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National study shows benefits of character education

The Tulare County Office of Education, in conjunction with CHARACTER COUNTS! (CC!) and the U.S. Department of Education’s Character Education Program (PCEP), recently completed a groundbreaking, four-year study which involved 21 Tulare County schools and over 9,000 students. The goal of the program was to measure the effectiveness of character education on students in elementary, middle and high schools. The study was funded by a $1.9 million PCEP grant awarded in October 2006, one of the largest grants given that year.

Character Counts! grant

For over 15 years, the Tulare County Office of Education has made a steadfast commitment to promoting CC! and assisting schools in utilizing the program. The four-year, experimental research study tested the impact a fully-implemented character education program can have in enhancing a school’s instructional environment. To monitor the study, the CC! program partnered with Pacific Research & Evaluation of Portland, Oregon. After four years of testing, researchers concluded that the study met the federal research measure, known as GPRA, with statistically significant positive results on seven of the nine subscales assessed. “We have long known that CHARACTER COUNTS! works in creating healthier school cultures where teachers can focus on instruction and student achievement,” says Jim Vidak, County Superintendent of Schools. “We are delighted to have this study to support schools in their efforts to make Character Education a priority.”

A major requirement of the study was to design and conduct a valid, rigorous evaluation that included a group of program and comparison schools. Twelve project schools were charged with developing a CC! implementation and evaluation plan that would positively impact student achievement and behavior. Project school implementation plans were designed around six focus areas: student behavior, curriculum, parent awareness, school environment, staff training and sportsmanship. During the first year of the study (2007), school staff, parents, coaches, student leadership and curriculum administrators received CC! training. The nine comparison schools were matched to the project schools based on enrollment, achievement test scores, socioeconomic status, and behavioral data such as truancy, suspensions, and expulsions. For the purposes of the study, the comparison schools did not produce full-scale implementation plans; rather they continued without any significant increases or decreases in character education.

Each year of the study, program and comparison schools were evaluated using the “Student Report Card Survey.” This survey was administered to all students in grades 6-12 at both program and comparison schools. The survey contained questions which addressed students’ ethical attitudes, values, and behaviors, and included nine subscales which measured anti-social attitudes and behaviors, access to drugs and alcohol, ethical attitudes, pro-social values, religious values, injustices, and superficial values. It was from these subscales that researchers saw statistically significant positive growth from students in the project schools. The results of this study indicate the Tulare County CC! implementation model can be successfully utilized by school districts throughout the nation.

“I greatly appreciate the teachers, administrators and site coordinators who have been with us for the past four years,” says CC! Coordinator Kelley Petty. “I also appreciate the support of grant coordinators Kathleen Green and Gina Wise, the staff at the office of education and the national CHARACTER COUNTS! office in Los Angeles. We are all anxious to share the exciting findings from the study and the ways schools were able to implement CHARACTER COUNTS! on their campuses.” To contact Kelley Petty and discuss CC! implementation at your school, call (559) 740-4303, or e-mail kelleyp@tcoe.org.


Photo above: CHARACTER COUNTS! implementation plans, such as the one produced by project school West Putnam Elementary in Porterville, were a road map for integrating the curriculum into all school instruction and activities.