Grading character in school

If you have children in a Hawaii public school, you’re probably in the middle of fall break and getting ready for report cards. Even if you don’t have school-age children, you probably remember the anticipation (and fear) of getting quarterly and semester report cards.

Today, Hawaii public elementary schools have a three-part report card that evaluates attendance, six general learner outcomes (GLOs), and academic proficiency, with a section for teacher comments. Only one of the GLOs is based on character: Community Contributor (the understanding that it is essential for human beings to work together).

While many Hawaii schools emphasize character values, like honesty and respect, they don’t grade students’ character growth. This may change as more Hawaii schools implement the International Baccalaureate Program and begin to emphasize the ten IB Learner Profiles – among them the goals to be Principled (to act with integrity, honesty, and fairness), and Caring (to show empathy, compassion, and respect).

Other schools have already developed programs that give character development as much attention as academic performance. For instance, the charter school KIPP NYC has come up with a character report card, based on the work of Dr. Angela Duckworth, Dr. Chris Peterson, and Dr. Martin Seligman, and in partnership with Riverdale Country School.

KIPP NYC focuses on seven behaviors that reveal their students’ character and can predict their future success, both in college and career.

1. ZEST — approaching life with excitement and energy; feeling alive and activated. Actively participates, shows enthusiasm, and invigorates others.

2. SELF-CONTROLregulating what one feels and does; being self-disciplined. In school work: comes to class prepared, pays attention and resists distractions, remembers to follow directions, and gets to work right away rather than procrastinating. In interpersonal relationships: remains calm even when criticized or otherwise provoked, allows others to speak without interruption, is polite to adults and peers, and keeps temper in check.

3. GRATITUDEbeing aware of and thankful for opportunities that one has and for good things that happen. Recognizes and shows appreciation for others, and recognizes and shows appreciation for his/her opportunities.

4. CURIOSITY taking an interest in experience and learning new things for its own sake; finding things fascinating. Is eager to explore new things, asks and answers questions to deepen understanding, and actively listens to others.

5. OPTIMISM expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it. Gets over frustrations and setbacks quickly and believes that effort will improve his/her future.

6. GRIT finishing what one starts; completing something despite obstacles; a combination of persistence and resilience. Finishes whatever he/she begins, tries very hard even after experiencing failure, and works independently with focus.

7. SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE being aware of motives and feelings of other people and oneself; including the ability to reason within large and small groups. Able to find solutions during conflicts with others, demonstrates respect for feelings of others, and knows when and how to include others.

At student-parent-teacher conferences, they discuss the character growth report card, praise students’ character strengths, and offer strategies to improve character weaknesses.

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education,” declared Martin Luther King, Jr.

How would you rate your child’s character? Would you support a program to teach parents how to build character in their children? Should schools emphasize character more, and would you support a character report card?

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