnet program focuses on promoting the character competencies for workplace success and student awareness of the world around them. Students have led a campus beautification program, planted garden areas, built a pond, ecosystem, composting system and mediation maze. Students have increased their awareness of the world around them and have shared their time to make their school and community a better place.
Sequoia Middle School (861 Students 7th and 8th Grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93722
Principal: Michael Ribera
One of the goals we set early on was to decrease the number of suspensions and expulsions. In analyzing our summary report of suspensions, our suspension rate dropped from 90.1 in the 2005-2006 to 51.5 for the 2007-2008 school year. In addition, the number of expulsions has fallen from 27 in the 2006-2007 school year to 21 in 2007-2008. In assessing our Character Counts! program we have also taken into account data from several sources to get a true feeling for what changes or additions we need to address. As summarized in our California Healthy Kids survey, we have jumped from 38.4%-41.9% in students that feel like they are a part of the school. Other data points we found interesting is that the number of students that responded that there is a teacher or adult who really cares about them jumped from 43.7%-49.9% and those student who feel safe or very safe at school has jumped from 47.4% to 53.3% over the course of a year.
We have a yearlong school wide focus on celebrating diversity, with a focus each quarter which includes class projects, school wide contests, assemblies and lunch activities. For example, next month we will have a school wide focus on black history. All month we have many different activities in honor of Black History Month including standards based classroom enrichment activities as well as an assembly, a celebrating diversity potluck and various student incentives for participation. Lessons based on Respect, Caring and Fairness will be taught in every classroom as we connect the principles from Character Counts! to leaders in African American History.
The Character Counts Tickets which were new to Sequoia in 2006 are proving to be a strong motivator on campus. All staff members have tickets displaying the character trait of the month to give to students demonstrating good character. Students place their tickets into the Character Bucket in the front office for a chance to win prizes each Friday. All winning students are then put into an additional drawing to take place at the end of the month.
Go Agenda! is based upon "The 7 Habits of highly Effective Teens" a specialized program providing weekly character counts lessons for students in their agendas. This program is designed to help our students improve their self image, make good choices and act responsibly. Its character lessons will be completed within an advisory period and supported and reinforced throughout the school year within their agenda. A unique feature of the Go Agenda! is the parent component. Lessons for the student to complete with their family are provided and encouraged.
It is vital that citizenship, grades and attendance be interwoven into our site program. Students who have demonstrated good character, with no more than two tardies, no failing grades, and no administrative suspensions are rewarded through Sequoia's Awesome Characters (SAC PACK). These students are allowed to participate in extra- curricular activities such as dances and reward socials. As a site we have noticed a rise in the number of eligible students.
The third annual Character Counts! Award will be presented at the end of the year to one eighth grade boy and girl who demonstrated exemplary character over the year. Students will be honored at the end of the year eighth grade awards ceremony.
The Raise the Grade Challenge proved to be a huge success in motivating students to take responsibility and bring their grades up as well as empower students to set goals and learn about their GPA. At the end of each six-week period, students write goals and an action plan as to how they can raise their grades. In semesters to follow students who earn a 3.0 or higher G.P.A., and/or those showing improvement in their performance will be sent a letter acknowledging and congratulating them on their successes from Mr. Ribera. In addition to the letter from Mr. Ribera students are given tickets for the grade points raised and are entered into a drawing for prizes.
There is no one size fits all answer for our students. In meeting the needs of our students we have tailored several programs for our diverse student population. Advancement Via Independent Determination (AVID) was designed to reach our students in the middle who have potential but have not necessarily had the support system to go to college.
Another program tailored to meet the needs of our students is our new after school program. The After School Program has a goal is to improve the academic achievement of children and youth by providing them with out-of-school learning opportunities.
In further meeting the needs of our students, Sequoia's Junior Doctors Academy (JDA) was created to identity, educate, and advance annual cohorts of disadvantaged students from the middle school, through college, to health professions schools.
The number of student altercations has dropped from 250 in 2005-06 to 166 in 2007-08. We attribute this drop to the skill sets gained by our students in their Character Lessons, our peer mediation program as well as the visibility, predictability and accessibility of teachers and administration.
One of the programs we are most excited about is our growing Peer Mediation Program. Peer Mediation ties in Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Fairness and Respect and Caring as key components in taking on the role of peer mediator. It is the goal of our Peer Mediation Program to provide our students with tools to solve their own conflicts. Our program involves twenty to 30 students as mediators, who also serve as role models in the school of how to embody Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Fairness and Respect. One of our goals is to guide students towards finding responsible ways to resolve conflicts with each other.
In November and December our students brought in canned food to create Food Baskets which were donated to local families in need. Each March our students continue show the character trait of caring as they join hundreds of other students from across the country in a school wide effort to collect pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters for Pennies for Patients.
At Sequoia, we encourage service learning by providing opportunities for students to participate in community service activities and be recognized and rewarded for doing so. If a student chooses to be a part of the Sequoia Student of Service Program they will be required to volunteer a minimum number of hours in the community and or at the school. Students who participate in this program will be recognized quarterly.Top
Promising Practices from the 2007 Virtues and Character Award Winning Schools
(Excerpts from the Applications)
Green Acres Middle School (1048 Students 7th and 8th Grades)
Visalia Unified School District, Visalia, Ca. 93291
Principal: David Tonini
The staff at Green Acres Middle School believes that student success must be based on a partnership between home, school and community; student learning is directly linked to high expectations of students, staff and parents; developing student character is essential to our democratic society; each student must receive a core curriculum and technology based instruction and that additional assistance during or after school, is essential for student success; and, a strong extracurricular and elective program is needed to promote the development of the well-rounded student.
With this vision and framework of beliefs, our staff, working with parents and students, has crafted a character education program based on the Six Pillars of Character Counts! that teaches, promotes, and recognizes students of good character. To make sure there is on-going education in these beliefs, staff will be in-serviced yearly and given a school handbook, “Character Counts! ”, to encourage character education into daily teacher lessons. We believe these values and traits are essential to the development of good citizens not only for Green Acres Middle School but our community as well. Green Acres Middle School has developed its character education program through the establishment of a Character Counts! Committee and a site coordinator, assistant principal Andrew Vasquez.
The coordinator shares information with staff regularly from the Tulare County Office of Education, and its character coordinator. The coordinator is a national Character Counts! Trainer, certified by the Josephson Institute of ethics. Our program is reviewed for ongoing input by our staff committee and student Leadership Class, as well as our parent/teacher/student organization.
To promote and recognize good character, our school has created the “Character Counts! Pass”. Every teacher each month is given these passes to catch students practicing the six pillars of character. To reward students for this character behavior, students sign their name on the pass back and place it into the Character Counts! container in the library. At the end of the month, recognized students have their names shown at lunch as “Students of Character” and receive a free ice cream bar.
Each month a Character Counts! pillar word is highlighted, then staff nominate students for recognition at the school wide Student of the Month breakfast. Besides their picture proudly displayed in the office, they are also recognized as part of the school’s Character Counts! Hall of Fame, whose picture is displayed specifically for Character Counts! in the school office. When new display cases are set up in our new multi-purpose room, their pictures will proudly be displayed there too.
Any visitor to campus can quickly see that Green Acres is committed to promoting good character. Banners announcing the Pillar of the Month fly daily in front of the campus. Our character education school slogan, “Character Counts! … 7 Days a Week” is displayed prominently on a banner flown below our school marquee. This slogan was the result of a student slogan contest.
The monthly “Charger Award”, recognizes two students, picked by very teacher, who exemplify the Character Counts! Pillars, and work hard, get involved, and do the right thing.
Students who participated in our Leadership class activities each semester, must have a GPA of 2.6 and good citizenship, and are rewarded with an off campus activity. At the end of the school year, students are again recognized for participating in school activities (earning 100 plus activity points) and having good citizenship. Each earns a block “GA” award. Every student is eligible to win one of these awards.
Students are encouraged to participate in their school community as well as the larger community in a variety of ways at Green Acres. Our school has a very large leadership class and student government. These two groups provide weekly fun activities at lunchtime. “Fun Fridays” correspond with good citizenship for the week in the cafeteria and a willingness to keep their table areas clean. This is a big help to our custodian staff. “Fun Friday” activities are opened to everyone, and many times require a teacher teammate.
Green Acres annually shows its commitment to the community and the need to eradicate cancer by participating in the annual “American Cancer Society Fun Run”. Students, teachers and parents form teams to raise money for this worthy event. Students on campus contribute pennies and loose change in a school wide competition. For the 15th straight year Green Acres participated in this October event and has raised over $11,000.
Our character education program has been active for the last ten years and we believe we are reaping the benefits on a daily basis. Our average attendance is 95%, and our suspension rate is down. More importantly, we continue to see our students treat each other with civility and respect. A major contributor to this trend has been a partnership with the Character Counts! program and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. We believe that by continuing to emulate and promote our pillars of character, enforce no bullying on campus, and provide a campus of civility, our students will become productive members of society that will have a long lasting, positive effect in our community.
Live Oak Middle School (698 Students 6th, 7th, and 8th Grades)
Tulare City School District, Tulare, Ca 93274
Principal: Paula Adair
Character is of utmost importance at Live Oak Middle School in Tulare. The well-being and development of the whole child are major focuses of every highly rigorous academic offering and myriad of social events available to students. The center of every lesson and event is character.
Every day begins with morning announcements that include a quote promoting good character. It is a way to start the day right thinking about how to spend the time we have.
In order to encourage students to become responsible and to seek academic support, Live Oak issues tutoring attendance cards, which are worth prize incentives awarded for participation in after school tutorial programs. A team provides mentoring weekly, both socially and academically, to a group of fragile (ARI-Academic Review Intervention) students. Teachers take students as classroom aides in order to mentor them. At times, the school counselor selects specific students to work in the student store so they can be mentored. Modeling the 6 pillars of character is our greatest strength at Live Oak.
The student Leadership Class develops, as a final project, a Fifth Grade Academy, to prepare incoming Grizzlies for their middle school experience. From the Tulare Union High School Counseling Department, leadership students receive some training in how to organized large group activities, which coincide with the Link Crew program. They organized tours, introduce teachers, and put on skits of school rules and regulations for how to be a successful Grizzly, teach a dance and a cheer. During the student orientation, school Administration welcomes parents. This project allows students to put into practice what they understand of the 6 Pillars of Character.
Live Oak treats every incoming student as a future success story. Resource teachers and Special Education teachers, as well as the counselor, school nurse and administrator monitor every incoming Grizzly.
The behavior code is located in the Live Oak School Planner given to every student upon enrollment and used daily in class. Further, Character Counts! pillars are taught throughout the school and students understand they are expected to demonstrate appropriate behaviors.
Student leadership activities promoting respect, responsibility and good citizenship include a Live Oak Student Council. Student council members elected by their peers organize “Say Yes to Life” (anti drug and alcohol) activities during Red Ribbon Week and throughout the year. They promote school spirit through noontime activities and dress up days. The 8th grade class gift committee is a strong entity on campus that promotes good citizenship and respect. This group raises funds and purchases a class gift presented to the school each year. Past gifts included a school flag, trophy case, six-foot Grizzly, “Home of the Grizzlies” sign, Grizzly mural, mascot costume, and a bronze California Distinguished School plaque. The committee raises funds on a fun activity called Buddy Days where teachers and 8th graders are auctioned off and then spend a day being a buddy to their purchaser.
Beginning the second trimester of the 2006-2007 year positive student deportment is encouraged though Grizzly Pride Stickers. Every two weeks if a student has not been absent, late, left early, and or sent to the office for misbehavior that student receives a Grizzly Pride Sticker. Again to reward and promote responsibility and respect, school dances are held six times throughout the year and are sponsored by different clubs on campus.
To show we care, the Live Oak student body donates toys for less fortunate children in Tulare through the Toys for Kids program sponsored b the Tulare Police Department. They also organize an annual canned food drive. Further, for the last nine years, students at Live Oak have created the Tulare Activity Directory as a Service Learning Project. The directory catalogs every club and event available to young people in the community, and is used by many agencies throughout Tulare (Social Services, Tulare Police Department, Youth Services Bureau, Tulare Chamber of Commerce).
Los Tules Middle School (688 Students 6th, 7th, and 8th Grades)
Tulare City Schools, Tulare, Ca. 93274
Principal: Gary Yentes
Los Tules Middle School, though only four years old, has presented itself as a leading middle school within the Tulare City School District. The rigorous academic program offered by a highly-qualified staff sets in motion the tone of a campus that not only holds academics in high regard for each individual child, but also focuses on social and character development as these scholars continue their path into adulthood.
Staff and students work to personify Character Counts! daily. Each morning begins with Mr. Jenkins, LT’s Vice Principal, speaking to the students on the importance of not only being an LT scholar, but a respectful member of the LT community. This sense of individual and school pride encompasses all academic and social functions held at Los Tules.
Los Tules has fifty-five students that are currently enrolled in AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) classes. Ms. Berg and Ms. Dennis have had extensive training in assisting our teens in the development of their personal leadership and academic goals. The 8th grade AVID uses Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens to help students set and evaluate their goals. Topics covered in the program are: responsibility for your life, defining your mission, prioritizing, attitude, listening, working together, and renewing yourself.
To further emphasize the importance of Character Counts!, a Leadership Wheel was created for the 2006-2007 school year. This trimester-long class was designed to promote additional opportunities for students to discover ways to make good choices within and outside the school community.
Los Tules also honors our students monthly that show the pillar of responsibility. For the students that are here on time every day for one month, they receive a Triple A Card (Amazing Awesome Attitude). These cards have six items on the back that can be redeemed during the month. For example, we have a hot cocoa day or snow cones. Students can also get a free homework pass as well as not having to dress out during PE. This past month, Los Tules had the highest attendance percentage throughout all middle schools.
Mulcahy Middle School (583 Students 6th, 7th, and 8th Grades)
Tulare City Schools, Tulare, Ca 93274
Principal: John Pendelton
Mulcahy Middle School is dedicated to strengthening young people through an educational program, the foundation of which is based on a blend of academics and moral and ethical development. The school community has embraced the core ethical values of responsibility, respect, trustworthiness, caring, fairness, and citizenship. Mulcahy is currently in its eighth year of the CHARACTER COUNTS! program.
Prior to their first day of school, members of the school community and the staff participate in an orientation assembly. School policies, student behaviors, and responsibilities are discussed. The core ethical values are used as a model for expected student behavior. Academic school planners are given to every student. The planners contain information supporting our character development program and are used as a tool to promote responsibility through daily use, recording class assignments, homework to be completed, and on-going communication with parents. The planners are designed to provide students with easy access to reference materials, i.e., CHARACTER COUNTS!, Mulcahy School History, School Vision Statement, and the Tree-Way School Pledge.
During the months of August and September, all students receive an introduction to the six pillars of CHARACTER COUNTS! In October, after conducting a school-wide review, each student writes an essay that is tailored to specific writing genre while reinforcing core ethical values found within CHARACTER COUNTS! At the conclusion of this assignment, our school sponsors a CHARACTER COUNTS! dance in which all who have completed their assignment are invited to attend. We believe the most powerful method to foster the meaning of the pillars is to provide opportunities to observe and model ethical behaviors.
In addition to classroom instruction, we take advantage of every opportunity to recognize students exhibiting behaviors consistent with the pillars of character:
- CHARACTER COUNTS! Trimester Student of the Month Luncheon
- Hosted by the staff to salute exemplary examples of student behavior.
- Stallions of the Month
- Showcases individuals who through their actions exhibit exemplary character. Selections are made in each homeroom by the teacher and class members.
- Tulare County “Kids of Character”
- County recognition of student achievement.
- Caught Being Good- Positive Notice Postcards
- Students receive a postcard-sized certificate recognizing good behavior.
- Mulcahy Pride T-Shirts
- Given to students demonstrating outstanding ethical decision-making and citizenship.
- Graduation Recognition
- CHARACTER COUNTS! lapel pins earned throughout their years at Mulcahy are worn by students who are formally recognized at the ceremony.
Community service is a priority for Mulcahy Middle School. Since 1994, Mulcahy has become a major contributor to Children’s Hospital of Central California, having sold over 39,000 “Kid’s Day” newspapers. Mulcahy students routinely volunteer to participate in civic service activities and make charitable contributions. Students and staff work together organizing and collecting food items to be donated to local aid agencies. Students also participate in “bell-ringing” for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season.
Through AVID, the Mulcahy staff has focused on peer tutoring to develop a stronger sense of community, both academically and socially. It is our belief that utilizing peer tutoring we are able to teach our students the value of working collaboratively, making personal connections with our community and capitalizing on our own personal strengths.
A variety of opportunities are created throughout the school day and beyond for students in an effort to promote and model fairness, equity, caring, and respect for others. Such activities include our: Poetry and Prose Festival; Spelling Bee; Math Super Bow; Art Exhibitions; Band and Auxiliary Performances; College Awareness Week; Athletic Teams; Pride Dances; DARE Graduation; and, our Red Ribbon Week Activities.
Rafer Johnson Junior High School (465 Students 7th and 8th Grades)
Kingsburg Elementary Charter District, Kingsburg, Ca 93631
Principal: Laurie Goodman
Three years ago, our administration, staff, and School Site Council chose to adopt the Character Counts! program and its six core ethical values. As a staff we agreed to acknowledge good student behavior and citizenship by rewarding those individuals who exemplify these positive characteristics on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Along with the School Site Council, our staff and administration agreed to adopt the Six Pillars of Character and Rafer Johnson’s motto “Be the best that you can be” as our core values.
The RJJH administration and teachers adopted the use of daily planners for each student. Every curriculum area requires students to write their homework assignments and lessons in the planner on a daily basis. The planner follows and emphasizes the six pillars of character. Students see character quotes and prompts of good behavior and ethics every time they open their planner.
We believe RJJH fosters an intentional, proactive and comprehensive approach to its core values in all phases of school life. This is accomplished through school wide programs, rewards, classroom instruction, library projects, and safety plans. Not only does our staff intentionally and proactively address character education through our Student of the Month program, but they also watch for positive behavior or random acts of kindness on a daily basis. Our 23 teachers receive “Fast Passes” to be used as they observe students in class, or on the playground exhibiting the monthly character trait. The student may use the pass to advance to the front of any food line during the day.
Our daily bulletin also stresses good character. It highlights the Character of the Month with a unique character quote each day. Classes discuss the quote, which helps to reinforce proactive character education on a daily basis. A “Rafer Reminder” is also in our daily bulletin. The message changes daily, but reinforces good manners in regards to the six character traits. Our AVID class emphasizes the character trait of the month by having each student give examples of what the trait might look like at RJJH and in the Kingsburg community.
Our staff and School Site Council realize that teen conflict is normal and they have endorsed our Peer Mediator Program. We agree that when conflict is handled with trained peers in a positive manner, schools can empower students to help themselves.
Rafer Johnson Jr. High promotes a clean and secure learning environment by partnering with our local police department and community leaders. Signs are posted on our campus that state drugs and alcohol are not permitted. Local police officers are always available to talk with students in a proactive manner. They are willing to get to know our students on a personal level and have helped with our school safety plans. To help ensure a clean and safe learning environment, our classified support staff work together and respond quickly to repairs and clean-ups on campus.
Our teachers promote positive social development by encouraging and modeling behavioral expectations. The use of good manners, polite vocabulary, and a zero tolerance policy for bullying and put downs encourages positive social interactions. Writings and discussion of good character traits follow the English Language Arts (ELA) frameworks. The ELA department follows State Standards by teaching autobiographical writings of current or historical persons who exhibit positive character traits. Class discussions are frequent and based on the six pillars of character. Cause and effect discussions in class, along with assignments, help reinforce healthy student behaviors and good decision-making skills. Problem solving discussions that emphasize cooperation and sharing rather than competing help promote social development. Our ELA classes use ethical standards by having students define a character trait in writing poetry.
The Math frameworks states the curriculum is to “create and maintain a classroom environment that fosters a genuine understanding and confidence in all students….” The importance of honesty on test taking is emphasized along with the respect of each other’s personal space, time, and need for working in a quiet environment.
Our Drama class role-plays different scenarios regarding various social situations, helping students learn positive ways of handling different group dynamics. The Journalism class teaches media and print ethics along with proper work and job ethics that students are expected to use while composing the school newspaper.
Science teachers reinforce positive group dynamics by expecting students to work as a team during lab instruction. Students have learned that success for the team brings success for the individual. Our library/computer lab infuses character education and group cohesion by featuring a different culture each month.
The P. E. curriculum is organized to meet the needs of all students by stressing fairness, honesty, teamwork, and respect of others on a daily basis. At the beginning of the year every student in our school participates in a hands-on-activity called “Circle of Hands”. Each student is asked to trace their hand on a large sheet of paper, and then write in their hand ways they plan to abide by the six character traits. The charts are hung on the gym walls for a month to remind our students of their commitment and pledge to each other during the year. “Circle of Hands” is routinely talked about during instruction and class activities.
Rafer Johnson Jr. High truly revolves around Character Education. Our core values are continuously reinforced through our various programs: Character Counts! , Student of the Month, Perfect Attendance, Peer Mediators, Fun Works, classroom and library instruction and discussions, daily planners, rewards for good behavior, the daily bulletin, and our service clubs on campus.
Sequoia Middle School (820 Students 7th- 8th Grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, Ca. 93702
Principal: Mike Ribera
Sequoia Middle School houses a Campus Culture Committee comprised of a Campus Culture Director, several teachers and administrative staff members. The Campus Culture Committee meets to generate ideas as well as to modify our working programs. It is the goal of the committee to provide a well-rounded quality program that works for and meets the needs of our students, staff and parents. This program is communicated to parents in many ways, including the Sequoia Parent/Student/Teacher Compact within the student agenda carried by each student at Sequoia Middle School.
We reward our students and increase participation through our weekly recognition program. Sequoia recognizes students each week who have demonstrated the individual pillars: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship, as well as additional areas, which include but are not limited to student leadership, peer mediation, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. Staff members are given tickets with the current pillar to hand out to students showing good character. This opportunity for recognition and verbal praise is proving to be one of our most powerful tools in reinforcing responsible choices and acts of kindness.
The Character Counts! Tickets are new to Sequoia this year but are proving to be a strong motivator on campus. All staff members have tickets displaying the character trait of the month to give students demonstrating good character. Students place their tickets into the Character Bucket in the front office for a chance to win prizes each Friday. Students eagerly await Friday announcements, listening for their name to be called. Students win prizes such front of the line passes for the cafeteria and snack bar coupons. All winning students are then put into an additional drawing to take place at the end of the month.
Our Go Agenda! is based upon “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens”, a specialized program providing weekly Character Counts! lessons for students in their agendas. This program, which is new to Sequoia, is designed to help our students improve their self-image, make good choices and act responsibly. A unique feature of the Go Agenda! is the parent component. Lessons for the student to complete with their family are provided and encouraged.
It is vital that citizenship, grades and attendance be interwoven into our site program. Students who have demonstrated good character, with no more than two tardies, no failing grades, and no administrative suspensions are rewarded through Sequoia’s Awesome Characters (SAC PACK). These students are allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities such as dances and reward socials. As a site we have noticed a rise in the number of eligible students. The students have told their teachers that it is worth the extra effort to be a part of such a fun program. Our teachers are thrilled to have such a motivating factor to use within their classrooms and are anxious to get out and help us with the events. Several teachers have mentioned that students asked, “What do I have to do to bring my grade up, I want to participate!”
The first Annual Character Counts! Award will be presented at the end of the year to one eighth grade boy and girl who demonstrated exemplary character over the year. These students will be chosen based upon all six pillars, Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship. Students will be honored at eighth grade promotion.
The Raise the Grade Challenge proved to be a huge success in motivating students to take responsibility and bring their grades up as well as empower students to set goals and learn about their GPA. At the end of each six-week period, students write goals and an action plan as to how they can raise their grades. In semesters to follow students who earn a 3.0 or higher GPA, and/or those showing improvement in their performance will be sent a letter acknowledging and congratulating them on their successes from Mr. Ribera, principal of Sequoia Middle School. In addition to the letter from Mr. Ribera, students are given tickets for the grade points raised and are entered into a drawing for prizes.
Advancement Via Independent Determination (AVID) was designed to reach our students in the middle who have potential but have not necessarily had the support system to go to college. The AVID program helps in teaching and reinforcing Responsibility, Trustworthiness and Citizenship through workshops, fieldtrips and tutorials. In addition to reinforcing good character, the AVID classes are to help students become eligible for acceptance at a four-year college and equip them for success by encouraging them to take challenging academic classes when they enter high school.
Another program tailored to meet the needs of our students is Communities Organizing Resources to Advance Learning, or CORAL. CORAL is an after school program enjoyed by our students. CORAL’s goal is to improve the academic achievement of children and youth by provided them with out-of-school learning opportunities. Respect, Responsibility, Caring and Trustworthiness are all reinforced through team activities, tutorials, campus beautification and enrichment activities.
In further meeting the needs of our students, Sequoia’s Junior Doctors Academy (JDA) was created to identity, educate, and advance annual cohorts of disadvantaged students from the middle school, through college, to health professions schools. Safety and student support procedures begin when we open the gates in the morning. Students, dressed in compliance with our site dress code, are greeted by several teachers and administrators. A follow up program offered after school is our STOP program or Students Targeted with Opportunities for Prevention. The STOP program is intended to provide early-intervention services to “at-risk” juveniles and their families. The objective of STOP is to mitigate the factors that increase the juvenile’s likelihood of entering the juvenile justice system, re-offend, or require out-of-home placement. The STOP program is geared towards “at-risk” juveniles ages 10 to 14--fifth through eighth grades that are not on formal probation--and their families. Program components include parent empowerment groups, youth development groups, family empowerment, follow-up home visits, youth recreation activities, family recreation activities, tutoring/ academic enrichment, juvenile delinquency prevention, mentoring, and anger management. The skills taught through this program go hand in hand with our character study.
Sequoia is committed to strong parent involvement. Several activities are planned to strengthen family dynamics by providing pleasurable family experiences. Events such as our upcoming Multicultural Dinner and Young Authors Faire will bring families together, strengthen the community, and provide a sense of partnership between the home and school. Communication with parents is crucial and a high priority.
One of the programs we are most excited about is our growing Peer Mediation Program. Peer Mediation ties in Trustworthiness, Responsibility, Fairness and Respect as key components in taking on the role of peer mediator. It is the goal of our Peer Mediation Program to provide our students with tools to solve their own conflicts. Our program will involve twenty to thirty-five students listening to students without offering advice or solutions. One of our goals is to guide the students towards finding their own solutions; often by talking to the student they have been in conflict with in a non-confrontational manner.
In brainstorming ideas with the teachers we have asked them to reflect upon how they promote Character Counts! and give specific examples from the curriculum as to how character is tied into their daily lessons. The team of Sequoia educators has successfully changed the culture of the campus and is in the process of creating excellent characters well equipped with tools to be life-long learners committed to the pillars of character we instill into their everyday activities her at Sequoia.
Toby Lawless Middle School (125 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, Ca. 93722
Principal: John Maurer
Toby Lawless K-8 School has worked hard to establish programs to encourage good character and promote core ethical values in a safe, supportive atmosphere.
One of the programs we are working on that measures observable behaviors showing good character is our Block L program. Students work to build up enough points to be able to receive the coveted Block L. Points are awarded not only for athletics but also for community service, merit list, honor roll, attendance, and school activities. Students from grades 4 through 8 are eligible for this award. Students of all ability levels, social levels, and ethnicity have a chance to earn the letter. The only requirement is to be showing effort to be a better, more concerned, productive and involved member of the Lawless community.
Monthly, students in each classroom are recognized for their hard work, for good behavior, and for exemplifying good character. They are called our “Students of the Month”. Each student selected for this honor has his/her name announced over the intercom, has a picture taken and posted on our “Super Stars” board, and receives certificates for free meals at various restaurants. A letter and a picture are sent home to the parents. The students take pride in being selected and look forward to seeing their pictures in the hallway. Other students also point with pride to the student’s picture from their classrooms that were their student of the month.
Evidence of our infusion of character education throughout all phases of the school environment can be found in numerous places and handled in a variety of ways. We are promoting the six pillars of character- trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship- with posters and bulletin boards in the cafeteria, office, and classrooms, with pillars on the school ground painted in the 6 colors, and with a special school-wide CHARACTER COUNTS! Week. Our leadership class wrote and presented an assembly on respect/anti-bullying last year to grades 2 through 8 and is working on one this year that will focus on eliminating the problem of “rumors”.
Within the classrooms, character education is infused in all aspects of the curriculum. For example, it is a natural fit in the area of history as they study the formation and development of the United States and other countries. English Language Arts teachers use the terminology of character education when discussing the core literature material. When in science, being able to participate in a lab requires knowing and following the rules of safety that incorporate the character traits. Of course, physical education classes promote “pursuing victory with honor”. Each classroom has a poster of the character traits that can be seen and referred to during the day, and all the teachers have a chart that allows them to be aware of the particular traits highlighted for each month. When students leave the rooms to go to lunch, to the bathroom, or out to recess, they see the character trait of that month posted on every exit door in the main building and in the cafeteria.
Toby Lawless is a small middle school, but it has a complete sports program. Students are encouraged to tryout for sports throughout the school year. Being a part of a team promotes sportsmanship, pride, and an avenue for positive group involvement- a positive gang, so to speak. Standards for being a member of an athletic team are upheld, requiring a 2.0 grade point average and good citizenship. Lawless believes that sports activities not only teach “pursuing victory with honor”, but also help students feel more connected to their school, develop pride in themselves and their school, and learn to work as a team along with students of various races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and ability levels.
Since not all students want to be a part of a sports team, Toby Lawless offers other ways for students to become a participating member of a school group. One of our most popular and most rewarding groups is our Livestrong Club. It proudly boasts a membership of 178 for the entire school. The club focuses on community service, involving students in a in a walk for breast cancer, collecting clothes for the needy, donating food for the less fortunate, giving gifts to a family at Christmas, “Coats for Kids”, and making Valentine cards for the patients at Children’s Hospital.
Our school provides numerous activities to allow students opportunities for moral action. As a total student body, we have provided for 10 of our own families this year, participated in “Pennies for patients” to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and been involved with the Livestrong Community Service Club in raising money for cancer research. Middle school students are classroom aides, peer math and reading tutors, carol for a retirement home at Christmas, and do school beautification.
Wawona Middle School (850 Students 6th, 7th, and 8th Grades)
Fresno Unified School District, Fresno, Ca. 93704
Principal: Mike Darling
We believe in developing inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people to help create a more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect for others.
At Wawona we begin each school year with a two-week program we call Mission: Possible. We introduce the Parent/Teacher/Student Handbook and the Student Daily Agenda. We review and teach school rules, procedures, dress code, and behavior expectations. We concentrate on reinforcement of math facts, writing, reading and vocabulary lessons. We present the Character Counts! Pillars and provide instructions on how we can all be a learning community by living these core ethical values.
Social Studies teachers teach ethics through lessons in multicultural understanding and respect for human rights and through teachable moments in current events. Language Arts teachers teach values through core literature, development of characters, and writing to ethical themes. Physical Education teachers teach the Character Counts! traits through sportsmanship, competition, and social responsibility in movement activities. In all areas of the curriculum, in classes and offices, you will see displays of Character Counts! posters and work done by students that promote their understanding of those values. Bulletin boards in our cafeteria and gym display pillar colors, quotes, monthly character themes, and photographs of students as Kids of Character.
Wawona Middle School and our Pre-International Baccalaureate Program promote respect for multiculturalism and internationalism. We honor the diversity of our students through art, music and dance. Wawona students have performed at lunchtime to very respectful and admiring audiences of their peers. We have had Vietnamese, Hmong, Hip Hop, and Folkloric dancing. Future dance groups include Stomp, Cambodian and Native American. We have had celebrations of Black History Month, Mexican Independence, Hanukkah and coming soon, Chinese New Year. Students are taking a proactive approach to their own learning and planning activities that they enjoy and appreciate. Student Committees are planning events for Black History Month, Random Acts of Kindness, Teacher Appreciation, Farewell 8th graders and Everyone’s a Star Day.
Coaches, athletes, and parents are given code of ethics forms and expectations. Winning and losing with grace and respect is part of that code. Students-athletes are rewarded at the end of the season with an assembly that includes honoring those students who competed with character. These awards are for athletes who show effort, sportsmanship and fairness, on and off the court or field.
We have challenged ourselves to 1000 hours of service, starting on the MLK Day of Service Holiday and continuing until school is out for the summer. Student volunteers work in the cafeteria, ballroom, school office and library. We have a Community Garden Project that is ongoing and productive. Students turn in service hours each week and we are keeping a Volunteer Binder and a large “thermometer” showing our hours! Students are committed to the success of the 1000-hour challenge. They are eager to help with Special Olympics, Kid’s Day, Hoops for Heart, Recycling and Cesar Chavez Day of Service.
Students are encouraged to participate at lunchtime in physical activity on the playground or challenges in the library. Formal and informal intramurals are offered every day. Students know that if they stay active with healthy activities during their lunch break, they will stay out of trouble, feel better and learn better. Basketball, jump rope, Jeopardy, board games, ping-pong, volleyball and much more is available daily. Special activities are offered each week like relays, pie-eating, guessing games, physical challenges and contests.
We celebrate scholarship each quarter by hosting high-energy rallies to honor high achieving students. Students that maintain three quarters of high grades, good character and citizenship are rewarded with a Principal’s Trip near the end of the year. Quarterly Reward Dances are also special events for deserving students.
Students at Wawona are taking responsibility for their success and learning. Sometimes they make mistakes, sometimes they treat each other unkindly, but they are learning that the expectations that we have for them are important, worthwhile, and healthy.Top
Promising Practices from the 2005 Virtues and Character Award Winning Schools
(Excerpts from the applications)
Clark Intermediate School (1337 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Clovis Unified School District, Clovis, CA 93612
Principal: Mr. Carl Tomlinson
Clark Intermediate has defined its core ethical values in terms of observable behavior by developing numerous programs to allow students to reach their greatest potential as tomorrow’s leaders. By far, the most observable of these is the “Sparthenian” concept. This philosophy is a hybrid term based on the Ancient Greek City-states of Sparta and Athens. Sparta was well known for its athletic and physical might and Athens was famous for its academic and intellectual achievements. With this, Dr. Floyd B. Buchanan conceived the culmination of balance in Mind, Body and Spirit, when Clovis Unified was created in 1965. In the last 40 years, students in Clovis have exhibited these core ethical values on a daily basis both in and out of the classroom, becoming role models for neighboring schools and school districts. The Sparthenian concept truly challenges students to be the best they can be by excelling in academics, athletics and taking pride in our school and community.
Clark Intermediate School involves all families and instructional staff in the development process of promoting core ethical values by utilizing many media. All schools in CUSD rely on suggestions via feedback obtained by annual surveys. One of the most important of these surveys is the SART Committee or School Assessment Review Team. This committee meets monthly and includes members from the community, teaching staff, administration and student body. In these meetings, areas of concern and “brainstorming” sessions are held to address certain issues where needs or improvements to current programs can be developed. Input from these sessions is critical as schools are later rated in several categories on a final questionnaire at the end of the school year. These results are analyzed in-depth as data-driven statistics to help all schools in Clovis Unified recognize areas of strength and weakness in order to adapt and accept the needs of our ever-changing society, without losing sound traditional and educational foundations. Results of these surveys are published and clearly displayed on the district’s website and hard copies are made available as well.
By far, the best way we address character education is the monthly seminars we hold. Every month, one pillar is addressed thematically on a special seminar schedule. Lessons with self-evaluation surveys, class discussion topics and writing activities are distributed to the entire student body of 1300 (+) via homeroom students. These activities are taken home and discussed with parents, signed and returned to the school. The class with the highest percentage of returns is rewarded with a special whole-class treat and honored in the morning announcements and/or the school newspaper. Because this is a school activity, both grade levels have equal and fair opportunity to participate in Character Counts! education.
Clark has several ways to recognize students for their efforts to become model citizens of society. These include: The Character Counts! Award, Student of the Month, Block “C” for academic and athletic performance, Principal’s Medallion, The Performing Arts Award, Athletic Sports Banquet, 8th Grade Appreciation, Bilingual Redesignation for English Learner Progress and Semester Academic Awards Night.
Clark has been involved in many civic community programs. This includes, but is not exclusive to: Valley Children’s Volunteers, Poverello House, Coats-for-Kids, Clovis Rodeo, “Kids’ Day” Newspapers sales, Disabled Awareness Day, School-Canned Food Drive and Elementary Peer Counselors. These collaborative projects are held annually and get students to become more involved in their community with goal-oriented service learning through supportive fieldwork.
By far our greatest success this year was the “Asian Tsunami Relief” Drive, which was held immediately after the devastation from the earthquake and tsunami in south Asia that left over 170,000 dead and even more homeless. Our student council and leadership class, who sold lollipops for a small fee and collected donations from the staff and students, spearheaded this thoughtful effort. Within one month, Clark Intermediate students and staff collected almost $2,000.00 to be sent to the American Red Cross Relief Foundation. This money will be used to help the survivors of this terrible tragedy and gave the Clark community a better awareness and understanding that caring is a vital component to helping people both domestically and internationally.
El Capitan Middle School (800 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Central Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93722
Principal: Mr. John Barber
To provide a healthy, nurturing, and stimulating school environment, El Capitan Middle School has agreed on core ethical values that we promote in a variety of ways. Our Student of the Month program has targeted values such as working together, sharing happiness, creative cooperation, and facing challenges just to name a few. The values are promoted daily throughout the school environment, and not just in the classroom. Classroom lessons, daily activities, and extra-curricular activities are structured around these core values.
Currently, parents, staff, and students have been working together in promoting ethical values through the “Parenting Partners” classes. Every Thursday, the “Parenting Partners” meet to build a vision for our students’ success. Stakeholders learn to become contributors to the success of the school and students. Parents learn how to positively engage the school and teachers, and become more involved in all aspects of their child’s academic life.
Through the use of Staff Development time, the Safe School Committee, and the Discipline Committee, teachers have become very involved in the process of promoting core values. The El Capitan community has developed and implemented an assertive discipline model, which is firm, fair, and consistent. Behavior expectations are clearly stated and promoted within the school. The policy consists of a series of steps not to just hand out consequences, but rather to change the behavior through the use of counseling and parental involvement. To date, the policy has been very successful, drastically cutting down on the amount of disciplinary offensives taking place. Our attendance rate has fluctuated between 98 and 99 percent.
El Capitan Middle School implements intentional and proactive procedures and activities that promote character education. Every morning on the school-wide public address system, all staff and students recite the Pledge of Allegiance. “Words of Wisdom” are discussed by the Administration daily, and staff and teachers integrate these values into their lessons and journals discussing what the “Words of Wisdom” mean to them. Our Administrators also take special attention in teaching character education to our students. Vice Principals have gone into several classes that were having trouble getting along. After reading a story, whole class discussions are held about getting along, working together, and being nice to people from different backgrounds.
Staff and teachers constantly model goals and expectations, which include respect for others. If there is an issue of disrespect, it is handled in a firm, fair, and consistent manner. Students are given the opportunity to learn by their mistakes through a series of educational assignments. Our Responsibility Center, which houses students who have made poor choices, gives those students the necessary time and tools to reflect upon their behavior, and helps them develop solutions to the situation that occurred.
Recently, a family whose children attend McKinley Elementary School lost everything in a house fire. A call for help was made to the student body at El Capitan, and the response was staggering. Students brought food, clothing, toys, and other useful items so the family could rebuild…. Our English Learners are very involved in contributing to the school and community as well. They used their newfound English skills to write Christmas letters to U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Many thank-you cards and photos were sent to our students for their acts of generosity.
Kastner Intermediate School (1360 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Clovis Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93720
Principal: Mr. Rick Gold
The mission of Kastner Intermediate School is to provide a safe, nurturing learning environment that promotes the values of CHARACTER COUNTS!, recognizes diversity, promotes respect, and encourages students to strive for excellence. It is our aim to provide learning experiences that result in measurable growth for all students, help them to reach their potential in MIND, BODY, and SPIRIT, and prepare them to be productive citizens in our community. Goals were developed through student, staff, and community feedback, gathered from surveys and meetings. One specific goal was the continued implementation of CHARACTER COUNTS!
Although each department at Kastner is diligent in its efforts to include character education in its curriculum, the Physical Education Department has decided to make this one of their primary goals. Each semester, specific lessons are taught on the values of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. Recently, the physical education and athletic departments have incorporated new lessons specific to the terms sportsmanship and gamesmanship. Students learn that sportsmanship is the playing of the game to develop teamwork, respect for an opponent, and an appreciation for personal integrity. On the other hand, they learn that gamesmanship is an overwhelming drive to win at all cost. By incorporating sportsmanship into our character traits, we have seen fewer incidents of inappropriate behavior on the fields, courts, and pools where our teams compete.
Kastner has recently shifted the focus of its leadership program. In previous years, approximately fifty students a year were selected to participate in a leadership class that focused on school and community service. The program has been increased to include nearly one hundred students and focuses on the character traits of good leaders. Materials from CHARACTER COUNTS! and the Fresno County Office of Education’s Leadership Academy are used to reinforce the importance of good character.
Kastner has strived to give every student group a voice on campus. Each fall students who are identified as being leaders of a group are asked to attend a workshop. Identified groups change each year but have included such groups as Hispanic Males, Skateboarders, Jocks, African American Females, etc…. The goal is to identify a minimum of ten students in each group and have them attend the workshop. At this workshop, community members who closely align with each group are invited to serve as facilitators. The students and facilitators work in affinity groups to identify issues on our campus that need to be addressed. After each group works together to identify the issues, they are asked to present their findings to the other groups. Once all issues have been shared, the entire group decides what are the five most important issues. With the assistance of the facilitators, the groups are then mixed and each of the mixed groups is asked to discuss and present solutions to the issues. The issues and the proposed solutions are then shared with the Kastner Administrative Team. Results are also shared with faculty members who are then able to address issues through instruction and classroom projects. This process promotes positive social development and group cohesion.
One of the most recent changes at Kastner has been the implementation of the “Thinking it Through” process used with students who are sent to the cluster office for disciplinary action. The process asks students to identify why they are in the office, what other choices they could have made, and to identify a character trait that was not followed. The form is used by the administrator as a tool to guide their discussion with the student.
Leadership Class. Two years ago, staff was very concerned about the decline in students demonstrating good choices while on campus. The solution was to expand the leadership class and to infuse additional character education into the curriculum. Four additional sections were added to the master schedule and the number of teachers instructing the class increased from one to five. This resulted in an additional one hundred students being trained as student leaders. In preparing the curriculum for this class, teachers participated in the Fresno County Office of Education’s Leadership Academy and reviewed materials from the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. Students in the leadership class were encouraged to act as leaders on campus by practicing ethical decision making and encouraging other students to do the same.
Academic Letters. At the end of each six-week period, students who were earning a 3.5 or higher G.P.A., or who have demonstrated improvement in their grades from the previous reporting period, are sent a letter congratulating them on their accomplishments from their Learning Director. The letter contains references to how practicing the pillars of CHARACTER COUNTS! has enabled them to earn these types of grades and how continuing to practice these pillars will enable them accomplish much more in life.
La Joya Middle School (1050 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Visalia Unified School District, Visalia, CA 93277
Principal: Ms. Mary Whitfield
It is the goal of La Joya Middle School Character Education Program to strengthen the character of the students by raising their consciousness and increasing their commitment to the principle that Character Counts! We want to involve students in the promotion of character at school, in the home, and in the community.
La Joya Middle School wishes to reward students and increase awareness through the monthly recognition program. La Joya recognizes students each month who have shown strengths in the individual pillars, which include Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship, as well as three additional areas, which include Teamwork, Leadership, and Creativity.
La Joya maintains a Character Education Committee that meets to generate ideas and modify existing programs so that we continue to meet our goal of a quality character education program. These ideas are expressed to the parents in many ways, including the La Joya Middle School Student/Parent handbook given to all La Joya students.
La Joya staff members do a daily newscast , which is fed directly into the first period advisory classrooms on the campus. Character quotes are often used in these newscasts. Weekly Character lessons are also broadcast into the first period advisory classrooms. Teachers model appropriate character traits for students and expect respect for all within their classrooms.
Citizenship grades are part of the progress report and report card system of feedback to the parents. Students who have more than one unsatisfactory citizenship grade are not allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities. Classroom rules model the Character Counts! traits.
The La Joya Middle School disciplinary system includes areas of improvement for character on the discipline referral. The administration also has access to Character Counts! contracts for students who need behavioral correction.
La Joya Middle School has many ways in which our students are recognized:
- Explorer of the Month- This is recognition given to eight students per month. Students are nominated by classroom teachers for the Character trait of the month (January-Caring). Since our school is organized into academic teams, each team chooses two students on their team who most exemplify the trait. These students are treated to a Limo lunch, which is paid for out of our student recognition budget.
- Character Education Awards- Every three months students who were recognized as Explorers of the Month and their parents are treated to a dessert reception at which time they receive an award for their promotion of the pillars of character. Each student is called up and the Principal, reads a compilation of nice comments provided by their teachers. This reception takes place in the evening.
- Character Counts! Award- The Character Counts! Award is presented to one eighth grade boy and one eighth grade girl who have demonstrated exemplary character over two years and who personify the qualities of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.
Other awards are as follows: Attendance awards, athletic awards, honor roll, high honors, Principal awards, and end of the year banner awards.
School administrators have developed weekly character lessons that are broadcast by television into the first period student advisory classes once a week. These lessons talk specifically about character traits. Each lesson gives examples of situations that students may encounter as well as proper responses for each situation. The lessons have discussion questions at the end that the teachers use to generate class discussions.
The school administration and department chairs created a school wide motto of “We CAN”. The CAN is an acronym for Character, Achievement, and No Failure. Students were introduced to this motto at the beginning of the school year in their advisory classes. Each advisory class participated in a spirit activity that required them to make a banner with the slogan We CAN on it. The banners were all displayed in the cafeteria for the school year. The banners were judged by members of the leadership class and the winning classes got prizes.
Live Oak Middle School (739 Student 6th-8th Grades)
Tulare City Unified School District, Tulare, CA 93274
Principal: Ms. Paula Adair
“The Right Place at the Right Time” has been Live Oak’s school motto and driving inspiration since it was established in 1989. The well-being and development of the whole child are major focuses of every highly rigorous academic offering and myriad of social events available to students. The center of every lesson and event is character.
Inside the multipurpose room, a six-foot grizzly carving and a four by eight foot mural of a grizzly bear among live oak trees invite school spirit and a sense of pride in students. On the walls are banners of honor where responsible students’ names are displayed. Those there have achieved honor roll status academically. On the back wall are students’ names that are achieving million-word reader status. In this room students are honored monthly for their display of character at Live Oak, and parents and family members come to celebrate their achievement along with the entire student body. Each month is dedicated to a different pillar.
Formally and informally, staff chooses particular students to mentor. Daily conversations (as per Poverty by Ruby Payne and an in-service by Beatrice McGarvey from Classroom Instruction that Works) develop relationships that lead to students feeling they are supported. A team provides mentoring weekly, both socially and academically, to a group of fragile (ARI-Academic Review Intervention) students. Teachers take students as classroom aides in order to mentor them. At times, the school counselor selects specific students to work in the student store so they can be mentored. Modeling the 6 pillars of character is our greatest strength at Live Oak.
The beginning of the school year fifty-five students composed of 8th grade AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and 8th grade Academic Review students received Effective Teens Leadership In Action Training from the Premier Company. This student achievement workshop uses Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, to assist teens in developing their personal leadership skills. Topics covered in the program are: responsibility for your life, defining your mission, prioritizing, attitude, listening, working together, and renewing yourself. As a follow-up to the workshop AVID students weekly utilize the Go Premier Agenda, which is a partner to the training and assists students in setting and achieving goals. All 8th grade language arts core classes read and discussed The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens the first few weeks of school. Live Oak treats every incoming student as a future success story. Student needs are realized and addressed from the very outset of the educational experience on the Live Oak campus.
Realizing that bullying is a problem in our society, Second Step, Violence Prevention education is provided by a team, including two teachers and the school counselor, in all sixth grade classrooms. As an extension of this process, the school counselor uses this curriculum in small group counseling, and in training 6th through 8th graders as Peer Mediators, to help provide conflict resolution. The behavior code is located in the Live Oak School Planner given to every student upon enrollment and used daily in class. Further, Character Counts! pillars are taught throughout the school and students understand they are expected to demonstrate appropriate behaviors.
The 8th grade class gift committee is a strong entity on campus that promotes good citizenship and respect. This group raises funds and purchases a class gift presented to the school each year. Past gifts include a school flag, trophy case, six-foot Grizzly, “Home of the Grizzlies” sign, Grizzly mural and mascot costume. The committee raises funds on a fun activity called Buddy Days where teachers and 8th graders are auctioned off and then spend a day being a buddy to their purchaser.
The student Leadership Team, under the guidance of the school counselor, develops, as a final project, a Fifth Grade Academy to prepare incoming Grizzlies for their middle school experience. They organize tours, introduce teachers, put on skits of school rules and regulations for how to be a successful Grizzly, teach a dance and a cheer, and serve the participants dinner. During the student orientation, school Administration welcomes parents. This promotes caring, respect and good citizenship. Selected sixth and eighth grade students are trained as Peer Mediators and meet as needed with students to help resolve conflicts. The Volunteer Bureau is a student service club on campus open to all students. They work at parent conferences, sell donut holes and hot chocolate at Christmas time to raise money for Tulare community charities and participate in selling Kids Day newspapers to raise money for Children’s Hospital in Fresno.
To make the celebration of good character more evident on campus, we have opted to hold monthly assemblies in celebration of good character rather than a luncheon that involved only the families and students. We hope to display role models of exemplary character and build the confidence of those who are making the efforts to live a life of integrity.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School (1000 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Madera Unified School District, Madera, CA 93638
Principal: Mr. Robert Chavez
The community of Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School has agreed on the core ethical values it wished to promote: At MLK, we follow the six pillars of character in Character Counts! which are: Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Citizenship, Caring and Trustworthiness. After looking at various character educational programs, MLK reached consensus on Character Counts! Representatives of the school went to the local Board of Trustees that then officially approved the Character Counts! Program at MLK in 1997. All trustees were overwhelmingly in favor of not only using the CC! program during our advisory period but also in favor of infusing it throughout the curriculum during the instructional day. MLK remains the only school in Madera Unified that has a board-approved character education program. A committee comprised of school stakeholders meets every Friday morning to coordinate advisory/CC! activities.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School is intentional and proactive in addressing character education in the both the 7th and 8th grade levels through our advisement period, which takes place 20 minutes before first period each day. Character Counts! assemblies are held periodically for our students as well. Special guests have included: Holocaust survivors; Ruby Bridges (racial equity); Jeff Savage (author of over 130 books for MS age students) who writes of sports stars who are positive role models for young people. During Black History Month students are exposed to several special programs with guest speakers to acquaint students with role models (in addition to sports and music stars.) This year one of the editors on the King Papers Project from Stanford University spoke to use. (She is a Madera Unified Schools graduate.) Madera’s local newspaper recently selected MLK for a photo/article on Black History Month. The Library Media Center sponsors a special Hispanic Heritage Luncheon in October for staff and students, and the students produce the food. The 7th and 8th grade students sign up for dishes, check out cookbooks, make the recipes at home, and then bring the dishes to the library. All Hispanic countries are included to stress the fact the Hispanic means more than just Mexico.
Teachers (and all staff) are cognizant of using good character in conversations with students and staff and try to be a good role model for those who do not have a positive person in their life. Many teachers give of their time to share positive lessons with other staff members and donate time to help at various school events, for the benefit of the students. The pillars of character are displayed in each classroom and are often used in lesson plans.
Many opportunities are provided for our students to behave morally. Among the best are:
- Tuesday, November 16, 2004, more than 4 million students at nearly 8,000 schools around the country participated in the 3rd annual “Mix It Up at Lunch” Day. Participants stepped out of their comfort zones to meet someone new. Many students at MLK participated in “Mix It Up at Lunch”, as they also did last year. In a national survey, 70% of students named the cafeteria as the place where social boundaries are most clearly drawn at school. (www.mixitup.org)
- A select group of students participated in the 30-hour Famine Relief Project (an annual event) that will be held again at MLK this year on February 25-26, 2005. A special education video is first shown to students through their advisement class to brief them on Famine Relief and World Vision. MLK students will join more than one million teenagers in 21 countries to gather pledges through donors and sponsors to help the millions of starving and hurting children of the world. The MLK students will then go without food for 30 hours (while under adult supervision at MLK), so they can have a real taste of what hunger is like. During this time they engage in different activities in our school gymnasium. Afterwards, the money raised is sent in to World Vision. After 30 hours, a student can raise $360, enough money to feed and provide necessary care to a child for a whole year.
- Students and staff participated in the annual canned food drive for the Madera Rescue Mission, which is located just a few blocks from our school. All advisory classes participated this year and collected over 1,000 cans of food. The staff and students also contributed toys and books to the children at the Mission. The director of the Mission is always invited to speak to staff and • students via our closed circuit television regarding the enormous need for food and shelter for Madera’s homeless. Some of our students, however, really cannot give canned food - as many of our MLK families actually eat holiday dinners (or other dinners) at the Mission themselves. Those students may make holiday cards and write cheerful letters to the children and to the adults at the Mission. Caring is our pillar for December every year.
Mulcahy Middle School (569 Students 6th-8th Grades)
Tulare City School District, Tulare, CA 93274
Principal: Mr. John Pendleton
Named after long-time Tulare educator, Mrs. Alice G. Mulcahy, Mulcahy Middle School is dedicated to the principles of hard work, honesty, pride, and determination, all hallmarks of Mrs. Mulcahy and her family. Mrs. Mulcahy obtained her teaching credential in 1910 and over the next forty years established herself as an advocate for youth and a leading citizen of Tulare.
Prior to their first day of school, members of the school community and the staff participate in an orientation assembly. School policies, student behaviors, and responsibilities are discussed. The core ethical values are used as a model for expected student behavior. Academic school planners are given to every student. The planners contain several items supporting our character development program and are used as a tool to promote responsibility through daily use, recording class assignments, homework to be completed, and on-going communication with parents. The planners are designed to provide students with easy access to reference materials i.e., CHARACTER COUNTS!, Mulcahy School History, School Vision Statement, and the Three-way School Pledge.
During the months of August and September, all students receive an introduction to the six pillars of CHARACTER COUNTS! In October, after conducting a school wide review, each student writes an essay that is tailored to specific writing genre while reinforcing core ethical values found within CHARACTER COUNTS! At the conclusion of this assignment, our school sponsors a CHARACTER COUNTS! Barbecue and Dance that all members of our school community are invited to attend. We believe the most powerful method to foster the meaning of the pillars is to provide opportunities to observe and model ethical behaviors. The Vision of Mulcahy Middle School is to prepare all students for high school and post-secondary education through a standards-based academic program that promotes strong ethical character, critical thinking skills and emotional physical well-being.
Teachers are encouraged to integrate the CHARACTER COUNTS! Philosophy into their lessons to further encourage and promote the progression of ethical decision-making. In addition to classroom instruction, we take advantage of every opportunity to recognize students exhibiting behaviors consistent with the pillars of character:
- CHARACTER COUNTS! Student of the Month Recognition Luncheons.
- Hosted by the staff to salute exemplary examples of student behavior.
- Tulare Advance Register - Job Well Done
- Highlights student achievement in the area of character development.
- CHARACTER COUNTS! Wall of Fame
- Showcases individuals, who through their actions, exhibit exemplary character.
- Tulare County “Kids of Character”
- Recognition of student achievement in the area of character development.
- Postcards of Praise
- To parents highlighting a student’s positive contribution or behavior.
- Mulcahy Pride T-Shirts
- To students demonstrating outstanding ethical decision-making and citizenship.
- Graduation Recognition
- CHARACTER COUNTS! lapel pins worn and students formally recognized.
- Academic Card of Excellence (A.C.E.)
- Recognizes students who achieve academic and behavioral excellence.
Since 1994, Mulcahy has become a major contributor to Children’s Hospital of Central California, having sold over 31,800 “Kid’s Day” newspapers. In addition to its school wide support of Children’s Hospital, Mulcahy offers several clubs that are committed to civic service and charitable contribution. Members of the California Junior Scholastic Federation (CJSF) have taken a leadership role on campus organizing coat and toy drives for neighborhood children. CJSF members also participate in “bell-ringing” for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season. The Student Council donated approximately 1,000 cans of food for local families during this holiday season. The Students Try Answers Not Drugs (STAND) club meets monthly and plans entertaining activities that promote school pride and drug-free alternatives. The After-School Tutoring Program utilizes student and staff tutors to provide assistance to students in all academic areas. And, Mulcahy has the prestigious honor of being an AVID School, Certified with Distinction.
As educators, we have attempted to gain a greater understanding of our students and their backgrounds. One example is our staff conducting a study on, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, by Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. The results of this study provide educators with a better understanding of the challenges our students and their families face. The knowledge gained through this study has enhanced our ability to further strengthen the innate qualities that we believe our students possess.
A new addition to our character development program is a conflict resolution system entitled, Second Step. This program is designed to provide our students with the conflict resolution skills necessary to uphold positive interaction with their peers and fellow members of the community. This program is currently being presented to our sixth grade students by our school counselor.
Pixley Middle School (300 Students 6th-8th Grades)
Pixley Union School District, Pixley, CA 93256
Principal: Mr. Tony Luis
The community of Pixley is located in central California’s San Joaquin Valley, one of the world’s richest agricultural areas. However, agricultural job loss, low wages and lack of industry have combined to establish an unemployment rate of 21.3% for Pixley. Pixley is ethnically diverse, with 85.4% Hispanic, 3% African American, 10.4% Caucasian. 67% of students are English Language Learners.
Pixley Middle School continues its commitment to character as it completes the 8th year of a comprehensive character education program. The students, parents, staff and community work in a collaborative effort to raise the standard of core ethical values among the school and community of Pixley.
In September of 1997, The Pixley Union School District Board of Trustees signed a Resolution endorsing the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. A month later The Pixley Town Council proclaimed the Six Pillars of Character; Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship as the ethical values for Pixley to demonstrate and develop within the community organizations and the faith community of Pixley. Currently, Pixley is in the process of establishing a Chamber of Commerce, and the Character Counts! philosophy is at the foundation of this chamber.
The mission of Pixley School is for students to master grade level standards, develop character and become independent thinkers. Students demonstrate learning through on-going multiple assessments. Interventions and support are provided through a network of resources to achieve success.
Pixley Middle School strives to ensure a clean and secure learning environment free from drugs, alcohol, and violence and promote healthy student behaviors: Pixley Middle School begins every morning with the grounds staff surveying for school safety and appearance. All vandalism, graffiti or disruption occurring the night before is swiftly dealt with and repaired before school gates open. Pixley Middle School contracts with the Tulare County Office of Education CHOICES Department to provide safe school support and resources to the campus. Pixley Middle School students are well monitored for academic and social needs. The Pixley Collaborative Outreach Team meets weekly to case manage social and emotional needs of children and their families. The collaboration is comprised of School Administration, Healthy Start Staff, Tulare County Probation, Tulare Youth Service Bureau and Child Welfare Services.
Standards of behavior are upheld through classroom interventions and administrative interventions. One effective administrative intervention utilized is the 5-10-15 Behavior Plan. Teachers are supported through administrative support by an administrator conducting a parent/student/administrator conference upon the student receiving a 5th behavior referral. Referrals are reviewed at this time and a contract is signed by the student/parent/administrator that a change in behavior is expected and supported at The Pixley Middle School. Should the student fail to meet the contract then upon the 10th behavior referral the student attends School Attendance/Behavior Review Board to formalize behavior expectations and suggest possible resources. Should this step not change the student’s behavior, upon the 15th referral a move to the Community Day School is requested. Teachers are kept informed of this process for all of their students during the monthly middle school outreach sessions. The 5-10-15 Behavior Plan Process was established in 1998 when over 400 year-end behavior referrals from middle school students were tallied. To date, behavior referrals continue to decrease with 2003-2004 reporting fewer than 200 behavior referrals for middle school. This data clearly indicates the success that high moral expectations can have at a middle school.
The Pixley Middle School makes it a priority for students to contribute in meaningful ways to the school, to others and to the community: The opportunity to generate personal and civic responsibility takes various forms at the Pixley Middle School. All students are called for moral action as the Student Council sponsors drives during the year. Earlier this year over $600 was donated for a student at Pixley Elementary School with Leukemia. Four girls raised $150 during a Saturday “bake sale” for the student with Leukemia. This “bake sale” was fully conducted by 4 7th grade girls. The Pixley Middle School Student Council hosted a “Back to School” dance for middle school students and half of the donations were delivered to the American Cancer Society. Just recently, a Tsunami Relief Drive generated by the Student Council totaled over $800. Every spring the community of Pixley participates in a community clean-up day where young and old pick-up trash, pull weeds and picnic together upon completion of clean-up efforts. In addition to positive moral actions, Pixley Middle School is first to address immoral actions as well. Currently, the 6th grade teaching staff is faced with the challenges of student honesty and trustworthiness. As a teaching team they have come together to research tools and strategies to address this behavior. Pixley Middle School staff firmly embrace the following phrase - “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” - Edmund Burke. Taking action and addressing character is part of the moral responsibility at Pixley School.
Reyburn Intermediate School (1492 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Clovis Unified School District, Clovis, CA 93719
Principal: Ms. Stacy Dunnicliff
Under the guidance of a dedicated, caring staff, Reyburn students experience daily that goals are achievable through proper preparation and good character. Student academic achievement, the number of referrals and suspensions, attendance, and the number of students at risk for retention are monitored closely to ascertain whether or not school-wide goals are being met in the area of character education. In order to re-enforce good character, Reyburn has a Random Acts of Kindness drawing every Friday. The number of students “caught” doing the right thing has increased since this program was established. The number of students earning the Timberwolf Way award and qualifying for CJSF has increased as well.
Each year the Administrative Leadership Team (ALT) revisits Reyburn’s Vision, Mission, Beliefs, and Desired Student Exit Behaviors based on input from students, parents, staff, and the community. During weekly department and team meetings, teachers assess the school’s progress towards goal attainment. The classified staff meets with the principal on a monthly basis to discuss ways to improve system-wide processes. A wide variety of parent committees meet monthly to promote continuous ongoing improvements. Reyburn’s Vision Statement reflects the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders.
Throughout the year, orientations are conducted to keep parents informed regarding the educational program offered to students. A special Student Academic Profile Day is held during the year for student-led parent conferences. During these conferences, students take on a leadership role as they share their goals, plans for accomplishing their goals, and the progress they have made towards achieving their goals. The Student Human Relations Council, a committee made up of student leaders representing Reyburn’s diverse student population, meets once a week to discuss ways to improve student relationships. This year the Human Relations Council is hosting four luncheons for parents. The purpose of the luncheons is for parents to hear “student voice” and to learn about the various ideas the Council has come up with to improve school climate. Parents are kept informed of school activities and events through the school newspaper, The Timberline, which is mailed home quarterly and via the Reyburn Web site. Students are kept informed through the student newspaper, Timber Talk, daily school bulletins, and classroom discussion regarding important events.
Since students do not necessarily transfer character concepts to their own life experiences, Reyburn’s staff is dedicated to defining character and modeling its application. Seventh grade students are enrolled into a twelve-week Health and Wellness elective that emphasizes character and ethical decision-making. Physical Education teachers are trained in CHARACTER COUNTS! and incorporate character lessons on a weekly basis.
Reyburn Intermediate is truly the hub of the community it serves. Community partnerships have been established through the use of Reyburn’s state of the art facilities by the City of Clovis, Parks and Recreation, church, adult school, and ROP. Reyburn Intermediate School’s CHARACTER COUNTS! jazz choir performs skits and musical numbers based on the six pillars of character. The choir performs assemblies for elementary schools, retirement homes, and community events.
A well-disciplined, neat and clean atmosphere provides the best environment for students to take full advantage of their educational opportunities. Students are expected to observe high standards of conduct, respect the property of others, and comply with the regulations of the school. Each student is a representative of the school wherever he/she may be, and our students are expected to demonstrate good sportsmanship and courteous manners at all times. Reyburn Intermediate is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic school that provides a positive, harmonious environment based on respect. In accordance with this aim, Reyburn will not tolerate behavior by students or staff that insults, degrades, or stereotypes any race, gender, handicap, physical condition, ethnic group, or religion. In an attempt to make sure all students feel connected to school, a concerted effort has been made to hire adult role models representative of the diverse student population at Reyburn. An African American and Hmong campus liaison are always present and available to hear the concerns of students and parents, as is an Hispanic psychologist and school nurse.
Through the “four schools within a school” interdisciplinary teams, students needing additional assistance are quickly identified. Reyburn’s Peer Counselors are trained to be good listeners for students needing someone to talk to. These students give up their lunch period one day a week to work with peers and to visit elementary schools. In addition, several members of the Reyburn staff have received Student Assistance training and are available to assist students with special problems. This helps teachers identify and channel potential situations involving drug abuse, depression, gang involvement, and child abuse/neglect to the correct agencies for additional assistance.
Reyburn Intermediate School believes that leaders are not born. Instead, Reyburn believes that leaders are the result of learning and practicing outstanding leadership skills. In the Leadership elective, students learn that good leaders have: self-control, a sense of fair play, the ability to make decisions and to plan, the courage to stand before their peers, a strong work ethic, and the ability to get along with others.
Reyburn Intermediate School encourages staff and students to be better today than they were yesterday. In keeping with this philosophy, Reyburn continues to follow an ongoing “Plan, Do, Study, Act” improvement cycle. Some things that are new to Reyburn are:
- A flag system to encourage student responsibility at lunchtime. The flag system is a five-day cycle. Students earn music on • Friday if they received no Red Flags or not more than one Yellow Flag during the week.
- Green Flag = Grounds left in great condition.
- Yellow Flag = Grounds somewhat messy. A warning has been issued. Two Yellow Flags are equal to 1 Red Flag.
- Red Flag = Unsatisfactory. When students earn a Red Flag they lose the right to eat outside the cafeteria and are confined inside the cafeteria the next day
- This program has been extremely successful. Students like music and they do not like being confined in the cafeteria at lunchtime. Students are now policing their own trash. We have the cleanest grounds around!
- Reyburn is always looking for ways to tie real-life experiences into the learning process.. Mrs. Alfheim’s Academic Block Class adopted a soldier in Iraq in August. They sent pictures, letters, coffee, and a variety of other items to “their soldier”. Recently the soldier returned to the states on leave. He came to the classroom to meet the students. He brought slides, picture, artifacts, • Iraqi money, and lots of stories. In a sense, he brought the War on Terrorism into the classroom. The students will never forget • this experience, nor will the soldier ever forget the young Americans at home who took time to write and think about him.
Rio Vista Middle School (1150 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Central Unified School District, Fresno, CA 93722
Principal: Mr. Chris Williams
Each morning as our students arrive at school they enter the Titan Tunnel and are welcomed with a high five, handshake or buddy hug from our school administrators and teachers. This welcoming tradition is so contagious that you will often find our custodial staff out and about greeting kids before their duty day begins. We want every student to walk onto our campus knowing they are “home away from home”. Seeing a familiar and smiling face each morning lets them know that they are entering into a safe and positive environment. At the end of each day our students are dismissed by our school principal who always ends the day with a positive note and reminding students, “Its always a great day to be a Titan.” Once again, all school administrators are out with the kids making sure they get to where they need to, safely.
We truly believe that at Rio Vista each and every administrator, teacher, instructional aide, food service worker, custodial personnel, secretary, librarian, and coach plays a significant role in the lives of our students. Respect is something that every student on our campus receives from each person they come into contact with. That is why we expect nothing less in return. Our discipline policy can be described in three words - firm, fair, and consistent. Our students are well aware that we are willing to do anything for them; however, they also know that we are passionate about keeping our school safe and positive and will not let any form of disciplinary issues take this vision away from us.
At Rio Vista we believe that our students spend more time with us then they do many times with their own families. This can also be due to the fact that we expect our students to be involved in at least two activities on our campus. Student activities can consist of sports, clubs, after school tutoring programs offered on our campus, participation in plays and musicals, volunteer time in the office or classroom. Many of these activities meet after the school day is complete. Because we see the majority of our students long after the school day is over we believe that it is our duty to instill core character values in these young adults.
Another exciting Character Counts! Program we have a Rio Vista requires that each of our students have a Character Counts! school agenda. Every Tuesday afternoon our students use their agendas to participate in a school wide quick write lead by our school principal. Our students are given a writing prompt over the school intercom and all students spend ten minutes exploring their knowledge of the Six Pillars by responding to the prompt. Teachers then discuss the responses given by their students. We ask our teachers to submit a few of their students’ responses to our school counselor who in turn publishes the writing samples in our school newspaper. This allows our parents and community members to see and read how our students are challenged to make decisions based upon the qualities of character as evidenced in the Six Pillars.
“Pursuing Victory With Honor” makes clear the philosophy that sports can best achieve its positive impact on participants and society when everyone plays to win. In fact, without the passionate pursuit of victory much of the enjoyment, as well as the educational and spiritual value, of sports would be lost. Winning is important and trying to win is essential. Our athletes and coaches are governed by the following six core values and expectations.
Winning is important, but Honor is More Important. We believe quality sports programs should not trivialize or demonize either the desire to win or the importance of actually winning.
Ethics Is Essential to True Winning. We believe the best strategy to improve sports is not to de-emphasize winning but to more vigorously emphasize that adherence to ethical standards and sportsmanship in the honorable pursuit of victory is essential to • • winning in its true sense. It is one thing to be declared the winner, it is quite another to really win.
There is No True Victory Without Honor. We believe cheating and bad sportsmanship are simply not options.
Ethics and Sportsmanship Are Ground Rules. We believe coaches and athletes are committed to principles of ethics and sportsmanship as ground rules governing the pursuit of victory.
Benefits of Sports Come From the Competition, Not the Outcome. We believe quality amateur sports programs are based on the belief that the vital lessons and great value of sports are learned from the honorable pursuit of victory, from the competition itself rather than the outcome.
Sports as a Setting for Learning.We believe sports provide an extraordinary setting for learning.Top
Promising Practices from the 2003 Virtues and Character Award Winning Schools
(Excerpts from the applications)
Clark Intermediate School (1262 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Clovis, CA 93612
Principal: Mr. Carl Tomlinson
Each month a character trait is highlighted providing a focus for classroom instruction through which student achievement is recognized. Peer counseling, the establishment of student body officers, the multicultural committee, leadership classes and various school clubs have been designed for students to implement character values throughout the campus and community. The Character Counts! Traits continue to be emphasized in our co-curricular programs.
An important school goal is to develop individuals, who, through their actions and conduct, exhibit certain qualities perceived by the school and community to be positive traits of character. At Clark, students are taught principles of honesty, responsibility and perseverance, while encouraged to be self-respecting, considerate and courteous to others. These character traits, while not overtly listed, are embedded in the “six pillars of character” that Clark upholds. These principles are reviewed and supported on an everyday basis by academic block class activities and other classes such as health science, leadership, and peer counseling, as well as the multicultural committee.
A special seminar schedule has been developed and is utilized once a month to give teachers the opportunity to focus on the monthly character traits. This added time in the schedule allows for more in-depth discussion and teaching concerning character and what it means to be a “person of good character”. Teachers explain that good character is really doing something good when you don’t necessarily get accolades but doing it when no one is looking. During seminar time, interactive lessons are discussed and a homework lesson or activity is assigned to stimulate and promote discussions with family members. This assists in bringing together ties between the school and families. These assignments are then returned to their classroom teachers to review and can be used for further discussion. Clark Intermediate promotes student improvement through strong curricular and co-curricular areas.
Clark Intermediate has a school goal of 97% student co-curricular participation. The goal was reached this past year with 100% of the students participating in co-curricular activities. This participation may include school clubs, athletic teams, performing arts programs, cheerleading, or academic competitions. It is the district and school philosophy that involvement and interaction will foster interpersonal relationships and skills resulting in positive personal development.
Divisadero Middle School (925 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Visalia, CA 93277
Principal: Ms. Cindy Costa
At Divisadero Middle School we have communicated to students, parents, and the community the behaviors that are expected of our students. One method of expressing these expectations that is addressed in the handbook has been in the formation of our grade level student teams, or academies, and each academy (teachers and students) has adopted a set of values unique to their mission. The Athenian academy has adopted the values of working for the common good and cherishing philosophy, persuasion and logic. The Nikean academy promotes success, sureness of purpose, and protection of right actions. The Spartan academy focuses on self-discipline of the body and mind and promoting good of the majority. The final academy, the Titans, strives to develop wisdom and the ability to exert great power to achieve one’s goals.
We have also implemented character traits for each month. Each month we ask students to work on developing a particular trait by discussing it in Advocacy class, by working on a project to demonstrate that trait, and by participating in at least one activity that illustrates the trait. For example, in December we focused on Caring. Our teachers and students discussed what that meant, how they could become caring people, and what they could do to begin to develop the trait within themselves. Each Advocacy class was then asked to participate in a canned food drive.
It is not unusual on our campus for students to ask other students to modify their behavior, for students to seek out the assistance of adults in intervening in certain situations, or for students to mediate problems with one another in a “win-win” manner. In addition, our students developed, because of these policies, a sense of safety and the perception that Divisadero is more than a school, that it is a repository of willing mentors and a safe haven.
We have modified after-school activities in such a manner as to make them accessible to all students. Students are eligible to go based on grades, behavior, attendance, citizenship, etc. Some activity eligibility is based solely on one or two criteria while others encompass the entire range of expectations. We have also provided free transportation and the opportunity for no-cost admission to activities for all of our students.
Kastner Intermediate School (1480 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Clovis, CA 93720
Principal: Mr. Rick Gold
The expectation of Kastner Intermediate School is that all members of our community (parents, students, and staff) reflect the six pillars of character in their everyday lives. The Kastner staff has developed definitions of each of the pillars of character and has created two sets of banners that…remind all members of the community of the observable behaviors related to each of the pillars.
Each year Kastner conducts many parent orientation evenings…. One of the primary messages that is delivered is that the CHARACTER COUNTS! Program is an essential part of their students’ experience at Kastner.
This year the physical education and athletic departments have incorporated new lessons specific to the terms sportsmanship and gamesmanship. Students learn that sportsmanship is the playing of the game to develop teamwork, respect for an opponent, and an appreciation for personal integrity. On the other hand, they learn that gamesmanship is an overwhelming drive to win at all costs. By incorporating sportsmanship into our character traits, we have seen fewer incidents of inappropriate behavior on the fields, courts, and pools where our teams compete.
Recently Kastner enacted a “No Put Down Zone” on the campus. This program recognizes the harmful effects that words can have on individuals. Students are encouraged to praise each other for the things they are doing right instead of criticizing each other.
This year the eighth grade students had the opportunity to participate in a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. Here they learned the harsh realities of the holocaust and what can happen when individuals and nations forget to embrace the basic principles of good character.
La Joya Middle School (990 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Visalia, CA 93277
Principal: Ms. Mary Whitfield
La Joya Middle School has a clear school mission: La Joya Middle School will provide students with a caring transition as they move from elementary school to high school. They will be “connected” to the goals and purposes of the school in a positive way and have numerous opportunities for personal growth. All students will acquire the knowledge and skills needed to become successful life-long learners, workers, and citizens through a wide variety of instructional options that meet their needs. Within a nurturing educational environment, individual development will be maximized, which will allow students to reach their fullest potential.
Citizenship grades are part of the progress report and report card system of feedback to the parents. Students who have more than one unsatisfactory citizenship grade are not allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities. Classroom rules model the Character Counts! traits. The administration uses detention, campus beautification, suspension and expulsions as methods of tracking the effectiveness of the program. The principal and Asst. Principals monitor these figures for feedback.
The government of La Joya is vested in the Executive and Student Councils. The Executive Council consists of ten elected officers: President, Vice-president, Secretary, Treasurer, Activities Commissioner, Athletic Commissioner, and Team Senators (two eighth graders and two seventh graders). The term of office is one semester. Elections take place in the fall and late January. Candidates are expected to adhere to La Joya Code of Ethics/participation.
Liberty Middle School (735 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Lemoore, CA 93245
Principal: Mr. David Andreasen
Liberty Middle School has formed a partnership with the entire Lemoore community in establishing its character education program. The four elementary feeder schools have all made the same commitment to character education and use the common language of character established in the Character Counts! program. Likewise, Lemoore High School teachers and staff continue emphasizing character education and development with their Character Counts! program. The business community of Lemoore has supported the school’s efforts of character education through its Business Education Together committee (BET). The BET committee, made up of Lemoore area business partners and school personnel, has recognized the importance of character development in the schools and the overall effect it can have in the wok place and in the community at large. As a testament to this recognition, a banner has been purchased that can be hung over Main Street in Lemoore that states, “Lemoore…a community where Character Counts!” Business Partners are also able to share their careers with Liberty students at the Career Café. Speakers are encouraged to tie into their presentation which character traits are essential in their particular fields.
Each year Liberty holds a Character conference. Here eighth grade students from Liberty and neighboring schools, Island and Mary Immaculate Queen, will spend a morning exploring the meanings of character, ethics and values. They will evaluate their own values and participate in exercises that help them to understand the process of ethical decision-making. Juniors and seniors from Lemoore high School that have participated in their own Ethics Day will serve as table leaders to help facilitate these discussions. Business Partners from FAST Federal Credit Union and the California highway patrol generously donate their time to host this event as they sincerely value its importance.
In an effort to create a school culture that is safe, caring and respectful, Liberty staff has established a motto, “If you permit it, you promote it”. Therefore, proactive and reactive measures are taken to enforce the values and rules that Liberty has established. Conflict resolution…is available and often utilized. Gang Contracts, Harassment Contracts and Behavior Contracts are issued when necessary in an effort to hold students responsible to the high standards necessary to create a school culture conducive to learning. The Harassment Contracts have been especially helpful in dealing with the less overt types of harassments like teasing, name calling, and the spreading of rumors that have the potential to overtake a middle school campus.
Live Oak Middle School (681 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Tulare, CA 93274
Principal: Mr. Brian Hollingshead
Live Oak staff has strived to instill good “character” in the students of Live Oak since the school’s doors opened in 1989 with the motto, “The Right Place at the Right Time”. We want to influence ourselves and our students to be people of sound character. We want to guide our students to develop to their greatest academic potential. Our role then, is to model the core values of Respect, Responsibility, Trustworthiness, Caring, Fairness, and Citizenship from Michael Josephson’s Character Counts! Using these common terms we can be consistent in our communications with students, their families and each other, while making it possible to acknowledge and respect the diversity of our population and cultures. “We believe that as we impart these core values we are making a difference. Our mission statement conveys our commitment: Live oak middle School is a safe, caring place where staff challenges students to reach their fullest potential in academics and personal character. Live Oak is the right place at the right time!”
Influencing core values is not a program. It is modeling a way to live. We all use the same language when talking about character and ethical behavior. Everyday school day ends with a message from our principal and a reminder that character does count.
This year the counselor trained the leadership team to be peer mediators. A peer-helping group is a powerful way to build strong character in both the mediators and those they help. Peer mediators make students aware of positive ways to resolve conflict.
Any student at Live oak that is willing to share their free time can be a member of the Live Oak Volunteer bureau. This group puts in hundreds of hours each year working at parent conferences, collecting canned food for the Tulare Emergency Aide, selling hot cocoa during December to raise money for two our own families, participating in the Fresno Bee Kids’ Day, sponsoring a school dance, working at the Student of the Month Luncheons, and anything else that needs to be done. The only requirement to belong to this group is a willingness to serve others. Therefore, often students show up to work who are not usually involved in school activities because they do not need a certain GPA or any special talent.
Live Oak has the unique opportunity to have a class of developmentally delayed and severely disabled students on our campus. We integrate these students into regular classes as much as possible, giving all of us a rich character building experience. Regular education students can apply to be classroom aides in this class. (S)ome of our students who have difficulty affiliating with school become some of the best aides for these special students.
Students that struggle academically and with their behavior participate in a biweekly progress report system. The administrators and teachers manage this system with special regard given to character and values, like Character Counts!. This support system is time consuming but a worthwhile and effective way to encourage and help our students help themselves.
Mulcahy Middle School (881 Students 6th-8th Grades)
Tulare, CA 93274
Principal: Mr. John Pendleton
Mulcahy Middle School was named after long-time educator Mrs. Alice G. Mulcahy. Since its opening in 1958, the school has been dedicated tot he principles of hard work, honesty, pride and determination, all hallmarks of Mrs. Mulcahy and her family.
Student and parent support is a key factor in the success of our program. Prior to the first day of school, members of the school community and the staff participate in an orientation assembly. School policies, student behaviors and responsibilities are discussed. The core ethical values are used as a model for expected student behavior. Academic school planners are given to every student. The planners contain several items supporting our character development program and are used as a tool to promote responsibility through daily use, recording class assignments, homework to be completed and on-going communication with parents.
Alice G. Mulcahy Middle School is proactive in our approach to cultivating the continued development of ethical decision-making. Teachers are encouraged to construct or integrate the Character Counts! philosophy into their lessons to further encourage and promote the progression of ethical decision-making. In addition to classroom instruction, we take advantage of every opportunity to recognize students exhibiting behaviors consistent with the pillars of character.
Community service is a priority for Mulcahy Middle School. Students actively participate in a number of valuable community service projects. Community service projects are designed to promote social development, provide students with an opportunity to model the pillars of character, and foster community partnerships. Members of the California junior Scholarship Federation (CJSF) have taken a leadership role on campus organizing coat and toy drives for neighborhood children. CJSF members also participate in “bell ringing” for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season.
Reyburn Intermediate School (1390 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Clovis, CA 93611
Principal: Ms. Stacy Dunnicliff
Students demonstrating outstanding character are recognized during monthly CHARACTER COUNTS! dinners as well as Teachers’ Choice Pizza luncheons. In order to earn the prestigious Timberwolf Way award, students must earn points for each of the six Pillars of character. The top athletic award is the CHARACTER COJNTS! Award. Banners in the gymnasium proudly display the names of students who have earned the top academic and character awards.
Each year the Administrative Leadership Team (ALT) revisits and refines Reyburn’s Vision, Mission, Beliefs and Desired Student Exit Behaviors based on input from students, parents, staff, and the community. During weekly department and team meetings, teachers assess the school’s progress towards goal attainment. The classified staff meets with the principal on a monthly basis to discuss ways to improve system-wide processes. Reyburn’s Vision Statement reflects the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders: “Reyburn Intermediate School is dedicated to creating an exemplary learning community in which every members is valued, students reach their fullest potential, and ongoing improvement is evident.”
Programs that address the academic, physical and emotional needs of adolescents, as well as assertive, consistent discipline, are used to successfully integrate character education and values into classroom instruction. A school-wide code of behavior is clearly spelled out to staff and students and is consistent from classroom to classroom. Since students do not necessarily transfer character concepts to their own life experiences, Reyburn’s staff is dedicated to defining character and modeling its application.
In an attempt to make sure all students feel connected to school, a concerted effort has been made to hire adult role models representative of the diverse student population at Reyburn. In addition, several members of the Reyburn staff have received Student Assistance training and are available to assist students with special problems. This helps teachers identify and channel potential situations involving drug abuse, depression, gang involvement, and child abuse/neglect to the correct agencies for additional assistance. Leadership classes, clubs, and Reyburn’s Peer counselors act as liaisons between community services and the Reyburn student body.
Sutter Middle School (530 Students 6th-8th Grades)
Fowler, CA 93625
Principal: Mr. Mark Archon
In 1997, as part of a strategic plan developed he prior year, a district Character Education Committee was formed. This committee was comprised of teachers, classified employees, parents, and students and district administration. One of the first tasks this committee completed was to identify a list of core values for the district. Surveys were sent to all stakeholders in the district to rank the importance of these core values. Data from this survey resulted in the creation of the ten pillars of Character for the district.
Teachers consistently use these fundamental values in class discussions and they are woven throughout instructional lessons wherever appropriate. The committee continues to keep character education a high priority at each school in the district by continuing to develop resources, plan activities, and provide support for each school site to support an annual character education theme. This year the theme is Students in Service to America.
We believe that student needs must be met in order for the child to be able to achieve maximum potential. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs supports a strong character education program that provides students with a great deal of support in the areas of safety, love and esteem. We strongly believe that the positive school climate, low number of discipline accounts and the tremendous school spirit can be attributed to a strong character education program that begins in the classrooms and is supported and emphasized at the site administrative level.
Last year, Sutter middle School evaluated the effectiveness of its program using the Character Education Quality Standards instrument. One of the key findings support the need for support staff to become more involved in the school’s Character Education efforts. The Classified Employees Encouraging Character (CEEC) program was developed at the beginning of the 2002-2003 school year in response to this need . its purpose is to foster mentoring relationships between at risk students and classified employees. The main thrust of these interactions between staff members and students is to model and reinforce positive character education behaviors for the students and to encourage these types of behaviors in students. Classified employees now have the opportunity to recognize students during Student of the Month selections and, more importantly, at any other time during the school year. Employees are given free snack coupons that they are able to give to students exhibiting model behavior.
Valley Oak Middle School (1140 Students 7th-8th Grades)
Visalia, CA 93292
Principal: Mr. Andrew Vasquez
Valley Oak staff and administrators recognize that students at this grade level are unique. No other grade span encompasses such a wide range of intellectual, physical, psychological and social development. As more kids and staff catch on, the message becomes more pervasive, visible and consistently reinforced. In the book, Good Ideas: Ways to Teach the Six Pillars of Character, there is a section entitled, “Good Ideas for School-Wide Activities”. At Valley Oak, we have already incorporated 22 of the 26 ideas/activities. We also ensure that our recognition systems recognize excelling groups as well as individual pupils.
Students begin each day with a quote exemplifying that months’ focus pillar which is read from the daily bulleting. Every classroom, office and staff room prominently displays the posters representing character Counts. large pillars were made by our Graphic Art class that hang in the multi-purpose room that students frequent daily. Valley oak strives to provide a safe, well-maintained and visually pleasing campus. We have an ongoing student mural program that integrates various school wide themes such as the Character Counts! traits which promote good Citizenship. Our program has also been discussed and promoted by our parent Booster Club and leadership classes.
At Valley Oak we have a large population of special needs students. We are proud to mainstream these special students into many regular classes. There are also many students who serve as teacher assistants in the severely handicapped classes as well as our special day classes. Caring for the less fortunate promotes Caring, Respect, and good Citizenship. We also honor different cultures to exemplify these pillars. With our All American Day we recognize Asian and Hispanic cultures through various activities and demonstrations performed by the students. This promotes sensitivity and awareness among the students.
Administrators and teachers are highly visible at all times, and Valley Oak maintains a closed-campus policy. Students are not allowed to leave campus during the school day without parental and administrative permission. Partnerships which support a safe school have been formed between Valley Oak and the following: Visalia Police Department, the Tulare County Probation Department, VUSD Safe Schools Coordinator, and the Youth Development Officer who is on campus daily. Most teachers have been trained to help identify and channel potential situations involving drug abuse, depression, gang involvement and child abuse/neglect.
Our instructional practices emphasize active learning strategies which are consistent with the developmental characteristics of young adolescents in middle school. To help all students achieve the learner outcomes desired, our teachers teach to each student’s strengths. According to Howard Gardner, there are seven different intelligences, seven ways that teachers can use to reach students. Every one of our teachers has been trained in the Multiple Intelligences approach to learning. Special education students are mainstreamed in all electives, physical education, and many academic classes.
As a school, we are involved in many service projects that bring our school, students, and community together. It has been a wonderful opportunity to teach and demonstrate citizenship that reflects a personal, civic and global responsibility.Top
Promising Practices from the 2001 Virtues and Character Award Winning Schools
(Excerpts from the applications)
Alta Sierra Intermediate School (1191 students, Grades 7,8)
Alta Sierra Intermediate (ASI) staff knows that it is important to help students become productive citizens who value diversity and who treat others with dignity and respect. This begins with a staff who understands the importance of “practicing what you preach.” Through words and actions, tolerance, respect, and fairness are modeled on a daily basis in the classroom, over the morning announcements, and through the many activities that are carried out each day across campus. All staff understand that the intermediate school years are critical in the process of helping young people become responsible adults.
[Our] 7th grade students were shown clips from videos generating discussions related to perseverance, positive attitude, hate crimes, peer pressure, self-confidence, developing talents, dealing with conflicts, showing respect for others' differences, criminal issues, individuality, self-expression, anger management, sensitivity, stereotypes, friendship, humor, and popularity. Of the 282 students who completed and evaluation, ... 80% rated the activity within the good-to-excellent range. Student comments regarding what was most helpful to them included, “Learning about how to solve difficult situations. Learning to be more nice. It helps you deal with these kinds of problems. I liked the lawyers coming and talking about stuff they experienced. I enjoyed seeing how movies related to our lives. We all got to talk and we had someone listen to us. It gave us a chance to interact with a whole bunch of different kinds of peers. It showed us how to feel good about ourselves even though we are different or not popular. That you should just ignore mean, rude, bullies and that it gives you a different view at the kids that get made fun of a lot.”
Cherry Avenue Middle School (543 students, Grades 6,7,8)
Walk onto the Cherry Avenue Middle School campus, and you will quickly notice six painted, taller-than-life wooden pillars in the quad that tout: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship. They constantly, but gently, remind those nearby what we believe: everyone's character counts.
Cherry Avenue has a vision statement that was developed by parents, students, classified, certificated, and administrative staff members. It was approved by the School Site Council/Bilingual Advisory Committee and is found in the comprehensive school plan. It reads in part: The vision of the Cherry Avenue Middle School community is to provide a safe atmosphere for the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, moral and ethical development of each student. Students are provided a variety of instructional practices that provide the tools, atmosphere and motivation to encourage high academicachievement. The staff is committed to providing intervention for all students in need, as well as making sure that all students have equal access to the services of the student support team.
Walk down the center hallway and you will be surrounded by Character Counts! posters, student-made signs about bullies not being welcome, and the request for everyone to practice random acts of kindness.
Clark Intermediate School (1285 students, Grades 7,8)
It is the responsibility of Clark Intermediate School and its school community to establish an educational direction that focuses on the development of positive character and values. The approach of character development at Clark involves the ambiance created by the curriculum and the programs, including all areas of mind, body and spirit. The Sparthenian model has been adopted at Clark, with character development permeating its every concept.
An important school goal is to develop individuals who, through their actions and conduct, exhibit certain qualities perceived by the school and community to be positive traits of character. At Clark, students are taught principles of honesty, responsibility, and perseverance, while encouraged to be self-respecting, considerate, and courteous to others. This is done on an everyday basis and is supported by academic block class activities and elective classes such as health science, leadership, and peer counseling as well as the multicultural committee.
Clark Intermediate promotes student improvement through strong curricular and co-curricular areas. Clark Intermediate has a school goal of 97% student co-curricular participation. The goal was reached this past year with 98% of the students participating in co-curricular activities. This participation may include school clubs, athletic teams, performing arts programs, cheerleading or academic competitions. It is the district and school philosophy that involvement and interaction will foster interpersonal relationships and skills resulting in positive personal development.
Divisadero Middle School (776 students, Grades 7,8)
It is the intent of Divisadero Middle School to provide activities and instruction to all students and to try, whenever possible in whatever manner possible, to promote interaction among students of different socio-economic, ethnic, or academic backgrounds. We have modified after-school activities in such a manner as to make them accessible to all students. Students are eligible to go based on grades, behavior, attendance, citizenship, etc. Some activity eligibility is based solely on one or two criteria while others encompass the entire range of expectations. We have also provided free transportation and the opportunity for no-cost admission to activities for all of our students.
Divisadero Middle School makes it a priority for students to contribute in meaningful ways to the school, to others, and to the community. Our school has a wide variety of opportunities for our students to contribute. Three of the most visible avenues for contribution are through Leadership, Student Government and Art Services. These three organizations are the heart of our campus.
Leadership, comprised of 60-80 students per year, is designed to teach the qualities, characteristics and strategies of exceptional leaders. ....[Those students] are responsible for planning and executing campus-wide activities, running the student store, finding ways in which other students can be engaged in student activities, locating avenues by which the community may be served and initiating activities for service. Student Government, which involves up to 100 students per year, is responsible for promoting school-wide communication of ideas; for finding timely, equitable solutions to site-based problems; and for monitoring the legal and ethical use of student funds. Finally Art Services (60-80 students) provides the public announcement and visual components for our school. Each monththey supply the artwork, decorations and labor for our character value of the month, and they annually repaint the main corridor of our school with phrases and quotes that promote developing various aspects of character.
Green Acres Middle School (864 students, Grades 7,8)
To promote and recognize good character, our school has created a Green Acres Character Counts! Hall of Fame. Students who actively display the character traits of the six pillars can be nominated by any school personnel. These student nominations are recognized on Character Counts! Mondays. They receive a Character Counts! certificate, a front-of-the-line pass, and their picture is taken and displayed in the Character Counts! Hall of Fame located in the office, as well as in the campus gazebo. These student nominations are also forwarded to the Tulare Country Office of Education along with their pictures, which are then sent to the Visalia Times-Delta for publication.
Banners announcing the Pillar of the Week fly daily on campus. Our character education school slogan, “Character counts...7 Days a Week' is displayed prominently on a banner flown below our school marquee. The slogan was the result of a contest in which each advisory class was asked to submit a slogan. The slogans were then voted on by the student body.
Kastner Intermediate School (1560 students, Grades 7,8)
Before our students even attend Kastner, they find out what is expected of them as people of character. The Kastner video is shown to 6th grade incoming Kastner students every spring where the character pillars are addressed. Our fall new student/parent orientation also includes the video and what is expected from all of us in the Kastner community. A student/parent handbook, with a section on character education, is given out to students and parents during registration in august. The August W.E.B (Welcome EveryBody) orientation for incoming 7th graders, put on by ninety 8th grade W.E.B. leaders, stresses the Six Pillars of Character and transition into intermediate school. The Kastner student planner, an organizer purchased by our parent club, is provided for every student to help organize his/her homework. Inside the planner, the six pillars of character are listed, along with a description of a person of character. Weekly parent newsletters include a section on character education written by the principal, and quotes or stories during our daily bulletins remind Kastner students and staff to be people of character.
La Joya Middle School (900 students, Grades 7,8)
Teachers are provided with questions or topics for discussion based on different character traits. The questions or topics for discussion focus on current events and issues that affect our students. La Joya students do a daily newscast, which is fed directly into each classroom on our campus as well as the library. During this broadcast a character quote is used. A specific time is designated weekly to discussion of the quote of the week. This becomes a mini lesson on a specific character trait. Teachers model appropriate character traits for students and expect respect for all within their classrooms.
Live Oak Middle School (620 students, Grades 6,7,8)
The first and probably most important activity we do to promote good character is that we all speak the same language. This is not a program! This is a lifestyle and that is probably THE most effective way we feel to impart these pillars of character. The entire staff and student body talks about character by using the terms of respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, caring, fairness and citizenship—all day—EVERYDAY! This is a powerful tool.
We train selected students for peer mediation and have found it also a powerful tool for imparting good character both in the lives of the mediators and in those they help. Student mediators on campus have affected our entire school atmosphere as students become aware of ways to resolve conflicts that are positive and then begin using those techniques.
The school counselor trains every sixth grade class in conflict resolution.... The counselor trains students for leadership and each year they develop a project to carry out. Every project they have chosen highlights one or another of the pillars. One year they addressed the issue of bullying on campus—RESPECT. This year they are focusing on academics—RESPONSIBILITY.
Alice G. Mulcahy Middle School (743 students, Grades 6,7,8)
Student and parent support is a key factor in the success of our program. Prior to the first day of school, parents, students, community members, and the staff participate in an orientation assembly. School policies, student behaviors and responsibilities are discussed. The core ethical values are used as a model for expected student behavior. Academic school planners are given to every student. The planners contain several items supporting our character development program and are used as a tool to promote responsibility through daily use, recording assignments, homework to be completed and on-going communication with parents.... In addition, student-parent handbooks are distributed the first day of school. The handbooks outline the numerous activities available to students.
We believe the most powerful method to foster the meaning of the pillars is to provide opportunities to observe and model ethical behaviors. Mulcahy's vision is to continue to strengthen our school culture where students are encouraged to further develop their core ethical qualities on their way to becoming positive, productive members of our community.
Reyburn Intermediate School (1280 students, Grades 7,8)
Reyburn Intermediate School prides itself on the conduct of its students. A well disciplined neat and clean atmosphere provides the best environment for students to take full advantage of their educational opportunities. Students are expected to observe high standards of conduct, to respect the property of others, and to comply with the regulations of the school. Each student is a representative of the school wherever he/she may be; and our students are expected to demonstrate good sportsmanship and courteous manners at all times. The staff at Reyburn, recognizing that Clovis is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic school district, believes it is the school's mission to provide a positive, harmonious environment in which respect for the diversity of the school community is promoted. In accordance with this aim, Reyburn will not tolerate behavior by students or staff that insults, degrades, or stereotypes any race, gender, handicap, physical condition, ethnic group, or religion. In an attempt to make sure all students feel connected to school, a concerted effort has been made to hire adult role models representative of the diverse student population at Reyburn. An African-American and a Hmong campus liaison are always present and available to hear the concerns of students, as is the Mexican-American psychologist, Mexican-American school nurse and a Hmong police officer.
Steinbeck School (851 students, Grades K-8)
Steinbeck School emphasizes the importance of students' contributions to their community and school, and has created many opportunities for students to contribute in meaningful ways. Steinbeck students participate each year in “Kids Day” selling newspapers to benefit Valley Children's Hospital. Every November students participate in the Holiday Joy Project. Students bring in used coats, canned goods and dry goods to be given to those less fortunate. This year Steinbeck students and their families donated a total of 456 coats and over 18,000 canned or dry goods. Steinbeck also participates each year in the Random Acts of Kindness Rally at Fresno City hall. This year our students are participating in the St. Jude Research Hospital's Math-a-Thon as our Random Act of Kindness service activity. Our goal is to raise $1,000 for this cause. Previous schoolwide service projects include collecting $2000 for the Leukemia Penny Drive, and donating wagons and quilts to Valley Children's Hospital. The Leadership time each month gives our students an opportunity to hear what other classes are doing to help their school and community.
Valley Oak Middle School (1159 students, Grades 7,8)
At Valley Oak we have a large population of special needs students. We are proud to mainstream these special students into many regular classes. There are also many students who serve as teacher assistants in the severely handicapped classes as well as our special day classes. Caring for the less fortunate promotes Caring, Respect, and good Citizenship.... With our All-American Day we recognize Asian and Hispanic cultures through various activities and demonstrations performed by the students. This promotes sensitivity and awareness among all students.