Tagged “Elementary”

New School Develops Its Core

Pembroke Elementary School, Troy, Mich.

In 2007, Pembroke Elementary School had an ideal opportunity to recast itself with a new vision, touchstone, and school mascot as it moved into a brand new building. The Pembroke Character Education Committee played a role in developing the new school touchstone, with its focus on core values, as the new building opened. Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Pembroke has achieved great clarity of vision, with its core values supported by the touchstone and the school pledge. The faculty and administration recognize and testify to a well-developed integration of core values into curricular lessons. In addition to cross-age buddy programs, the school also implements a Links program, where older students reach out to special needs students every day at lunch and recess. Intrinsic reward strategies are understood and practiced, along with reflection by students involved in disciplinary situations. Parents are actively engaged in the work of the Character Education Committee and in meaningful volunteer activities in the school and through the PTA.

Ethnically Diverse School Transforms School Discipline

Bingham Farms Elementary School, Bingham Farms, Mich.

Located in the affluent Birmingham district northwest of Detroit, Bingham Farms Elementary School celebrates being one of the more ethnically diverse schools in the area. Encouraged by the district to develop a touchstone, this school's staff, students, and parents are now unified around their vision for positive character known as the "Bingham Best." According to Principal Russ Facione, the touchstone allows students to "reflect and refocus" and take charge of their choices. "It has literally transformed discipline in our building," he adds.

Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Bingham Farms also boasts numerous Promising Practices awards and creative strategies that have enabled students to succeed—both academically and socially. All students, for example, have learned a five-step conflict resolution strategy called Solve-It-Spot. Students are reminded of the steps through posters placed around the school and practice during class meetings. Students report that the strategy is informally implemented by peers, and parents testify to seeing Solve-It-Spot practiced at home.

Caring and Compassion Translates into Narrowing the Achievement Gap

Oakwood Elementary School, Glen Burnie, Md.

Parents and staff consistently refer to Oakwood Elementary School as "the best-kept secret in Glen Burnie." The sense of caring and compassion that has been fostered here, as well as the dedication to meeting the individual needs of students, has translated into a remarkable narrowing of the achievement gap and academic excellence for all. In class, students help one another, soothe each other, and share classroom materials. Teachers help children in such seamless and natural ways that no child is singled out for being "special." Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Oakwood's staff finds strategies that suit every student, and they have devised a consistent set of expectations for student behavior throughout the building. Parents feel well informed and welcome in the school and are involved in character education leadership. When asked about how the school has made such remarkable academic gains, former principal Nancy Knouse responds: "Everybody in this building is working for kids. Nobody ever gives up on any child."

Charter School Promotes Parents as Primary Educators

Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School, Franklin, Mass.

Established in 1995 as one of the first charter schools in Massachusetts, Benjamin Frankilin Classical Charter Public School (BFCCPS) also has the distinction of being among the first schools in the country to be named National Schools of Character, in 1998. Named a National School of Character again in 2011 by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, the mission of BFCCPS is to assist parents in their role as primary educators of their children by providing students with a classical academic education coupled with sound character development and community service.

One of the key strengths of BFCCPS is its determination to maintain its original unique and focused vision to integrate virtues not only into its mission but into what takes place there every day—and its history of success in doing so. In addition to providing an education based on the cardinal virtues of the ancient Greeks, BFCCPS uses a teaching strategy borrowed from an American founder, Benjamin Franklin, to set weekly character goals which enable staff and students to focus on these virtues in both academics and personal interactions, in order to help develop virtuous habits. Also, the school incorporates current research based strategies taken from Responsive Classroom, such as class meetings and service opportunities, to facilitate reflection on the character goals and practice in achieving them.

A Common Message and Sense of Belonging

Renfro Elementary School, Collinsville, Ill.

Renfro Elementary School special education teacher Mary Anne Hempsted observes, "This school is the most welcoming place that I have ever worked. People respond to any need." Renfro's teachers and students connect through class meetings and the cross-grade level "families." Each family creates their own silent family greeting that they use whenever they encounter a "family member" in the halls. Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Renfro defines character to include thinking, feeling, and doing and takes a very comprehensive, intentional, proactive approach to character education. Carrie White, parent of a second grader and a kindergartner, praises the common language used at the school, which carries into the home, and observes that the words mean the same at school and at home. Entire classrooms of students are recognized for showing good character, not individuals. Third-grade teacher Carolyn Demaree says, "Every adult cares for the students in this school and holds them accountable."

Faculty and Stakehloder Buy-In Helps Grow School

Oakhurst Elementary School, Largo, Fla.

Marcia Stone, retired principal of one of the 2006 National Schools of Character, remarks about whole child partner the Character Education Partnership's 2011 National School of Character Oakhurst Elementary School, "Professionally, I have watched [Oakhurst] ... effectively and efficiently integrate character development into each day, each classroom, and each student without losing sight of the curriculum." The traits of respect, responsibility, and honesty comprise The Mustang Way at Oakhurst, illustrated by a large mural depicting the mustang mascot. The growth in the Character Education Committee membership reveals the strong faculty buy-in, as does the willingness of teachers to spend personal time preparing for the Morning Meeting program. Students have leadership opportunities through the Model Mustang program, leading service learning projects, and the school's "kid-friendly" version of the 11 principles of character education. Former PTA president Theresa Favell reports that there is "not one person on the [PTA] board who doesn't support the school's work in character education."

Family Atmosphere Fosters Sense of Belonging

Imagine Schools South Lake, Clermont, Fla.

Despite being one of the largest of the more than 70 Imagine Schools campuses, Imagine South Lake feels like a "family" school. Each day, students are greeted by the principal (who knows everyone by name), other administrators, teachers, parents, and student safety patrols. Teacher turnover is minimal, and the re-enrollment rate is above 95 percent. When speaking of her schoolmates and teachers, fourth grader India says, "They are my family." Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Imagine South Lake's staff students, and parents live the core values. Staff members incorporate character within the classroom in ways that best meet the needs of their students and reflect the school's mission statement. Middle school language-arts teacher Joyce Crawford notes that "being here at Imagine means you have a voice;" all classrooms have meetings where students' "voice and choice" is heard and appreciated. Teachers care about the students academically, socially, and emotionally. Fourth grader Eliya states that the teachers "don’t want us to fail. They teach us how to learn from our mistakes."

Everyone Has a Role in Educating Character

Fuguitt Elementary School, Largo, Fla.

Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Fuguitt Elementary School truly embraces the "it takes a village" approach to character education. Staff members are focused and intentional as they work to build the academic program on the foundation of a strong character education base. Student leaders, known as character coaches, lead discussions of the school's character book of the month. Reading and writing programs have been intentionally linked to character education. Teachers have integrated the service learning program into the curriculum and provide structured opportunities for student initiative and reflection. Students are included in the planning and leadership stage, and both pre- and post-reflection opportunities are developed for each activity. The assistant principal, who launched the Bully-Free Club, and the guidance counselors and classroom teachers all have critical roles in the success of the school. At Fuguitt, all employees are considered to be "character educators," and Principal Mike Moss says their character education efforts are "bringing the staff alive."

Focusing on the Moral and Social Development of Students

Beauvoir, the National Cathedral Elementary School, Washington, D.C.

Beauvoir is located on the grounds of the National Cathedral located in Washington, D.C. Head of School Paula Carreiro came to Beauvoir 19 years ago and began exploring school culture based on shared core values and individual character. A focus on the whole child and each child's moral and social development now pervades the Beauvoir program. Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, the school invests time and resources into both social and academic curricula. Beauvoir also emphasizes responsiveness to the needs and concerns of students, parents, and staff. The school's associate teacher program provides two teachers in every classroom. Since about 85 percent of Beauvoir students are from dual-working-parent families, parent schedules are accommodated in many ways, particularly at drop-off time, in school communications, and for volunteer opportunities. Parents attest that Beauvoir's approach lets them "push back" many of today's negative influences.

Students Have Intrinsic Motivation to Succeed

Duffy Elementary School, West Hartford, Conn.

The origins of character education at Duffy Elementary School go back to May 1998, when the school's strategic planning committee decided to implement character education. Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Duffy is a school in which students take learning seriously: Student behavior—not only in the classrooms but also in the cafeteria and on the playground—indicates a high degree of intrinsic motivation to do well. Many factors account for this: high parental expectations, an extraordinarily dedicated faculty, and a student body that truly pursues academic excellence.

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