CEP’s Character Education Quality Standards

Program Info - Program Information

The Character Education Quality Standards present the key components of effective character education, so that schools and districts can evaluate their efforts, using these criteria. Released in 2000, they provide a means for educators, administrators, and community members to reflect on current practices, identify short- and long-term objectives, better organize strategic plans, and evaluate character education programs, books and curriculum resources.
The Standards are based on the Character Education Partnership’s Eleven Principles of Effective Character Education™ and were originally designed in collaboration with the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character (CAEC) at Boston University and the 1999 National Schools of Character Blue Ribbon Panel.
The Character Education Partnership (CEP) is a nonpartisan, nonsectarian coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to developing moral character and civic virtue in our nation's youth as one means of creating a more compassionate and responsible society. CEP is not affiliated with any party or creed. It is dedicated to the idea that character and education are natural partners in helping children become ethical, responsible adults. It holds that core ethical values can be a matter of consensus and a model for our youth. It is committed to the practical implementation of character education throughout the learning process.
The Giraffe Heroes Program is a national K-12 service-learning and character development program, created by the national nonprofit Giraffe Project.  The Program comes in editions for grade levels K-2, 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12.
 
II. The CEP’s Character Education Quality Standards
1. Character education promotes core ethical values as the basis of good character.
2. “Character” must be comprehensively defined to include thinking, feeling and behavior.
3. Effective character education requires an intentional, proactive and comprehensive approach that promotes the core values in all phases of school life.
4. The school must be a caring community.
5. To develop character, students need opportunities for moral action.
6. Effective character education includes a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners and helps them succeed.
7. Character education should strive to develop students’ intrinsic motivation.
8. The school staff must become a learning and moral community in which all share responsibility for character education and attempt to adhere to the same core values that guide the education of students.
9. Character education requires moral leadership from both staff and students.
10. The school must recruit parents and community members as full partners in the character-building effort.
11. Evaluation of character education should assess the character of the school, the school staff’s functioning as character educators, and the extent to which students manifest good character.
 
III. Legend
The notations K-2, 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12 refer to the corresponding grade-level edition of the Giraffe Heroes Program. “S” means “Stage” in the K-2 edition and “Section” in the 3-5 and 6-9 editions. “L” means “Lesson;” “Ch.” means “Chapter;” and “N” means “Neckbone”—a name used in place of “Chapter” in the final section of the K-2, 3-5 and 6-9 editions.
 
IV. The Correlation
1. Character education promotes core ethical values as the basis of good character.
The Giraffe Heroes Program holds that there are widely shared core ethical values. While recognizing that these core values can be expressed in different ways, the Program organizes them into three—courage, caring and responsibility. It does not present these values to students as slogans or bare concepts to be memorized. It introduces them through the compelling stories of heroes, followed by discussion and reflection. Students then deepen their understanding, first by finding their own heroes, then by putting these values into action in their own lives by creating and carrying out service projects that meet public concerns important to them.
The Giraffe Heroes Program assumes these core values have a claim on the consciences of the individual and of the community. They are valid because they affirm our human dignity; they promote the development and welfare of the individual person; they serve the common good; they meet the classical tests of reversibility (the “Golden Rule”) and universality; and they define our rights and responsibilities in a democratic society. Core values transcend religious and cultural differences and express our common humanity.
In the Giraffe Heroes Program, treatment of core values becomes more sophisticated with each age-level edition of the Program. While the concept of “acting for the common good” is central to all editions of the Program, for example, it is not used explicitly in the edition for grade levels K-2. In the K-2 and 3-5 editions, “responsibility” is expressed primarily as “taking helpful action” and “persisting.” In the 10-12 edition, “responsibility” is broadened to include being responsible for attitudes as well as behavior, and the concept of “caring” is discussed as “active compassion.”
 
2. “Character” must be comprehensively defined to include thinking, feeling and behavior.
Each edition of the Giraffe Heroes Program gives students dozens of compelling stories of “Giraffes”—ordinary people “sticking their necks out” for the common good. Students are inspired by these stories, they discuss and reflect on the qualities of these heroes, and then look for these same qualities in people in their own school and community—and in themselves. By presenting core values in the context of stories of real people’s lives, the Giraffe Heroes Program emphasizes the cognitive and emotional, as well as the behavioral context in which these values are exercised. Because students see the whole person in action in real-world situations, the model is both profound and credible.
The Program’s emphasis on building a comprehensive context for a moral life is deepened by its consistent use of reflection as a teaching tool. Reflection helps students not only understand core values, but to care about, and act on them as well.
 
K-2 (S2); 3-5 and 6-9 (S1 and S2)— for every Giraffe-hero story presented, reflection questions deepen student understanding of heroic qualities of character, and prompt them to look for those same qualities in themselves.
3-5 (S2L6) and 6-9 (S2L4)—What Would You Do? prompts reflection on personal values.
K-2, 3-5 and 6-9 (S3) and 10-12 (entire book)—before starting a service project, students reflect on what they care about and why, and on what specific problems concern them most in their community.
3-5 and 6-9 (S3N6)—students reflect on the role of courage in their lives.
K-2 (S3N6) and 3-5 and 6-9 (S3N4, 6)—students reflect on the nature of commitment, and on making a commitment.
10-12—students examine what creates a meaningful life (Ch. 1). They reflect on courage and risktaking (Ch. 5); on taking responsibility and making decisions (Ch. 7); and on leadership and their personal qualities as leaders (Ch. 10 and 11).
All editions—in carrying out a service project, students observe and evaluate their actions and feelings and connect them with results. They learn and reflect on the idea that “sticking their necks out” to help solve public problems not only helps solve the problems, but also makes them feel competent and valued.
The Giraffe Heroes Program is experiential education—learning by doing. The more students act on their values, the deeper becomes their understanding and commitment.
K-2, 3-5, and 6-9 (S3) and 10-12 (entire book)—students implement the core values of courage, caring and responsibility by designing and carrying out a service project that calls forth those qualities in themselves. They start by deciding what they care most about; then they create and carry out a service project that helps meet that concern. In making these choices, students must consider not just what will meet genuine needs in the community (or farther afield), but also what service means to them and its consequences for their lives and the lives of the people it will affect. Taking on this degree of responsibility gives them a sense of accountability and satisfaction they wouldn’t have if they were simply told what project to take on. It builds in them the self-confidence and capacity for making self-directed ethical choices.
 
3. Effective character education requires an intentional, proactive and comprehensive approach
that promotes the core values in all phases of school life.
The Giraffe Heroes Program promotes the core values in all phases of school life, including the teacher’s example and the instructional process; the management of the school environment; and the school’s student culture. It does this in the following ways:
 
1) The Program promotes the moral leadership of students. As students move through the Program, their modeling of core values, their vision for the success of their service project, their excitement about making a difference in the community, and their ability to work together, can spill over to the rest of the school, affecting the behavior of staff and other students.
 
2) The structure of the Program supports school-wide use:
 
• The school can stage a kickoff assembly at which the students see the Program video, Giraffe Heroes, Sticking Their Necks Out for the Common Good, and heroes commended by the Giraffe Project (“Giraffes”) can be invited to talk to students about service as an exciting, meaningful way of life. The Program’s press kit can be used to invite media to cover the event, bringing positive community attention to the school. 
• Giraffe banners, posters and other supplemental materials are available for hall displays and school events and assemblies.
• All grade levels and all teachers can do the Giraffe Heroes Program once a week, coordinating which Giraffe stories and implementation ideas to use in each class.
• Older students can mentor younger ones through the steps of the Program.
• Students can create and maintain a “Giraffe Hall of Fame” along a school corridor.
• Students can tell Giraffe stories on the public address system, using the ready-to-read scripts in 101 Giraffe Heroes, available as part of the Program.
• Faculty can integrate the Program with school-wide themes such as heroes, citizenship, and service.
• Students in different grade levels and sections can identify and research possible Giraffes in separate sectors of the curriculum. In Social Studies, for instance, one class may look for Giraffes in their state’s history, another in US history, and still another in world history.
• One day a week can be a school-wide “Giraffe Day” when teachers link Giraffes and Giraffe concepts to the topics they’re teaching, providing a fresh, Giraffe’s-eye-view of the material.
• Students can put out a school newsletter or video that highlights Giraffes students have found and the community service projects classes are doing.
• Students can create an after-school Giraffe Club for those who want to do more projects after those in the formal Program are completed.
 
3) The Giraffe Heroes Program uses an intentional and proactive approach to guide students with their service projects. This approach is also an excellent guide for implementing many kinds of whole-school projects in character education and community service:
 
1. Choose Your Project—students decide as a group what they care about, then choose a service project that helps meet that concern.
2. Create a Vision of the Results You Want—students learn to use their hearts as well as their heads in creating a vision of intended results they then use as a motivator and guide.
3. Study the Obstacles and Resources—students realistically assess what they are getting into.
4. Accept the Risks and Make the Commitment— students understand that accepting those risks means taking on significant responsibilities, and that they will be depending on each other to get the job done.
5. Make a Plan—students learn the discipline and skills necessary to define goals and objectives, draw timelines and budgets, and assign responsibilities.
6. Take Action—students create and carry out a work schedule, including regular intervals for assessment, reflection and course corrections.
7. Reflect, Celebrate and Begin Again—when they’ve finished, students do a final reflection on their work, celebrate their accomplishment, then start thinking of what they can take on next.
 
4. The school must be a caring community.
Caring is a core value of the Giraffe Heroes Program and it spills over into the school.
Each edition of the Giraffe Heroes Program gives students dozens of inspiring stories of Giraffes—ordinary people acting with courage and compassion. Students discuss and reflect on the qualities of these models, then look for these same qualities in people in their own school and community. When they find them, they invite them to class. The effect is to publicize caring as an ideal in the school.
Students in the Program carry out a service project that helps other people and serves a community need. In doing so, they learn not only to care for the people in their community, but also to care for and to support each other as a team. Their commitment and enthusiasm for caring can permeate the school, affecting the behavior of staff and other students.
 
5. To develop character, students need opportunities for moral action.
The Giraffe Heroes Program is real-world, experiential education—the kind that sticks rather than being memorized until the test, then forgotten. It involves students directly in moral action. Students work together to make choices about their concerns, and what to do about them; then they design and carry out a service project that meets those concerns.
 
3-5 and 6-9 (S3 Intro)—students learn the difference between thinking and doing.
K-2, 3-5, and 6-9 (S1 and 2)—students develop a practical understanding of the requirements of fairness, cooperation and respect as they discuss core values with their classmates.
K-2 (S3N1-3), 3-5 and 6-9 (S3N1) and 10-12 (Ch. 2)— students learn to value others’ points of view as they choose the issue they as a class care most about, and then decide on a service project that helps meet that need.
10-12—students make the explicit connection between service to others and adding meaning to one’s life(Ch. 1); they learn about active compassion (Ch. 4); and they study how to negotiate, resolve conflicts and find common ground (Ch. 9).
K-2, 3-5, and 6-9 (S3) and 10-12 (entire book)—students implement the qualities of courage, caring and responsibility they’ve earlier identified in heroes by carrying out a service project that calls forth those qualities in themselves. They confront obstacles, conflicts and risks to fulfill the vision they’ve set for themselves and their project. Through repeatedly taking on moral challenges, students develop and practice moral skills and behavior.
The Giraffe Heroes Program helps create a new generation of active citizens who understand both their ability and their responsibility to take part in public life. In the course of implementing their service project, students become participants and stakeholders in the community—part of the active core of people who care about the common good. Students learn that their concerns and their actions matter, that what they do can not only help solve real-world problems, but also make them feel competent and valued. This is the essence of good citizenship, and it is a lesson that will serve them their entire lives.
 
6. Effective character education includes a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners and helps them succeed.
The Giraffe Heroes Program is linked to academic objectives using the McRel Standards Database, a coherent compendium of educational standards for primary, intermediate, middle and high school grades, based on work sponsored by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement of the U.S. Department of Education. For the McRel correlation with the Giraffe Heroes Program, see “Correlation of the Giraffe Heroes Program and National Educational Standards.”
The Program creates learning experiences that are inherently interesting and motivating for students by using active teaching and learning methods that provide opportunities for all types of learners. These include working in teams, storytelling, innovative problem-solving approaches, experience-based projects, individual reflection, writing, use of the arts, and oral presentations.
In the course of the Program, students practice writing, doing research, reading, communicating through the visual arts, listening and speaking in public. They engage in brainstorming, thinking critically and making decisions, taking responsibility, and setting and managing goals. They make and carry out plans, assess risks, solve problems, persist, work with others and resolve conflicts. They learn the importance of public participation, and of honoring diverse views. Older students develop leadership skills, learn to work with media, and study and sometimes even practice the formation of public policy.
Users of the Program report that students can become so intent on achieving the real-world results of their service project that even those with a long record of academic failure find themselves doing research, writing letters, speaking in public, doing calculations—whatever it takes to get the job done. They find themselves acquiring and using such skills not as ends in themselves, but as the means for doing what they want to do.
Finally, the Giraffe Heroes Program promotes academic learning by helping create a school climate of caring, responsibility and respect—conditions that support students’ working hard and succeeding.
 
7. Character education should strive to develop students’ intrinsic motivation.
 The Giraffe Heroes Program helps students take moral values to heart, to absorb them as a permanent way of thinking, feeling and acting in any and all situations. The Program achieves that goal by fully engaging students in their own character development:
 
1) Telling stories of real heroes builds intrinsic motivation.
 
All editions—the Program introduces core values by telling stories of people displaying those values in action, in real-world situations, rather than in abstract words or principles. The stories go straight to the heart and stay there, where the student can call on them as models for new choices and actions. The reflection questions following these stories are aimed at engaging students in their own character development.
 
2) The Program develops students’ intrinsic motivation by giving them responsibility for choosing and carrying out a service project that meets needs that they have identified.
 
K-2, 3-5 and 6-9 (S3) and 10-12 (entire book)—students decide what they care most about as the basis for a service project, then they decide on and design the specific project they will carry out. 
The service project itself is not the main objective of the Giraffe Heroes Program. The deep and lasting goal is to build students’ confidence and capacity for making ethical, self-directed choices that change their world for the better. When students choose their own service project and are responsible for assessing their own progress, they put a lot more energy and commitment into it. The lessons they learn, and the sense of accountability and satisfaction they gain, are greater than if they’re simply told to show up at the soup kitchen at 6:00.
 
3) The Program does not use or advise external rewards as prompts for action. It believes that an expectation of being rewarded draws students towards thinking about the reward instead of fully experiencing the intrinsic joy, excitement and satisfaction of service. The Program assumes that human beings have a natural instinct to be altruistic and that exercising that instinct brings its own satisfaction. In carrying out their service project, for example, students are repeatedly given opportunities to make choices about their actions, helping them become committed to their project. It becomes their work, not an arbitrary assignment, and they are determined to achieve the goals they set.
 
4) The Giraffe Heroes Program provides motivating content for academic learning. Students who have a low interest in academics or actively resist learning can suddenly click into lively pursuit of core skills when they experience applying academics in a context that’s important to them. Even severely disaffected students begin to see that they don’t have to settle for passivity and inaction.
 
In language arts, for example, the Program’s exciting content raises students’ interest in reading, and in speaking about and writing down the ideas and opinions the Program encourages them to express. And because their service project is one they’ve picked themselves, they’re much more eager to do the research, reports, planning, analyses, and persuasive speaking and writing that it may require.
 
In social studies, the Program brings students in contact with real-world ideas and problems in positive, activating ways. Each Giraffe story in the text is about a person addressing a social problem and making headway toward a solution. The book doesn’t focus on the problems; it focuses on the actions people are taking to solve them. The text then guides students to consider the community problems that concern them and helps them turn their concern into positive actions in their community, motivated by their intrinsic desire to make a difference in their world.
 
8. The school staff must become a learning and moral community in which all share responsibility for character education and attempt to adhere to the same core values that guide the education of students.
 AND
9. Character education requires moral leadership from both staff and students.
Ideally, all school staff should be involved in learning about, discussing, and taking ownership of the character education effort. All of these adults should model the core values in their own behavior and take advantage of the other opportunities they have to influence the character of the students with whom they come into contact.
The Giraffe Heroes Program promotes staff participation in character education in four ways:
 
1) The moral leadership of students in the Program is compelling. Students’ impact staff by their enthusiasm in finding and learning about real heroes in the Program; by the challenging points they raise on questions of core values and life priorities; by the courage, caring and commitment they model in carrying out a service project; and by their excitement in making a difference in their community.
In two surveys conducted for the Kellogg Foundation of the impact of the Giraffe Heroes Program in selected Seattle schools in 1997 and 1998, over 85% of teachers said that the Program had changed their attitudes and behaviors as well as those of their students, After a semester of working with students in service projects guided by the Program, these teachers most noted a more careful analysis of priorities in their own lives, a higher appreciation of community service, and a renewed belief in anyone’s ability to make a difference in the lives of others.
 
2) The core principles and techniques of the Giraffe Heroes Program apply just as well to challenges in the lives of adult staff as they do to challenges in the lives of students. See the information on Learning as you Teach in the introductory sections of the Teaching Guides for grades K-2, 3-5 and 6-9 and of the Resource Guide for grades 10-12.

3) The Program includes guidance and materials for “whole school” events, assemblies, projects and presentations that impact staff and students alike (see the whole-school examples given in the response to Standard #3).
4) In-service trainings and staff development are available as optional additions to the Program.
 
10. The school must recruit parents and community members as full partners in the character-building effort.
The Giraffe Heroes Program brings the community into the schools and the schools into the community.
 
1) The Program involves parents in meaningful ways:
K-2, 3-5 and 6-9 (Intro) and 10-12 (Section B)—Letter to Parents/Guardians introduces the Giraffe Heroes Program.
3-5 and 6-9 (Intro)—Giraffes at Home invites parents, caregivers and neighbors to join in on activities such as reading and discussing stories of heroes, discussing values, helping find Giraffes in the community, and helping with a service project.
 
2) There are opportunities for other adults to help facilitate the Program, including members of local service clubs. Community volunteers can read and discuss stories of heroes with younger students, and talk with students of all ages about what service and citizenship mean in their own lives. They can help students carry out their service project, and honor them and celebrate with them when the project has been completed. Professionals can help students with special aspects of a service project, such as fundraising and dealing with media. See:
3-5 and 6-9 (Intro)—How to Involve Community Volunteers in the Program.
10-12 (Resource Guide)—Using the Giraffe Heroes Program to Build School/Community Partnerships.

3) In the Program, student outreach into the community helps recruit parents and community members as partners in the character-building effort. As part of their service project, students tell the community what they are doing. Adults who see kids carrying out positive community actions gain a deeper respect for what young people can do, and respect for the schools they attend:
K-2, 3-5 and 6-9 (S2)—students look for heroes in the community and when they find them, bring them to class.
K-2, 3-5 and 6-9 (S3N1) and 10-12 (Ch. 6)—through visits, research, and discussion, students carefully assess needs and resources in their community. When they pick a specific issue as the basis for their service project, the choice reflects considerable understanding of genuine needs in the community.
K-2, 3-5 and 6-9 (S3N6) and 10-12 (Ch. 6)as part of their service project, students work with community members—gathering suggestions and additional resources. In the process of completing their project, students become stakeholders in the community; they learn to care about what happens there. They gain pride in where they live—a pride that can rub off on teachers, parents and anyone else exposed to the Program.
K-2, 3-5 and 6-9 (S3N7)—students invite community members to a celebration of the conclusion of their service project.
3-5 and 6-9 (Intro)—Giraffing the Media guides students in writing press releases and making public presentations to inform the community about their service project.
10-12—Chapter 8 offers more detailed advice to older students on dealing with the media.
 
4) The impact of the Program on the community doesn’t stop with one service project:
K-2, 3-5 and 6-9 (S3N7)—students think of additional projects they can do, this time with their families, friends, neighbors, youth clubs, etc. They may start a Giraffe Club to organize projects around new opportunities for service.
3-5 and 6-9 (Intro)—How Youth Clubs and Similar Organizations Can use the Giraffe Heroes Program offers guidance for taking the Program beyond the classroom.
10-12—Chapters 10 and 11 explore leadership issues. InChapter 12, Where Do You Go from Here? students understand that what they’ve learned is not a one-shot deal. It’s an initiation into the company of courageous, caring responsible human beings.
 
11. Evaluation of character education should assess the character of the school,
the school staff’s functioning as character educators, and
the extent to which students manifest good character.
3-5 and 6-9 (S2)—What Would You Do? questionnaires measure students’ moral judgment by using multiple choice questions involving moral dilemmas.
K-2, 3-5 and 6-9 (S3) and 10-12 (entire book)—before starting a service project, students reflect on what they care about, and on what specific problems concern them most in their community.
10-12 (Resource Guide)—student pre-course and post-course questionnaires, and teachers’ post-course questionnaires, assess changes in student attitudes and behavior.
3-5 and 6-9—student pre-and post-course questionnaires are available from the Giraffe Project.A teacher pre-and post-course survey is also available for the K-2 edition.
 
The Giraffe Heroes Program does not directly provide instruments for assessing the character of the school or the school’s staff functioning as character educators. To the extent the school has adopted a whole-school approach to the Giraffe Heroes Program however, the evaluations applied to students’ attitudes and behavior can motivate the school’s adult leadership to apply similar assessments to themselves and to the school as a whole.

A GIFT TO SCHOOLS

 

iutucoverIn classrooms since 1991,
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Grades K-2 Guide

Stan Tall & Bea Tall, our twin spokesgiraffes 
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