Character Education

Character Education

Character Education Building a Community of Character

In the Pleasanton Unified School District we will develop curriculum, create an atmosphere, and model behavior that instills personal, social, and civic responsibility.

What is character education?

Character education is the process of helping students develop and practice the core ethical values that our diverse society shares and holds important. It is the study of the core ethical values that our society shares and holds important, including, but not limited to, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, caring, honesty, justice and fairness, and citizenship and civic involvement.

A comprehensive character education program addresses critical concerns such as discipline problems, proper respect for students and teachers, substance abuse, teen pregnancy and poor academic performance. At its best, character education permeates every aspect of the school day. Building an environment that reinforces the traits that a community values, with parents as active players in the partnership, can help improve the qualities of honesty, respect and responsibility among our youth.

Building a Community of Character Pledge

I pledge to fulfill my role in our Community of Character by acting with:
August – October
Doing what I am supposed to do
Always doing my best
Being accountable for my choices
November – December
Being kind to myself, others, and the environment
Helping others in need
Being forgiving
Practicing self-control
Setting goals and working toward them
Striving for personal improvement
Telling the truth
No cheating or stealing
Being trustworthy
March – April
Using good manners, not bad language
Being considerate: honoring the feelings of others
Dealing peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements
May – July
Being reliable: doing what I say I’ll do
Having the courage to do the right thing
Building a good reputation


What is the Pleasanton Unified School District’s Mission Statement on character education?

The traditional mission of our public schools has been to prepare our nation’s young people for equal and responsible citizenship and productive adulthood. Democratic citizenship and productive adulthood begin with standards of conduct and standards for achievement in our schools. Other education reforms may work; high standards of conduct and achievement do work — and nothing else can work without Character education.

How does character education contribute to a student’s education?

It is very difficult for a school to engage in significant educational reform when the school has adults and children that do not practice responsibility and respect. The twin goals of education have always been academic and character development. A character education program is the umbrella for the entire school program and is the shared responsibility of the school, the family and the community. Everything about a school is values laden, and a deliberately designed the approach is more effective than letting it happen by default.

The social, ethical, and emotional development of young people is just as important as their academic development. As Theodore Roosevelt stated: “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” After all, we know that good workers, citizens, parents, and neighbors all have their roots in good character. Therefore, it is critical to create schools that simultaneously character development and promote learning. In fact, character education promotes academic excellence because it lays a foundation for all learning that takes place in school. It is clear that character education builds classrooms where students are ready to learn and where teachers are freer to teach.

What are some of the objectives of a character education program?

  • That students and school staff have schools that are safe, orderly and drug free.
  • That all students and school staff learn and work in schools that have clear discipline codes with fair and consistently enforced consequences for misbehavior.
  • That all students and school staff learn and work in a school district that has alternative educational placements for violent or chronically disruptive students.
  • That all students and school staff has a right to be treated with courtesy and respect.
  • That all students and school staff learn and work in schools and classrooms that have clearly stated and rigorous academic standards.
  • That all students and school staff learn and work in schools and classrooms where high grades stand for high achievement and promotion is earned.
  • That all students and school staff learn and work in schools where getting a high school diploma means having the knowledge and skills essential for college or a good job.
  • That all students and school staff be supported by parents, the community, public officials and business in their efforts to uphold high standards of conduct and achievement.

What does character education look like in a school?

Inherently, each and every adult in a school is a character educator by virtue of exposure to students. All adults serve as role models. Students constantly watch as all adults in the school – teachers, administrators, counselors, coaches, secretaries, cafeteria aides – serve as models for character – whether good or bad. Beyond modeling, no matter what the academic subject or extra-curricular activity, educators are afforded the opportunity to develop good character in their students on a daily basis by intentionally selecting character-based lessons and activities and by the way they educate their students.

There is no one particular look or formula, but schools of character have one thing in common: a school wide commitment to nurture the “whole” child. Schools of character develop students socially, ethically, and academically by integrating character development into every part of their curriculum and culture. Specifically, a school committed to character education explicitly names and publicly stands for specific expected behaviors and promulgates them to all members of the school community. They define the expected behaviors in terms that can be observed in the life of the school, and they model, study, and discuss them, and use them as the basis for all human relations in the school. They uphold the expected behaviors by making all school members accountable to consistent standards of conduct and they celebrate their manifestation in the school and community. The key for success is that character educators find what works in their particular school, district, and community.

Does the State of California support this program?

Many state boards and departments of education, and currently, 17 states address character education through legislation. Nearly half a dozen others are currently pursuing legislation regarding character education.

Ten (10) states mandate character education through legislation; Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia. California Education Code Section 44806 states that “the duty of teachers concerning the instruction of pupils in morals, manners, and citizenship as follows:

Each teacher shall endeavor to impress upon the minds of the pupils the principles of morality, truth, justice, patriotism, and a true comprehension of the rights, duties, and dignity of American citizenship, and the meaning of equality and human dignity, including the promotion of harmonious relations, kindness toward domestic pets and the humane treatment of living creatures, to teach them to avoid idleness, profanity, and falsehood, and to instruct them in manners and morals and the principles of a free government.

Each teacher is also encouraged to create and foster an environment that encourages pupils to realize their full potential and that is free from discriminatory attitudes, practices, events, or activities, in order to prevent acts of hate violence, as defined in subdivision (e) of Section 33032.5.”

Direction from the State Superintendent

Character education is a critical component of education which needs to be embedded in the school culture and the core curriculum throughout the school year. There are opportunities to infuse the elements of character education into all of the California curriculum frameworks. Character education is not an add-on program, but rather a fundamental building block of current program efforts.” (Memo dated August 12, 1999)

How does character education fit in with the State frameworks?

The Frameworks for California Public includes multiple opportunities at every grade level to “embed” character education in the curriculum throughout the district curriculum, library resources, classroom lessons, and literature and primary sources.

History-Social Science Framework

The knowledge provided by the disciplines of history, social sciences, and the humanities enables students to appreciate how ideas, events, and individuals have intersected to produce change over time as well as to recognize the conditions and forces that maintain continuity within human societies. Students should:

  • Know their rights and responsibilities as American citizens.
  • Understand the meaning of the Constitution as a social contract that defines our democratic government and guarantees our individual rights.
  • Respect the right of others to differ with them.
  • Take an active role as citizens and to know how to work for change in a democratic society.
  • Understand the value, the importance, and the fragility of democratic institutions.
  • Realize that only a small fraction of the world’s population (now or in the past) has been fortunate enough to live under a democratic form of government
  • Understand the conditions that encourage democracy to prosper.
  • Develop a keen sense of ethics and citizenship.
  • Care deeply about the quality of life in their community, their nation, and their world.

Language Arts Framework

Demonstrate evidence of understanding human conditions exemplified in literature.

The student listens, understands, evaluates, and speaks effectively in both formal and informal situations using the appropriate conventions of language to communicate ideas.

For example, students in who meet this standard will:

  • Ask appropriate questions in a respectful way and respond clearly and completely to the questions of others.
  • Listen attentively and respectfully to others’ points of view.
  • Use language that is clear and appropriate for communicating to the audience.
  • Communicate a clear sense of common values and common goals while valuing diversity both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Core literary works are identified by a school or district to offer all students a common literary background that addresses important questions and issues from which they can learn about their humanity and society.

K12 Math Framework

Numbers play a crucial role in our daily lives, whether we are buying a car or understanding the world and financial news reports we encounter every day. Math builds the analytic spirit on which intelligent and precise thinking depend.

Our goal for California students is to become mathematical problem-solvers who can recognize and solve routine problems readily and can find ways to reach a solution or goal where no routine path is apparent.

Students need to recognize that the solution to any given problem can be determined by employing more than one strategy and frequently raises new questions of its own.

Facts, skills, procedural knowledge, conceptual understanding, problem solving, application, reasoning and the eventual communication of the entire process are the threads that form the tapestry of mathematics.

Problem solving involves applying skills, understandings and experiences to resolve new or perplexing situations. Solving problems challenges students to apply their conceptual understanding in a new or complex situation, to exercise their basic skills, and to see mathematics as a way of finding answers to some of the problems that occur outside of a classroom. Students grow in their ability and persistence in problem solving by virtue of extensive experience in solving problems at a variety of levels of difficulty and at every level in their mathematical development.

Health Framework for California Public Schools, K-12

Emphasizes health literacy for students- development of the knowledge, skills, and behaviors needed for healthy living.

Identifies the four unifying ideas of health literacy that serve as central themes for all content areas and grade levels:

  • Acceptance of personal responsibility for lifelong health;
  • Respect for and promotion of the health of others;
  • An understanding of the process of growth and development;
    Informed use of health-related information, products, and services.

The framework promotes:

  • Health education that is supported by a comprehensive school health system
  • And health education that is sustained by the collaborative efforts of the school, the family, and the community.

Science Framework for California Public Schools, K-12

The lesson plans of teachers provide opportunities for all students to learn science. This planning is heavily dependent on the teacher’s awareness and understanding of the diverse abilities, interests, and cultural backgrounds of students in the classroom. Planning also takes into account the social structure of the classroom and the challenges posed by diverse student groups. Effective planning includes sensitivity to student views that might conflict with current scientific knowledge and strategies that help to support alternative ways of making sense of the world while developing the scientific explanations.

  • Orchestrate discourse among students about scientific ideas.
  • Challenge students to accept and share responsibility for their own learning.
  • Recognize and respond to student diversity and encourage all students to participate fully in science learning.

Teachers make it clear that each student must take responsibility for his or her work. The teacher also creates opportunities for students to take responsibility for their own learning, individually and as members of groups. Teachers whose actions demonstrate respect for differing ideas, attitudes, and values support a disposition fundamental to science and to science classrooms that also is important in many everyday situations.

Science Standards

Teachers of science develop communities of science learners that reflect the intellectual rigor of scientific inquiry and the attitudes and social values conducive to science learning. In doing this, teachers.

  • Display and demand respect for the diverse ideas, skills, and experiences of all students.
  • Enable students to have a significant voice in decisions about the content and context of their work and require students to take responsibility for the learning of all members of the community.
  • Nurture collaboration among students.
    Structure and facilitate ongoing formal and informal discussion based on a shared understanding of rules of scientific discourse.
  • Model and emphasize the skills, attitudes, and values of scientific inquiry.

The focus of this standard is the social and intellectual environment that must be in place in the classroom if all students are to succeed in learning science and have the opportunity to develop the skills and dispositions for life-long learning. Elements of other standards are brought together by this standard to highlight the importance of the community of learners and what effective teachers do to foster its development. A community approach enhances learning: It helps to advance understanding, expand students’ capabilities for investigation, enrich the questions that guide inquiry, and aid students in giving meaning to experiences.

One aspect of the teacher’s role is less tangible: teachers are models for the students they teach.

  • A teacher who engages in inquiry with students models the skills needed for inquiry.
  • Teachers who exhibit enthusiasm and interest and who speak to the power and beauty of scientific understanding instill in their students some of those same attitudes toward science.
  • Teachers whose actions demonstrate respect for differing ideas, attitudes, and values support a disposition fundamental to science and to science classrooms that also is important in many everyday situations.

Teachers are also more likely to succeed if the fundamental beliefs about students and about learning are shared across their school community in all learning domains.

Teachers of science develop communities of science learners that reflect the intellectual rigor of scientific inquiry and the attitudes and social values conducive to science learning. In doing this, teachers

  • Display and demand respect for the diverse ideas, skills, and experiences of all students.
  • Enable students to have a significant voice in decisions about the content and context of their work and require students to take responsibility for the learning of all members of the community.
  • Nurture collaboration among students.
  • Structure and facilitate ongoing formal and informal discussion based on a shared understanding of rules of scientific discourse.
  • Model and emphasize the skills, attitudes, and values of scientific inquiry.

The focus of this standard is the social and intellectual environment that must be in place in the classroom if all students are to succeed in learning science and have the opportunity to develop the skills and dispositions for life-long learning.

Respect for the ideas, activities, and thinking of all students is demonstrated by what teachers say and do, as well as by the flexibility with which they respond to student interests, ideas, strengths, and needs. Whether adjusting an activity to reflect the cultural background of particular students, providing resources for a small group to pursue an interest, or suggesting that an idea is valuable but cannot be pursued at the moment, teachers model what it means to respect and value the views of others. Teachers teach respect explicitly by focusing on their own and students’ positive interactions, as well as confronting disrespect, stereotyping, and prejudice whenever it occurs in the school environment. For students to understand this aspect of science and be willing to express creative ideas, all of the members of the learning community must support and respect a diversity of experience, ideas, thought, and expression. Teachers work with students to develop an environment in which students feel safe in expressing ideas. A fundamental aspect of a community of learners is communication. Effective communication requires a foundation of respect and trust among individuals.

Isn’t character education just another “add-on” that contributes to teachers’ workloads?

Character education takes place throughout the entire school day as administrators, teachers, and other staff are presented with opportunities to model and teach positive character traits. Character education is not relegated to a special “character education class” that is conducted periodically, rather it is infused throughout the structures and processes of the entire school curriculum and culture.

Thus character education is not an “add-on,” but is instead a different way of teaching; it is a comprehensive approach that promotes the expected behaviors in all phases of school life and permeates the entire school culture. It is not an imposition on already overburdened teachers; rather, it helps teachers fulfill their fundamental responsibility to prepare young children for their future by laying a foundation for learning by creating caring, respectful school environments.

Is religion a part of character education?

Parents are the primary and most important character educators of their children. The Pleasanton Unified School District has developed character education programs in close partnership with parents and the community. This program focuses on the core civic expected behaviors that are widely held in our society across our religious and other differences. Under the First Amendment, public school teachers may neither inculcate nor denigrate religion. The expected behaviors agreed to by the Pleasanton community may be taught in public schools if done so without religious indoctrination. At the same time, the expected behaviors are not taught in such a way as to suggest that religious authority is unnecessary or unimportant. But public schools may teach about religion (as distinguished from religious indoctrination) as part of complete education. For example, the curriculum may include teaching about the role of religion in history and contemporary society, alerting students to the fact that moral convictions are often grounded in religious traditions.

Who decided what character education traits are emphasized in the schools?

The Pleasanton community reached consensus on what expected behaviors should be emphasized in the schools through a city and school district sponsored community survey in 1999. Early in the district’s strategic planning process, the strategic planning team made up of parents, administrators, teachers, classified staff, students and other community representatives developed an action plan to create an “… Ad Hoc Committee that would reach consensus on three to five universally accepted behaviors, and develop a plan to communicate these behaviors to the community.” The committee met and chose to survey the community in order to identify the expected behaviors to be taught in the schools.

The following six expected behaviors were chosen by the community, and adopted by the Pleasanton School Board and Pleasanton City Council:

  • Be reliable: do what you say you’ll do
  • Have the courage to do the right thing
  • Build a good reputation
  • Tell the truth
  • Don’t cheat or steal
  • Be trustworthy
  • Do what you are supposed to do
  • Always do your best
  • Be accountable for your choices
  • Use good manners, not bad language
  • Be considerate: honor the feelings of others
  • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreement
  • Be kind to self, others, and the environment
  • Help others in need
  • Be forgiving
  • Practice self-control
  • Set goals and work towards them
  • Strive for personal improvement


How can I help foster character education in the Pleasanton schools?

Since the American workforce ultimately comes from our schools, everyone should have an interest in seeing that our youth develop into responsible, ethical people. The very qualities that today’s work force needs are character traits and skills that form the building blocks of character education. In 1991 the U.S. Department of Labor issued a report “What Work Requires of Schools,” also known as the SCANS report – which cautioned that students must develop a new set of foundation skills and competencies such as interpersonal skills, individual responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, and integrity. If you would like to be a part of this important activity, please call one of the Pleasanton schools and offer your support or contact Rich Puppione who is the chairperson for the character education program at (925) 426-4290.

It is important to keep in mind that formalized character education begins when members of a school, along with broad community involvement, come together to determine the expected behaviors that they share and that form the basis for good education in their particular school and district. These values then become the foundation for all that the school does – curriculum, teaching strategies, school culture, extra-curricular activities, etc. Character education can then be infused into the broader community.

Does the school district have an action plan regarding character education?

Yes, this is the Action Plan:

6.1 – Identify behaviors that instill personal, social, and civic responsibility.

6.1.1 Create a representative Ad Hoc Committee, (e.g., parents, teachers, school administrators, students, business leaders, religious leaders, justice system/law enforcement and city officials).

6.1.2 The Ad Hoc Committee will review the research gathered for this action plan, in terms of what other communities and school districts have done.

6.1.3 Seek advice from people who have been successful with character education and to speak to the Ad Hoc Committee on the benefits and importance of integrating A character education into a school district.

6.1.4 The Ad Hoc Committee will solicit input and feedback on the identified behaviors.

6.1.5 The Ad Hoc Committee will reach consensus on three to five universally accepted behaviors, and develop a plan to communicate these behaviors to the community.

6.2 – Form a steering committee that will coordinate the implementation and maintenance of Strategy #6.

6.2.1 Create a standing steering committee of three to five members.

6.2.2 The steering committee will, at the school Board’s discretion, report the progress of the action plan.

6.2.3 The steering committee will report to the community, at least annually, using evaluation methods created by Action Plan 6.7.

6.3 Use Strategy #3 (Communication) and Strategy #2 (Partnerships) to communicate to the community the behaviors being instilled in the school community.

6.3.1 Get the media invested in positively recognizing the behaviors in action in the schools and community.

6.3.2 Identify all potential communicators, individuals or groups, of the behaviors, who will participate in communicating them to students and community.

6.3.3 Provide key communicators throughout the community with talking points for the implementation of the behaviors.

6.3.4 Design opportunities for partners to promote and support the behaviors to students and the community.

6.4 – Create a system to support the identified behaviors.

6.4.1 Identify behaviors in present curriculum and develop a matrix showing where they can be taught in the existing curriculum.

6.4.2 Continually update and keep fresh before the staff the matrixes appropriate to their grade level and curriculum.

6.4.3 Evaluate potential curriculum in light of the identified behaviors as part of the selection process.

6.4.4 Analyze newly adopted curriculum and add information to the matrix.

6.4.5 Continue to expand at-risk programs in middle schools.

6.4.6 Create mentorship programs for middle schools available to any interested student.

6.4.7 Create a mentor/internship program for high schools.

6.4.8 Encourage schools to create programs and activities that connect students to identity groups within the schools (e.g., house plans or “school within a school”) and community, promote the identified behaviors, promote and increase service learning K-12, and promote a family service program where individual families are responsible for the service done.

6.4.9 Increase opportunities for student leadership and responsibility for whole student body.

6.4.10 Devise and sponsor student projects and activities that examine current culture as portrayed in the media and which thoughtfully analyze the culture in light of core values.

6.4.11 Establish programs that recognize students who demonstrate the identified behaviors. (Coordinate with Action Plan 6.3).

Action Plan 6.5 – Develop a system where students have access to assistance for personal needs.

6.5.1 Review counselor’s role and workday to maximize access and visibility (e.g. staggered hours, out on campus, paperwork) to develop a comprehensive K-12 guidance program.

6.5.2 Strive to improve the student/counselor ratio.

6.5.3 Identify alternative ways to deal with current counseling tasks (e.g., grade issues, course changes, college applications, scholarships, and scheduling)

6.5.4 Identify individuals, in addition to counselors, on each campus that students can go to at all times that are sensitive and listen to student problems/needs.

Action Plan 6.6 – Develop a culture to ensure that schools reflect the behaviors that instill personal, social, and civic responsibility.

6.6.1 Begin the school year for Pleasanton Unified School District staff with a well-known motivational speaker emphasizing the behaviors to be integrated in classrooms.

6.6.2 Utilize the motivational speaker’s time to maximum by offering further presentations to parents, students, and the community.

6.6.3 Provide follow-up training throughout the school year to reinforce the behaviors.

6.6.4 The district superintendent and school principals will continually challenge staff to embody and teach the behaviors by authentically modeling them for others.

6.6.5 Provide staff development that prepares staff to deal with issues related to the identified behaviors (e.g., diversity, ethnicity, belief systems, and sexual orientation).

6.6.6 Use staff development to integrate respect into the curriculum at each site to increase the respect for all people.

6.7 – Maintain Action Plans 6.3 – 6.6 by periodic review and evaluation through community-wide structure and organization.

6.7.1 Create an evaluation system to measure the level of implementation of the identified behaviors established in action plan 6.1 for students, staff, and community.

6.7.2 Create a plan to deal with attrition by ensuring continuity of implementation

6.7.3 Maintain an historical, developmental time line of implementation

6.7.4 The steering committee will annually examine data with representation from the school and community and beyond.

6.7.5 Utilize results from 6.7.4 data examination to guide future implementation.


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