After three years of character education, elementary students showed no gains in behavior or academic performance compared to a control group, concludes a large federal study (pdf) of seven schoolwide programs for third- through fifth-graders. From Education Week:
In the end, researchers found no evidence that the programs, taken individually or together, improved students’ behavior, academic performance or gains, or their perceptions of the school climate. And the results were no better for schools with better implementation.
Some say it takes more than three years to show results. Brian Flay, an Oregon State health and human sciences professor married to the founder of Positive Action says research due for release soon has found lower rates of bullying and substance abuse among students who have remained in the program through eighth grade. “In these inner-city, high-risk, high-poverty neighborhoods, it takes a while for the effects to become significant,” Flay told Ed Week.
Others say interventions targeted at troubled students have shown success. But these programs are designed for all students. If they’re not working, why not devote the time to something else?
Character education is hard to define, said Linda McKay, a state and federal character education advocate. It includes “pieces of ethics, civics, diversity, problem-solving, and social-emotional development, among other topics.”
“I think it’s absolutely one of the most critical pieces for education, particularly in high-risk schools,” Ms. McKay said. “If we don’t focus on creating a climate for learning and a classroom culture where students and faculty feel cared for and respected, we won’t get to the academics.”
I agree that creating a safe, orderly, learning culture is critical. But how?