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Partnerships in Character Education Program

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State Pilot Projects, 1995–2001
Lessons Learned
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Character includes the emotional, intellectual and moral qualities of a person or group as well as the demonstration of these qualities in prosocial behavior. Character education is an inclusive term encompassing all aspects of how schools, related social institutions and parents can support the positive character development of children and adults. Character education teaches the habits of thought and deed that help people live and work together as families, friends, neighbors, communities and nations.

Throughout the history of public education in America, our schools have reflected the values and beliefs of the communities they serve. Instruction and lessons in the classroom frequently reinforced these ideas while delivering the basic skills and knowledge of the curriculum. Today, this heritage is reflected with a new emphasis on character education.

The Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 created the Partnerships in Character Education Pilot Project (Pilot Project; see Sec. 10103) and authorized up to a total of 10 grants annually to state education agencies (SEAs) for the design and implementation of character education projects. The Pilot Project program is supported by the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the U.S. Department of Education.

The legislation included a specification that the states must involve parents, students and members of the community in the design and implementation of grant projects. It also called for comprehensive evaluations of programs developed by grantees. The law specified certain elements of character to be the focus of grant projects and deemed it important that local communities define those elements. These elements as listed in the law are: caring, civic virtue and citizenship, justice, fairness, respect, responsibility and trustworthiness. These traits could be supplemented by other elements identified at the local level. The legislation required that character education be integrated into the curriculum and called for the training of teachers. The state agencies were required to provide technical assistance to local education agencies (LEAs) in implementing character education. Additionally, the legislation called for grantees to establish state clearinghouses to provide information on model programs, materials and other resources that SEAs and LEAs could use in implementing character education.

The Pilot Project also provided funding for SEAs to join with local schools, parents, students and communities to design and implement character education projects. Under the Pilot Project, program grants were awarded to 45 states and the District of Columbia. The pilot projects were initiated across the country from 1995 to 2001, with the most recent of the five-year grants ending in 2006. Many of the programs funded by these grants continue today.

The results presented in this report are the lessons learned as educators, parents and communities implemented character education in schools across the states. Knowing what the states did during the Pilot Project to support implementation efforts provides important background as additional SEAs and LEAs go forward with the Department's current support for character education.


Partnerships in Character Education, State Pilot Projects, 1995–2001: Lessons Learned summarizes the results of the projects as reported to the U.S. Department of Education by the grantees through a variety of sources. Information for this report was assembled from reviews of project performance and evaluation reports, from discussions with grantees, and from an analysis of grantee responses to a survey from the Department. The Pilot Project grantees reported accomplishments that contributed to the continuation of developing and sustaining character education in schools, communities and the states after the grants ended. The states also tested activities that enabled them to assess character education program success and to document the challenges to effective implementation.

As part of the process of preparing this Pilot Project report, the Department asked each grantee to respond to a survey that listed a number of descriptors regarding the components of their separate projects. Respondents were allowed to check as many items in each category as applied to their grant projects. Appendix A (beginning on p. 39) contains a basic analysis of the reporting of those factors that were mentioned most frequently by the grantees as important to their projects, with a summary of results provided below.

Distinctions may be helpful in understanding two aspects related to information in this report. First, the report refers to two different federal grant programs related to character education. The Partnerships in Character Education Pilot Project relates to the legislative time period of 1995–2001. Because these grants were funded for up to five years, the last group of grantees has just completed their projects within the last two years. For the purpose of this report, this entire group will be referred to as Pilot Project grants. Beginning in 2001, new legislation created the current initiative, Partnerships in Character Education Program (PCEP), which was authorized as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) and amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB; see Sec. 5431). In this report, this program will be referred to by its acronym, PCEP.

Second, program and project are not used interchangeably in this report. Program is defined as a course of academic study, a curriculum or a system of academic and related activities (e.g., a servicelearning program). Some states report on a "menu" of programs, which is usually a list of approved curricula from which local districts could select to implement during the funding period. Others mention a "framework for a comprehensive process" or "a comprehensive approach," indicating a set of strategies and curriculum that involve students and key people who influence them—parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. Project refers to a planned set of activities within a given time frame that includes defined goals, objectives and deadlines; in this case, as set out in a written proposal to a department of education at the federal or state level.


What emerged from this process was evidence of a high degree of agreement among the projects—not only on what they tried to do, but how they tried to accomplish it, and what impact it had. For example, every project used professional development of staff as an essential means to achieving the goals of the project (see exhibit 2, p. 42).

This report provides: 1) background information regarding the importance of character education in schools; 2) key findings and trends as reported by the state pilot projects, including goals, successful practices and challenges; and 3) recommendations based on the reports from the states. The State Roll Call section provides a state-by-state summary of each pilot project, which often provides details about specific challenges or effective program components. Finally, the appendix displays an analysis of the data reported in a series of illustrations that include project goals, type of project strategy, program approaches, type of project focus, successful implementation factors, type of data collection, materials or resources developed, and sustainability factors. [Click on any type of illustration to view its contents.]

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Last Modified: 11/08/2011