Integrating Excellence and Ethics for Postsecondary Readiness
COMMITTEE ON JOINT EDUCATION
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07:36 AM -- Integrating Excellence and Ethics for Postsecondary Readiness
Jim Olmstead, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Foundation for Character Development, introduced himself. He provided an overview of the foundation, which promotes modeling universally accepted virtues such as honesty, respect, perseverance, and self-discipline. Mr. Olmstead said the foundation looked at the ethical behavior in all parts of society. He described a study of 400 employers, which showed that employers valued applied skills such as professionalism, ability to work in a team, and ethics and responsibility over other skills.
Mr. Olmstead said the foundation looks at best practices of the states, and found that there is a lot of emphasis on character education. He referred the committee to a packet of information (Attachment A), which contains, among other things, a summary of states' activities around character education. Mr. Olmstead briefly described the work of the foundation in Colorado. He said the foundation, through its grants process, is finding schools that do exemplary work in character education.
Mr. Olmstead said character education is being done in every school, every day, and the foundation is working with schools to make this work more intentional. The work, he said, is not just with students, but with adults in the building as well. He said character education is not an add-on, rather it is foundational to academics.
Mr. Olmstead described visits to states, and the excellent work being done. He talked about recent discussions around "21st Century Skills."
Dr. Matthew Davidson, President and Director of the Institute for Excellence and Ethics, introduced himself. Dr. Davidson described his organization and the work it has done around the country and the world. He talked about the foundation's report "Smart & Good High Schools." The report, he said, got attention from high school reform groups in particular. He described a recent grant to expand the foundation's work, to expand into concrete, duplicable programs.
Dr. Davidson talked about character as power, talking about educating people in morals. He described two great goals of education: to help students become smart and to help them become good. The need character for both, he said. Dr. Davidson talked about performance character and moral character. He said performance character relates to the outcome, and he described dispositions related to performance character, including diligence and perseverance.
Dr. Davidson continued, speaking about moral character, which includes the characteristics needed to be successful in interpersonal relationships. He referred the committee to a packet of information (Attachment B). He said we shape the culture, and the culture shapes the character, and spoke about this concept.
Dr. Davidson described two case studies. The first was about a math teacher in Missouri, the second from a business roundtable in Iowa. The math teacher used the performance character concept with his students, specifically using revisions to achieve quality work and allowing students to re-take tests. The students set goals around their work, and have goal partners to hold them accountable.
Dr. Davidson continued, talking about the example of a hospital in Iowa. He said the hospital set a goal of zero infections, and used accountability partners. The hospital was successful in getting the number down to zero, and was successful in holding it down to zero for some time.
Dr. Davidson talked next about characteristics needed for any challenge people may face. He described the parallel track problem, saying that school and classroom challenges cannot run parallel to character education. He said character education needs to run through other teaching and learning.
He talked about the programs being developed by the foundation. These programs, he said, enhance other programs and initiatives such as academic achievement, 21st century skills, work force readiness, and dropout prevention.
Dr. Davidson talked about possible next steps in Colorado and the presenters responded to committee questions and comments. Representative Merrifield commented on the characteristics the business community needs. Representative Todd asked whether the foundations have talked to higher education institutions that have teacher preparation programs, and suggested they do so. Mr. Olmstead responded, saying character education needs to be a foundational piece of teacher preparation. He described conversations with various universities in the state. Senator Hudak suggested that the presenters talk to the Colorado Department of Education, which is evaluating content standards and developing a definition of postsecondary and work force readiness. Representative Schafer talked about the possibility of consolidating efforts of school districts around the state.
Michael Galvin, former principal at Columbine Elementary School, introduced himself. Columbine Elementary, he said, is a National School of Character. He spoke of his efforts to bring effective character education to Colorado. Mr. Galvin talked about providing a support system to students who are not achieving. He described personal and social responsibility standards used at Columbine Elementary. He said the standards are successful, and have been used for 12 years. Mr. Galvin explained that these ideas are used everyday and are integrated -- they are not an add-on.
Mr. Galvin talked about the choices children have for learning, and the need to make learning engaging. He said teachers are not learning how to effectively education children in character.
Mr. Galvin next spoke to goals and next steps for integrating character education in Colorado schools. He explained the difference between a fixed mentality versus a growth mentality, which rewards students for doing their school work and behaving correctly. He talked about making students understand that working hard is important.
Mr. Galvin said there are four schools that are National Schools of Character in Colorado. He urged committee members to see character education in broader terms. He said National Schools of Character across the nation are, across without exception, high-achieving schools. He talked about current programs that could be expanded to embrace character education.
Mr. Olmstead talked about his foundation's on-going work with schools in the state. He talked about the Office of Intentional School Culture in the Denver Public Schools. He talked about other models to integrating character education into schools.
The presenters responded to committee questions. Representative Solano asked how the presenters get the message out in Colorado, which is a local control state. Mr. Olmstead said the foundation would be very happy to talk to school boards, and asked members to advocate with their local school boards. Mr. Galvin talked about his work in Idaho, which is also a local control state. Representative Solano asked the presenters to talk about costs to districts in a character education curriculum. Mr. Olmstead described costs associated with establishing the curriculum. Mr. Galvin added that once these programs are in effect, achievement increases, and the pay-off is huge, so the cost is on the front end.
Representative Peniston asked about sustainability of character education programs. She asked what happens when leaders who put these programs into effect leave. Mr. Galvin commented, talking about the experience of Columbine Elementary after he left the school in 2001. Mr. Olmstead talked about the ethical learning community, which includes students, parents, teachers, and the principal. He said shared ownership is critical. Dr. Davidson commented on sustainability as well, saying connecting teacher and learning to character is key.
Representative Priola offered his help in working with school districts in his legislative district. Representative Murray asked the presenters to comment on how to bring the community in to character education. Mr. Galvin talked about parental and community involvement as Columbine Elementary developed its performance character program. He talked about surveys of students as they continue on in their education after leaving Columbine Elementary. Mr. Olmstead talked about getting the business community involved by illustrating how character education will benefit businesses.
Senator Bacon commented on school advisory boards in schools and their role. Further, he talked about giving teachers time to work effectively within these programs. Senator Bacon also talked about ethical difficulties at the postsecondary level.
Dr. Davidson responded to Senator Bacon's comments, talking about the Power to Lead program.
Representative Summers commented about character education as a culture rather than a curriculum within a school. He talked about the need to develop strategies to make the character culture feasible.
Senator Bacon thanked the presenters and the committee adjourned.