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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), with the support of The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, recently received a four-year, 1.83 million dollar grant from the United States Department of Education to implement a character development program for students. This program is designed to integrate character development into classroom instruction and to ensure parental and community involvement in character development initiatives. The program has existed for one year. The purpose of this paper is to overview the goals and activities of the program.
The program goals are to: (1) enhance character development among CMS students; (2) identify the extent to which students in the treatment group exhibit fewer instances of negative behavior as a result of exposure to character development activities; (3) enhance the understanding and involvement of parents and families in school-based character education efforts; and (4) increase the involvement of the faith and social communities in school-based character education efforts in CMS. The goals of the program are being measured through multiple data collection techniques ¡V surveys, interviews, focus groups, observations, and review of existing data. Evaluation of the program is both formative and summative.
Using a quasi-experimental design with carefully matched comparison conditions, twenty-five elementary, middle, and high schools with more than 24,000 students (i.e., the treatment group) are being exposed to an array of character development initiatives. These schools have been matched with demographically similar schools (i.e., the control group) that are not receiving these initiatives. Baseline data for goals and objectives were obtained during the 2002-2003 school year for the purpose of comparison with data obtained during subsequent years of the program.
We expect that this program will decrease office referrals and suspensions, increase attendance, and increase the number of students participating in service learning at a statistically significant level. In addition, we expect that Parent-Teacher Association attendance and parental awareness of good character will increase. Also, we anticipate an increase in involvement in schools of the faith and business communities, a fusing of character and religious teachings within the faith community, and an increase in the in-kind and financial support of the schools from the business and social community.
During the next three years, CMS central office will support the treatment schools' efforts to enhance character development by:
. Developing a guide for parents that describes how families can teach and model
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. Providing support to schools by leveraging resources, making recommendations,
reviewing materials/conferences, assisting in curriculum integration, planning
professional development for administrators and coordinators.
. Making available guidelines for schools to access funds for service learning,
conference participation, student recognition, and materials.
. Soliciting community support and involvement.
. Maintaining a list of resources that support character development.
. Monitoring implementation of grant and collect evaluation data.
. Providing a stipend to a "Character Development Coordinator" at each school to
collect data and coordinate character development efforts.
During the next three years, the twenty-five schools in the treatment group will engage in activities designed to enhance character development by:
. Creating a climate of equity and fairness in which adults treat each child with
respect, model good character, and expect good character of all members of the
. Implementing clear rules of conduct and fostering student ownership of rules and
. Recognizing students' character development initiatives.
. Providing students with opportunities to practice good character.
. Planning lessons that incorporate character development and foster critical
thinking about moral issues.
. Utilizing cooperative learning, peer mediation, and peer tutoring.
. Providing opportunities for students to participate in service learning projects
at school and in the community.
. Distributing the "Parent Handbook/Family Guide" created by CMS to each
. Sponsoring parent development programs that address character-based topics, such
as child discipline, modeling good character in the home, and monitoring media
. Participating in school system and community-based events to share information
on good character with families.
. Appointing a Character Development Coordinator to assist with program
implementation and data collection.
During the next three years, the teachers and administrators in the twenty-five schools in the treatment group will engage in activities designed to enhance character development by:
. Attending professional development on an ongoing basis.
. Focusing on character development in all aspects of their work (e.g., planning,
instruction, faculty meetings, and discussions with parents and colleagues).
. Providing opportunities for students to reflect on and discuss moral issues
within the curriculum.
. Recognizing positive character in students.
. Fostering a supportive environment where students experience satisfaction as a
result of complying with expectations.
. Incorporating social skills training into teaching.
. Modeling good character with students, parents, and colleagues.
. Enabling students to participate, discuss, and collaborate on projects and
. Encouraging helping and social service behavior within the classroom.
During the next three years, evidence of the effectiveness of character development initiatives will be collected through school parent surveys, teacher/staff surveys, student surveys, safe schools surveys, volunteer rosters, visitor sign-in logs, staff development reports, student suspension reports, SSMT referrals, SIMS attendance data, teacher web pages, school web sites, selected lesson plans, student work samples, pictures/photographs of character development initiatives, personalized education plans, IEPs, grade level notes, staff meeting minutes, and school leadership team meeting minutes, minutes of meetings with business and faith communities, newspaper articles, and selected distribution to and from parents and other constituencies.
We plan to provide updates regarding progress on the attainment of the program's goals and activities during future meetings of the International Conference on Civic Education Research.