Time to focus on building character

8-22-11
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Opinions Column

EDUCATION

Time to focus on building character

The Editorial Board of the Journal Sentinel is right that it’s time for a focus on character in Milwaukee Public Schools
(“Building character,” Crossroads, Aug. 21).

Schools both locally and nationally that have embraced character education have seen not only striking reductions in disciplinary referrals (detentions, suspensions, etc.) but also significant improvements in academic performance. But character education is not a program or a class; rather, it is the development of a culture of respect, caring, responsibility and ethical behavior that starts with the modeling of the adults and the building of strong, positive relationships with students and their parents as support for student character development.

The Eleven Principles of the national Character Education Partnership (www.character.org) provide a blueprint for schools to build such a culture. We have examples in Milwaukee College Prep, named a National School of Character, and Woodlands Elementary, recognized this year for Promising Practices in Character Education.

Local resources to help schools get started include Eleven Principles training provided by the Wisconsin Character Education Partnership (www.wicharacter.org) and the Leadership Academy for Character Education (LACE) at Alverno College. It’s critical that our schools take advantage of these resources as part of the transformation of education in Milwaukee.

Mary E. Diez, PhD
Dean
School of Education
Alverno College
Milwaukee