CHARACTER COUNTS! is based on Model Standards of Academic, Social, Emotional, Character Development and School Climate. The standards provide the first comprehensive integration of four core domains comprising the mission of modern educational institutions and objectives of education and reform movements vigorously urging educators to explicitly supplement content standards with objectives concerning the development of critical and creative thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities; social and emotional life skills, ethical character traits and practical knowledge and competencies reflecting the demands of the modern life and workplace.
Today, it is generally accepted that the fundamental purpose and duty of education is to prepare students to succeed in college and career, live happy and fulfilling lives, and become responsible and productive citizens. Thus, whether included in formal standards or not, educational institutions are expected to help students develop values, skills and character traits in four overlapping domains:
- Intellectual growth and performance (The Academic Domain)
- Social/emotional intelligence and positive life skills (The Social/Emotional Domain)
- Ethical and moral character traits (The Character Domain)
- Quality and character of the learning environment. (The School Climate Domain)
These Model Standards, integrating critical outcomes from each of these domains, draw heavily upon the most current research and theories concerning:
- Social, emotional and character development
- Creation of a positive school climate
- Behavior change theory
- Growth versus fixed mindset and research-based instructional strategies to teach high level learning skills, as well as the hands-on experience of thousands of educators involved in the CHARACTER COUNTS! school and student development improvement efforts.
Among the more influential contributions seeking to broaden the educational mission and provide new strategies for developing a competent next generation with a strong moral conscience are the research, reports, recommendations and standards presented by the National Governor’s Association’s COMMON CORE Standards Initiative, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ Framework for 21st Century Learning: Student Outcomes and Support Systems, the Illinois State Standards for Social and Emotional Learning, the Kansas State Standards for Social, Emotional and Character Development; ASCD Whole Child Initiative and the work of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL); Character.org, the Excellence with Integrity Institute, the Center for the 4th and 5th Rs, and the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention.
These standards are the result of a project of a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, The Ray Center, and are designed to provide states, school districts and individual schools with a comprehensive, fully integrated guide to the achievement of ambitious but realistic learning objectives in the academic, social/emotional, character and school climate domains. The Center is committed to continually updating, and where appropriate, revising these Model Standards in response to experience and the suggestions and advice of thoughtful educators.