Character Counts


CHARACTER COUNTS! focuses on building students’ character skills and shaping a positive school culture. It can be implemented as a standalone initiative or with other initiatives such as PBIS.

Our flexible framework emphasizes:

The Six Pillars of Character




Our T.E.A.M. approach to character education includes Teaching, Enforcing, Advocating, and Modeling good character.

Research-Based Strategies


Practical, research-based instructional and implementation strategies

Effective Decision-Making Skills


Making rational, ethical, and effective decisions to find the best solutions to problems

Meaningful, Measurable, and Sustainable Outcomes

Administrators, educators, and families want safe, supportive, high-performing schools. By prioritizing character development and positive school culture, schools can see improvement in students’ character, social-emotional, and academic skills, and ensure their school is a safe and welcoming learning environment.

Character skills

Character Skills

CHARACTER COUNTS! helps students develop the Six Pillars of Character:

Have integrity, be honest, keep promises, and be loyal to values

Show acceptance and respect for others

Be accountable for actions, show perseverance and self-discipline

Be open-minded and demonstrate good sportsmanship

Show compassion, gratitude, and forgiveness

Good Citizenship
Dedication to making choices that protect the safety and rights of others.

The Impact

When students develop character skills, they’ll be more likely to achieve their personal, school, and career goals and become engaged, responsible, and productive citizens. You’ll notice more:

  • respectful and civil conversations,
  • kindness and consideration,
  • acceptance of others,
  • accountability, and
  • commitment to your school community.

Learn more about the Six Pillars of Character.

SEL Skills

Social-Emotional Skills

CHARACTER COUNTS! helps students develop key social-emotional skills:

Identify and understand emotions, values, attitudes, motivations, mindsets, and personal attributes 

Regulate emotions, attitudes, and actions, and resist negative emotions and impulses

Relationship Skills
Create positive relationships and meaningful connections with family members, classmates, and teachers

Responsible Decision-Making
Make decisions based on rationality, ethics, and effectiveness

Social Awareness
Assess the feelings of others and be sensitive to the feelings and needs of others

The Impact

When students develop social-emotional skills, they’ll be more likely to develop positive, healthy relationships, manage their emotions, and make good choices. You’ll notice more:

  • healthy and respectful friendships,
  • fewer disruptions during class,
  • more positive choices, and
  • better communication between students and educators.
Academic Skills

Academic Skills

CHARACTER COUNTS! helps students develop skills to be more successful in academics.

Critical and Creative Thinking
Acquire, remember, understand, and apply knowledge

Curiosity and Passion
Enthusiastic to understand more about themselves, others, and the world around them

Effective Problem-Solving
Make rational, ethical, and effective decisions to find the best solutions to problems

Self-Direction and Engagement
Fully engaged in the educational process and connected to the school community 

Diligent Learner
Have a growth mindset and is willing to learn from mistakes 

The Impact

When students develop these skills, they can reach their intellectual and academic potential. You’ll notice:

  • improved student performance,
  • increased academic integrity from students (less cheating and plagiarizing), and
  • students who are more prepared for college and career.
Positive Culture

Positive Culture

CHARACTER COUNTS! helps create a school culture where students, administration, faculty, and staff are:

Committed to Excellence
Value collaboration and feedback in order to grow and improve

Supportive and Respectful
Treat each other with respect, every student is connected to a caring, responsible adult in the school, and staff feel supported by the administration

Contribute to making the school a safe place to learn; a proactive, instructive, and restorative approach to student behavior. 

Dedicated to Stakeholders
Commitment to ensuring students’ mastery of academic content and character development. 

Accepting and Encouraging
Ownership of creating a positive, welcoming learning environment where everyone can feel accepted and part of the school community

Appreciate and trust other school community members and dedicated to making the school better

The Impact

When schools focus on character development and educators teach, enforce, advocate, and model school values, you’ll notice:

  • students’ commitment to their character development and
  • improvement in students’ character, SEL, and academic skills.
Josephson Institute of Ethics Model Standards

The CHARACTER COUNTS! are based on the Josephson Institute of Ethics Model Standards.

Best Practices – Your Pathway to Success

We’ve been working with educators for more than 30 years to create a pathway to success for your CHARACTER COUNTS! initiative, and it starts with building a solid foundation. Once you’ve created a foundation, you can choose from a variety of opportunities to advance your initiative, including assessment, program extensions, and ongoing support.

 Build a Foundation

 Extend Your Initiative

 Assess Your Progress

 Set Up Long-Term Success


With the CHARACTER COUNTS! framework as a guide, we provide practical, research-based strategies, curricular resources, and professional development training. 

We’ll also provide best practices on incorporating CHARACTER COUNTS! into your existing character development or SEL program.

Our team can help evaluate your needs and select services to meet your goals through:

    • Assessments
    • Professional Development
    • Ongoing Consultation
    • Curricular Resources

Learn more about how each of these elements can put you on the pathway to a successful CHARACTER COUNTS! initiative.

Michael Josephson founded The Josephson Institute in 1987 in honor of his parents, Joseph and Edna, and focused on youth, sportsmanship, business, public service, and policing. 

CHARACTER COUNTS! was created by the Josephson Institute in 1992 with the input of 17 nationally prominent youth-serving and educational organizations. 

The program initially focused exclusively on the development of core ethical traits – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship (the Six Pillars of Character).  CHARACTER COUNTS has continually evolved to reflect current research and best practices to become a comprehensive student development program embracing academic, social and emotional skills and the Six Pillars of Character.

Upon Michael’s retirement in 2019, The Ray Center at Drake University became home to CHARACTER COUNTS!, Pursuing Victory with Honor, and the Josephson Exemplary Policing Initiative.

CHARACTER COUNTS! is a project of The Ray Center at Drake University.

Through public awareness and programming grounded in research, The Ray Center helps create strong, vibrant communities that value positive, healthy relationships and respectful behavior. Our initiatives benefit people of all ages and are easily adaptable for families, schools, workplaces, athletic teams, and more.

We help our clients shape their organization’s culture through professional development, assessments, resources, and on-going consultation that focuses on values-based education and best practices in character development. 

As the global home to CHARACTER COUNTS!, our instruction is inspired by the Six Pillars of Character – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. 

Our team can collaborate with you on:

  • integrating CC! with other programs, like PBIS,
  • best practices,
  • brainstorm ideas to teach, enforce, advocate, and model good character,
  • feedback on CC! activities, and
  • any of your questions.

Click here to learn more about our team members.

Get Started Today!

Don’t wait another day to start changing your school culture!

We’d love to provide a free consultation to discuss how we can help you reach your goals.

Character Counts