creating schools and communities of character
                                                                                                               January/February 2010
An electronic newsletter to help make sure character counts!

For Character Web Site

CHARACTER COUNTS! and the Six Pillars of Character are service marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.  For more information about training opportunities and resources available to assist schools and communities in the integration of a character education initiative, check out their web site at: or call them at 1-800-711-2670.


Happy New Year!  As you return to your role in touching the lives of children, I hope that you will be successful in making character education an integral part of your interactions and relationships.  This issue of the For Character Newsletter is written to provide you with information and activities that you can use in moving character education from words to action.   Are you planning for an in-service program or keynote address on character in 2010? If so, get in touch with me.



Take a Minute For Character

Information You Can Use

Spotlight on School Climate

Outcomes Measurement in Research on Character Education

Character Study Reveals Predictors of Lying and Cheating

Commentary by Michael Josephson



It does not take long for me when working with a school or district to develop a feeling about the relationships that exist between administration and staff.  How do they work together as a staff? Is the initiation of a character education initiative perceived as the responsibility of teachers and not administration? Will administration provide support and resources for the program? To me, working together with common goals is necessary. But why doesn’t this always happen?


Often, I sense there is a lack of understanding about the importance of relationships that must exist in order for a school to function effectively. In schools, there are clearly defined roles for administrators, teachers, and support staff. We have made the assumption that this is necessary so that responsibilities will be clearly understood by all. What we do not see as clearly is the importance of mutual dependence. In other words, how do we interact to collectively do more together than we could ever do alone? Let me offer a couple of illustrations.


In football, the team depends upon each player assuming his proper role. This is necessary if the team is to be successful. We all know what may happen when a football player misses an assignment or is prevented from playing due to an injury. A team is most successful when there is evidence of mutual dependence. Let me give another example. If you play golf, you know that each individual element of the golf swing in and of itself is not that difficult. It is not that difficult to keep your head down, or to shift your weight or to follow through. The tough part comes in putting it all together. Only those who can do it time after time, in good and bad conditions, are those who consistently achieve good scores.


And so it is with good relationships in our schools. Knowing the elements that go into building a relationship is only part of the story. If a school or district wishes to build and maintain effective long-term relationships, it must put these elements together consistently, day after day, in good conditions and bad. If this happens, chances for having a successful relationship are increased. If one forgets one element of the golf swing, the shot does not go exactly where desired. If one forgets to include one of the basic elements of a relationship, it will not achieve the desired results.


I am convinced that the importance of a mutually dependent school staff is critical for the success of a character education initiative. Implementing character education is more than poster on the walls or workbook pages assigned for students to complete. It begins with the willingness of a staff to work together in making character a way of life. Mutual dependence means that everyone within a school organization must recognize the fact that they need each other, and that they must work together to successfully implement character education. As a teacher, don’t try to do it alone. If you are an administrator, make sure you are seen as an integral part of the work being done to make character education a key element of your school’s curriculum.  In this New Year, accept the challenge to work hard to put it all together.  For when you do, the students will be the beneficiaries.


Gary Smit




·         Mapping the Economic Cost of Dropouts

A new analysis by the Alliance for Excellent Education shows that the U.S. economy would grow significantly if the number of high school dropouts were cut in half. Nearly 600,000 students dropped out of the high school class of 2008 in the nation's 50 largest cities and surrounding areas. The Alliance's research shows that if just half of these students had graduated, earnings would have been more than $4.1 billion in additional income every year. Annual state and local tax revenues in affected areas would have jumped by nearly $536 million. The study also found that 65 percent of these additional high school graduates would have continued to college, many earning a PhD or other professional degree. Estimates were generated by an economic model based on graduation rates calculated by Editorial Projects in Education. Economic benefits were projected for U.S. Census-defined metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) consisting of a central urban area and its surrounding geographic area, provided the surrounds had strong social and economic ties to the city. The 4,900 high schools located within these MSAs currently have an average graduation rate of 69.8 percent. Over 900 of these high schools are so-called "dropout factories," where fewer than 60 percent of freshman progress to their senior year on time. Read more:


·         Skill in math not necessarily skill in teaching it

A chief requirement of a successful math teacher is having majored in math in college, one might think, but research shows it has little advantage, according to Education Week. Counterintuitive? --perhaps, especially given widespread alarm among policymakers over STEM teacher credentials. A fundamental grasp of math is necessary, but what observers say is crucial is an instructional repertoire for teaching it. Math teachers need to "know the subject matter well and how to teach it," confirms Deborah Loewenberg Ball, a scholar who has studied math teaching extensively. "The problem is that the math major is not a good proxy for that." The National Council on Teacher Quality supports high school math teachers obtaining math majors, and middle school math educators getting a math major or minor, along with an additional minor that benefits their teaching. But having teachers with commitment and specialized skill in classrooms is of greatest benefit to students. The evidence of a connection between teaching success and other presumed measures of teacher knowledge and expertise, such as pre-service and professional development training or certification in math is also weak. Read more:


·         Extended learning time, higher student performance?

As more and more schools experiment with an extended learning day, it's become important to build a base of knowledge about how schools are using extra time and what outcomes they're seeing. The National Center on Time & Learning has compiled a nationwide database of schools that have added learning time to their schedules, and its accompanying analysis suggests that extra time might play a role in boosting middle and high school achievement, reports Education Week. The center found a "moderate association" between increased time and how well students did on their states' standardized English and mathematics tests compared with their peers in nearby schools on regular schedules. Another analysis in the study found that schools that added the most time had better student performance in grades 7 and 10 than those that added less time. No similar pattern was found at other grade levels. The authors of the study emphasize that the data are not complete or representative enough to support a definite conclusion, but hope the results will prompt further research about practices and outcomes of extended-time schools. An-Me Chung of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which has supported and studied after-school programs and extended learning time in schools, welcomes the study but said the focus was too narrow. "What is it that is happening during that time that's different? I would like to have seen more about that," Ms. Chung said. "Learning needs to be the focus here, not just time."

Read more:

See the report:

See the database:



In a commentary in Teachers College Record, authors Jonathan Cohen, Arnold Fege, and Terry Pickeral ask educational leaders to think broadly about the responsibility that federal and state departments of education have for the well-being of children and families in schools. The authors identify six ways to close a gap that now exists between school climate research, policy, practice guidelines, and teacher education. First, they advocate that education leaders define school climate in ways that are aligned with recent research. Second, they propose that schools routinely and comprehensively evaluate school climate, recognizing student, parent, and school personnel "voice," as well as the major dimensions of safety, relationships, teaching and learning, and overall environment. Third, they recommend that school systems adopt standards for positive school climate, and climate assessment procedures. Fourth, they propose that climate assessment be a measure of accountability. Fifth, they recommend that teacher preparation programs give teachers and administrators the tools to evaluate classroom and school climate, and use these findings to promote a climate for learning in schools. Finally, they call for increased research on the evaluation and dissemination of resources focused on improving school climate.
Read more:
See the report:



Character education programs are school-based programs that have as one of their objectives promoting the character development of students. This report systematically examines the outcomes that were measured in evaluations of a delimited set of character education programs and the research tools used for measuring the targeted outcomes. The multi-faceted nature of character development and many possible ways of conceptualizing it, the large and growing number of school-based programs to promote character development, and the relative newness of efforts to evaluate character education programs using rigorous research methods all combine to make the selection or development of measures relevant to the evaluation of these programs especially challenging. This report is a step toward creating a resource that can inform measure selection for conducting rigorous, cost effective studies of character education programs. The report, however, does not provide comprehensive information on all measures or types of measures, guidance on specific measures, or recommendations on specific measures. View, download, and print the full report as a PDF file (1.6 MB)



The hole in the moral ozone seems to be getting bigger — each new generation is more likely to lie and cheat than the preceding one. Young people are much more cynical than their elders – they are considerably more likely to believe that it is necessary to lie or cheat in order to succeed. Those who believe dishonesty is necessary are more likely to actually lie and cheat. Cheaters in high school are far more likely as adults to lie to their spouses, customers and employers and to cheat on expense reports and insurance claims.


The Josephson Institute of Ethics released the findings of the first-ever large-scale study of the relationship between high school attitudes and behavior and later adult conduct. The survey found that current age and attitudes about the need to cheat and actual high school cheating are significant predictors of lying and cheating across a wide range of adult situations.
The report is based on 6,930 respondents in five age groups (17 and under, 18-24, 25-40, 41-50, and over 50.  The 2008 report showed that during that year 64% cheated on an exam, 42% lied to save money, and 30% stole something from a store. Some dismissed that data on the grounds that kids will be kids and will outgrow such character deficiencies. This new study reveals a close connection between youthful attitudes and behavior and continuing patterns of dishonesty as young people enter the adult world.
“This study confirms unequivocally that character counts now and in the future and that values and habits formed in school persist,” said Michael Josephson, founder and CEO of the Josephson Institute of Ethics. “That’s why more than 90% of survey respondents said they believe schools should be more active in instilling core ethical values like honesty, responsibility, and respect and developing good character in children.



Age matters – The most emphatic finding is that younger generations are significantly more likely to engage in dishonest conduct than those in older cohorts:


Teens 17 or under are five times more likely than those over 50 to hold the cynical belief that lying and cheating are necessary to succeed (51% v 10%), nearly four times as likely to deceive their boss (31% v. 8%), more than three times as likely to keep change mistakenly given to them (49% v. 15%), and more than three times as likely to believe it’s okay to lie to get a child into a better school (38% v. 11%).


Young adults (18-24) are more than three times more likely to have inflated an insurance claim than those over 40 (7% vs. 2%) and more than twice as likely to lie to their spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner about something significant (48% v. 18%).


Attitude matters – Regardless of age, people who believe lying and cheating are a necessary part of success (the report calls them cynics) are more likely to lie and cheat. In fact, this belief is one of the most significant and reliable predictors of dishonest behavior in the adult world.


Cynics are:

Three times more likely to lie to a customer (22% vs. 7%), inflate an expense claim (13% v. 4%), or inflate an insurance claim (6% vs. 2%).

More than twice as likely to conceal or distort information when communicating with their boss (24% vs. 10%).

Twice as likely to lie to their spouse or significant other about something important (45% vs. 22%) or to keep change given by mistake (32% vs. 16%) and one-and-a half-times more likely to cheat on their taxes (20% vs. 13%).


High school character matters – Regardless of current age, people who cheated on exams in high school two or more times are considerably more likely to be dishonest later in life.


Compared to those who never cheated, high school cheaters are:

Three times more likely to lie to a customer (20% vs. 6%) or inflate an insurance claim (6% vs. 2%) and more than twice as likely to inflate an expense claim (10% vs. 4%).


Twice as likely to lie to or deceive their boss (20% vs. 10%) or lie about their address to get a child into a better school (29% vs. 15%) and one-and-a-half times more likely to lie to spouse or significant other (35% vs. 22%) or cheat on taxes (18% vs. 13%).


Adapted from: Josephson Institute of Ethics Releases Study on High School Character and Adult Conduct, October 29, 2009.



 Wise Sayings for a New Year


It’s such a struggle to be profound, especially on the eve of a New Year when everyone is trying to make insightful, witty observations on the past and the future. And so many really smart people have already summed up so much of what life is about, so it just makes sense to spend some time reflecting on their insights. Here are some favorites:


If you want to know how to live your life, think about what you want people to say about you after you die and live backwards. -- Unknown


We are what we repeatedly do. -- Aristotle


You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough. -- Frank Crane


Our life is frittered away by detail.... Simplify, simplify. -- Henry David Thoreau


If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, whom would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting? -- Stephen Levin


And I’ll end this tour with one favorite New Year’s quote from poet Bessie Stanley: "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."