Character education is the intentional efforts a school takes to promote students' understanding of, capacity to critically reason about, motivation for, and ability to act in accordance with ethical values and principles. Character education is ultimately a matter of school reform. Therefore it requires committed leadership and takes multiple years to accomplish. In truth, character education is a journey that is ongoing. Leadership changes, children graduate, and teachers retire or relocate. Each year brings a new opportunity for the school to recommit to the development of good character in all members of a school community. Without the active support of school and district leadership, and without the patience and commitment of school teachers and administrators to stay the course, character education is much less likely to be effectively implemented. The stakes for character education are high, our nation depends on it.
Effective Character Education endorses the evaluation of the school's character education program and it’s supporting school community. The growing body of empirical research on the effectiveness of character education has shown that some character education is quite effective and some is not. Schools need to understand that not all attempts at promoting character education are likely to be successful and that what works elsewhere may not work in their unique setting. Therefore it is important for schools to evaluate whether they are actually implementing character education (not all good intentions lead to productive results) and, if they are, whether it is having a positive effect.
Posey, Davidson, and Korpi offer excellent guidance on how to decide on, plan, and implement the various forms of evaluation for character education in schools. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to review what they suggest. Instead, we offer a few major points. First, plan well in advance so that meaningful baseline data are collected. Second, feed data back to the school to improve practice. Third, be sure to use evaluative methods that have an evidence base; i.e., for which there is a scientifically justifiable body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of the methods selected.
In reflecting on character education, Peter Yarrow argues that "though it may sound calamitous to some, and for others these words will resonate as a wake-up call, I believe that such work might be decisive in determining, not only the future well-being of our world, but ... the survival of everything we value in our society and of society itself".
By: Francis David