Data Dilemma

Many school systems make character education as much of a goal as academics. But funding for such programming depends on data. CC! advocates the measurement of students’ character and publishes the biennial Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth.

Here are some tips on how to measure the effectiveness of your character-education program:

1. Plan the Evaluation
Evaluation will take time and resources. Calculate how much of both you will need and plan accordingly. Questions to ask include:

  • Who is the audience? Lumping more than one group together (community, parents, or funders) may or may not be appropriate.
  • Who are the stakeholders? Who will receive the results, and will the information be shared with all stakeholders?
  • What information is most useful for each audience? Take into account the multiple perspectives of your audience and stakeholders.
  • Who will collect the data?
  • What kind of data will be collected?
  • When will the assessment(s) take place?
  • Who will organize the data?
  • What will happen to the results?

2. Define Character
Use our resources on the Six Pillars of Character to define each of the values. Translate them into actions by giving concrete examples of what caring behavior would look like.

3. Assess Character
Decide what tools you will use (surveys, multiple-choice questionnaires, interviews, observations, etc). Consider the accuracy of self-reports, observations, and behaviors and how they may translate across your population. Make sure each survey is appropriate for subgroups and contains no cultural bias.

4. Examine Context
Classroom climates are often different from the school climate, so decide under what conditions you will assess character. Design questions that are specific to the context. Respect shown in the classroom, for example, may differ from respectful conduct in general. Students exhibit different behaviors in different contexts.

5. Collect Data
Use multiple methods and sources, don’t over-evaluate students, and remember someone will have to analyze the data once it’s collected. Ask meaningful questions and assess relevant elements of the program.

6. Involve Stakeholders
Have stakeholders help with collection, reflection, and analysis. Ask students what behaviors they see in their school and what they’d like to see more of and less of. This easy-to-administer questionnaire might help. Encourage teachers to help design the assessment tools. They know the behaviors in their classrooms. Temper their observations with wider surveys and respect their time. Don’t over-assess.

Continuous reflection on data application and evaluation will inform stakeholders throughout the process of advantages and drawbacks to the tools you’re using and provide excellent opportunities to develop stronger ones.

7. Report Findings
Before announcing when the results will be released, remember that it will take longer than you expect to analyze the data, so give yourself plenty of time. Describe the program and what it’s about. Explain the setting with facts and figures (e.g., there is a big difference between urban and rural school climates). Include population statistics. Describe how the assessment was designed, what data was collected, and how. Describe what you learned from the program assessment and what actions are recommended.

For more resources on measuring your character-education program, check out our Implementation Toolkit. It features sample surveys, questionnaires, and other tools that you can adapt to your school. Or contact us directly for expert advice and recommendations at 800-711-2670.