TOPEKA — Two Kansas elementary schools are being recognized for their focus on strong character development.
Beloit Elementary School, Beloit Unified School District 273, was announced Tuesday, May 17, as a 2022 National School of Character, and McClure Elementary School, Topeka USD 501, was recognized as a State School of Character.
Recognition is given through the Kansas Schools of Character Recognition Program and sponsoring organizations – Character.org, the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) and the Smoky Hill Education Service Center.
Beloit Elementary and McClure Elementary are among 69 schools and two school districts across the country to be certified by Character.org as 2022 State Schools of Character.
Beloit Elementary was one of 50 schools and two districts designated as National Schools and Districts of Character.
“We are proud of the exceptional work of Beloit and McClure elementary schools to ensure students are developing strong character development skills,” said Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson. “For our students to be truly successful, we must value character development as much as we value academic attainment.”
Character.org will honor the 2022 National Schools and Districts of Character at its next International Forum, which will take place virtually Oct. 19-20, 2022.
“Each of these schools has put into place a comprehensive approach that inspires their students to understand, care about and consistently practice a set of core values that will enable them to flourish in school, in relationships, in the workplace and as citizens,” according to character.org.
Beloit Elementary began to delve into character education in 1999 when the school received a special education grant to implement character education in the school setting. A renewed focus started a few years ago when the elementary school was named a part of the Gemini Kansans Can School Redesign Project and social-emotional skills became one of the main focus areas.
The school promotes three core values – respect, responsibility and readiness to learn. Beloit Elementary also connects the Six Pillars of Character (trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship) to the 16 Boys Town Life Skills and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Morning announcements include one skill each week, the pillar of the month and students recite the character pledge. School leaders also developed a character rubric so students, staff members and families are all on the same page when it comes to behavioral expectations. Students also have a 30-minute dedicated time slot each day to work on building character skills.
Various Beloit Elementary staff members serve on a Character Education Committee that meets twice a month, and time is designated at staff meetings to discuss character education progress and focus on the three core values.
Students coordinate assemblies that help build character, apply for and hold leadership jobs and have cross-grade-level building buddies. Students also worked with city officials on the Thierolf Park Project to identify new ways to use it. Students took measurements, researched ideas and costs, created pictures and met with city officials to discuss funding options. Students also had a food drive project. They met with the local food pantry director to learn what items were needed, how many individuals use the pantry and how it impacts the community.
McClure Elementary School was certified as a National School of Character in 2017 and staff members and students have continued to work hard to build on the framework. At the center of the school’s character education approach is the House System, which is intentional, comprehensive and proactive in building relationships, cohesiveness and a caring school culture.
Under the House System, there are four houses named after the Six Pillars of Good Characters – Fidato House (trustworthiness); Kujali House (caring); Respecto House (respect); and Zimmedaaree House (responsibility). Students and staff members are placed in different houses and meet weekly. The House System allows students to connect with each other, provides leadership and service opportunities and allows for students-staff connections.
Also, instead of an individual being recognized, Houses are recognized. Each House is responsible for conducting at least two service projects each school year. This has more than doubled the number of service projects that students participate in and has provided more opportunities for community connections.
Shared leadership and making data-driven decisions are demonstrated by the creation of a staff member Morale Committee, Mental Health Team and a student data review team. Student data is reviewed weekly during staff collaboration meetings to make instruction decisions for students’ academics, as well as social-emotional skill development. Other pieces of data, such as the school climate survey, attendance and bullying, are reviewed by staff members during professional development days and weekly collaboration meetings. These opportunities have given staff members time to reflect and make data-driven decisions.
The State Schools of Character award program recognizes schools and districts that have worked to enhance social, emotional and character development. Character.org certifies schools and districts at the state level that demonstrate a dedicated focus on character development, which has been shown to have a positive effect on academic achievement, student behavior and school climate, according to character.org. Character.org was founded in 1993 and is a national nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. Since its inception, Character.org’s Schools of Character program has impacted nearly 3 million students, staff members, parents and other community members.
Criteria for selection are based on Character.org’s 11 Principles of Character, which include providing students with opportunities for moral action, fostering shared leadership and engaging families and communities as partners in the character-building effort.
More information on Kansas’ Social, Emotional and Character Development Standards, which the state adopted in 2012, is available at http://www.ksde.org/Agency/Division-of-Learning-Services/Career-Standards-and-Assessment-Services/Content-Area-M-Z/School-Counseling/Social-Emotional-and-Character-Development. The 11 Principles of Effective Character Education by Character.org are available at www.character.org.
Three elementary schools and two school districts received Shifting School Culture Recognition through the Kansas Schools of Character Recognition Program. This recognizes schools and districts that have developed and implemented a social-emotional character development (SECD) initiative or program for at least one year and are transforming the school/district culture, as well as growing students’ SECD skills.
The three elementary schools and two districts receiving Shifting School Culture Recognition are:
- Lincoln Elementary School, Lincoln USD 298.
- Chaparral USD 361
- Dodge City USD 443.
- Alta Brown Elementary School, Garden City USD 457.
- Lincoln Elementary School, Hays USD 489.
Ten schools and three school districts received Enhanced Spotlight Recognition through the Kansas Schools of Character Recognition Program. This recognizes schools and districts that are implementing new initiatives or are enhancing existing initiatives that will strengthen the SECD skills in their students and school climate.
The 10 schools and three districts receiving Enhanced Spotlight Recognition are:
- Remington Elementary School, Remington-Whitewater USD 206 (Whitewater).
- Spring Hill USD 230.
- Lakeside Junior-Senior High School, Waconda USD 272, (Cawker City).
- Central Heights USD 288 (Richmond).
- Lincoln Elementary School, Hays USD 489.
- South Hutchinson Elementary School, Nickerson-South Hutchinson USD 309.
- Ellsworth Elementary School, Ellsworth USD 327.
- Mission Valley Junior-Senior High School, Mission Valley USD 330 (Eskridge).
- Southern Cloud USD 334 (Miltonvale).
- Garden City Achieve, Garden City USD 457.
- Georgia Matthews Elementary School, Garden City USD 457.
- Spring Valley Elementary School, Geary County USD 475 (Junction City).
- RISE Wilroads Gardens, Southwest Kansas Area Cooperative USD 613 (Dodge City).
For more information about State Schools of Character or National Schools of Character, visit https://character.org/. For more information about KSDE, visit www.ksde.org. For more information about Smoky Hill Education Service Center, visit www.smokyhill.org.