Editor’s note: the Wisconsin Character Education Partnership (WCEP) is sending out the news release below about this year’s awards. UWM’s School of Education is a sponsor of the program.
2020 Wisconsin Promising Practices Character Education Awards Announced, Character Education Schools Provide Experiences to Cheer About
Some things are too good to be kept quiet. A prime example is an announcement concerning the 2020 Wisconsin Promising Practices in Character Education. Ten public schools in five school districts and one private academy qualified for the annual designation made by the Wisconsin Character Education Partnership (WCEP). The schools earned it by developing unique approaches to the development of the whole child-especially in the area of character and social/emotional learning.
What is WCEP and what is the Promising Practices Designation?
WCEP promotes the intentional, proactive efforts of educators to instill in all Wisconsin students, core universal ethical values such as integrity, honesty, fairness, responsibility, and respect for themselves and others through character education.
The Wisconsin Department of Education states: The WCEP and the University of Wisconsin’s School of Education sponsor the State Schools of Character (SSOC) award program for Wisconsin. This program, in partnership with Character.org, recognizes schools for their exemplary character education programs. Wisconsin is one of 30 states participating in the SSOC program. SSOC winners become eligible for the National Schools of Character (NSOC) recognition.
For information, visit wicharacter.org.
The Promising Practice Designation provides an opportunity each year for WCEP to identify schools that have developed ongoing activities and programs that incorporate the school’s core values and engage students, faculty, staff, and families. These activities and programs enhance the learning environment and provide models for strong character education that is embedded throughout the school’s culture. This embedding of core values throughout the curriculum and all aspects of school life is an important aspect of effective character education and are present in all Promising Practices. In schools with effective character education, character is not “taught” as a course; it is incorporated throughout the school and modeled by all school staff.
Studies and follow up reports are available which shows how much performance improves in Character schools whether or not those schools are private or public, urban, or rural.
The Promising Practices are not only announced but the Practices shared so others may make use of the idea.
Greenfield School District Schools
Edgewood Elementary School: Fifth graders participate in the Secret Agents Kindness Club. They meet weekly to create plans to spread kindness by making things or writing notes to people in their school. They also discuss how well their plans worked the previous week and upon leaving the meeting take a secret mission envelope with an idea for the following week. Second graders are participating by making kindness posters.
Edgewood Elementary also created the Boys in Flight experience, and after school program for 4th and 5th-grade boys. Participants are accepted through a lottery system. They learn skill development in physical activity, self-confidence, friendship, etiquette, and hygiene as well as grow in other character traits. The 90-minute weekly commitment is a significant contribution on the boys’ part. It is a companion program to Edgewood’s Girls on the Run program.
Necedah School District
Necedah Elementary School: The Cardinal mascot represents the REDS aka character values, within which all activities operate: Respectful, Engaged, Dependable, and Self-controlled. Each month, teachers from Art, Music, and PE, select a homeroom that best demonstrated the REDS for that month. The teachers discuss with students why they were selected and good discussions ensue.
Necedah High School: The Opportunity over Outcome practice recognizes and rewards the positive contributions of all who make school athletic contests both enjoyable and educational experiences. One component has students in the WON80 Sportsmanship Club prepare Appreciation Bags with snacks to everyone from the student-athletes to the bus drivers before games. Better with a Letter shows appreciation to game officials with written thank-you notes. Team handshakes are regular and the team selects an opponent member as a Sport of the Game.
Oconomowoc High School
The Oconomowoc High School took advantage of their new leadership to reshape their school culture. A staff team was empowered to identify what was negatively impacting their school culture (cell phones, advisory period structure, etc.). Then all staff participated in a summer visioning retreat to revisit core values (Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Extraordinary). They defined these values carefully in order to practice them. Ultimately this led to revising core values to Grounded (in our values) Committed (to our goals and Accountable (to ourselves and each other). Additionally, the team developed Community Commitments lessons, revised the disciplinary system to be restorative, and increased data sharing with parents/students/staff.
St. John’s Northwestern Academies
St. John’s in Delafield believes its Peer Tutoring Program builds character for the volunteer tutor-leadership, empathy, responsibility-while developing academic skills for the student being tutored. To decrease the number of students on academic warning, a student-led tutoring time was started using unstructured after school time. The school has data to show that over the years tutoring has been in place, student numbers on academic warning have been reduced by two-thirds.
Swallow School District/Hartland
Swallow Elementary School’s Connecting Hearts and Hands involves inter-generational sharing. A Director of a nursing home first comes to the school to prep children as young as kindergarten about what it means to be elderly. Then senior citizens visit the students at school. Students assist seniors off the bus, guide wheelchairs, share art projects, and reading. In the process, they learn empathy. Senior citizens share stories and experiences. The school reports many students’ families follow up with visits to the nursing home to see their elderly friends during summer.
Swallow Middle School’s Lead the Way gives students class time to reflect on topics they feel are relevant to contemporary students as well as what they can teach younger children to help them develop character. After a year of weekly character lessons, middle school students are asked to plan and implement a character lesson for a grade of their choice. So students learn around character education then they are given the opportunity for moral action through teaching younger students.
Swallow School District’s Engaging Parents in Character Education and Social Emotional Learning strengthens relationships between school and families along with partnering with parents and community in the character education process. This school district has an Article of the Month Discussion Book where parents, staff, and community members are invited to read the designated articles/book and then come together for an evening discussion. The shared reading has created a common language and understanding around social and emotional learning and has a significant impact on developing character both at home and school.
Walker Elementary School /West Allis-West Milwaukee School District
Success Skills was adopted after the staff was inspired by Thomas R. Hoer’s book The Formative Five. Success Skills has core character traits: sportsmanship, self-control, embracing diversity, grit, empathy, and integrity. This Trauma-Informed School focuses on each trait for two consecutive months using lessons and activities. Community members are also invited to share how important these traits are to success. Families’ engagement nights bring everyone together at school to discuss. Data shows decreasing office referrals and evidence of increased academic success.
For additional information to contact school leaders, please contact: Pamela Woodard at firstname.lastname@example.org.