Every year the California School Boards Association presents the Golden Bell Awards to outstanding programs in school districts throughout California. The primary purpose of the award is to recognize and support “sustainable, innovative or exemplary programs which have been developed and successfully implemented by California teachers and administrators.”
Downey Unified School District earned a Golden Bell this year for its collaborative citywide program. In 2006 the CC! Coalition (which includes the Downey USD, the City of Downey, and over 40 local businesses and community organizations) set out to improve students’ character by focusing on the Six Pillars of Character and integrating the CC! message throughout all aspects of life in the city.
Under the supervision of District Superintendent Dr. Wendy Doty, Downey’s government, parks, theatres, libraries, local businesses, after-school programs, YMCA, sports leagues, police department, service organizations, and other groups all maintain and encourage the Six Pillars of Character, sending every student in the city a consistent, ubiquitous message.
As Downey Mayor Mario Guerra stated at a National Press Club conference in 2009, “It’s not just signage; it’s living the culture. It’s talking about it every single day.”
The results have been impressive:
- In the four years after CHARACTER COUNTS! was implemented, annual district API scores rose 5.12%.
- In the four years after CC! was implemented, the total number of suspension days decreased from 6417 to 3757, a decrease of 41.45%. This decrease in the number of suspensions generated a costs savings of $85,120, allowing resources to be released to provide greater services to students.
- In the three years prior to CC! implementation, the total number of expulsions fell from 250 to 229, a decrease of 8.4%. This drop intensified in the four years after CHARACTER COUNTS! implementation, as the total number of expulsions fell 64.19% more, from 229 to 82.
The impact of the CC! Coalition extends beyond the schools: In that same National Press Club speech, Mayor Guerra noted, “Crime statistics have been going down since 2006, ever since we started CHARACTER COUNTS! in our city.”
We congratulate Downey on their success, and we hope to see other school districts and cities follow their great example.
Other Downey-related news: City of Downey Council members have voted to rename the entrance to the parking lot behind City Hall “Responsibility Row.” The goal is to reinforce the message to Downey’s students that character counts everywhere, not just in school. Read the story in the Downey Patriot.
Update: The October 21st edition of the Downey Patriot has a story about the Golden Bell Award and the dedication of Responsibility Row.