Evidence-Based Results

Academic Achievement

CHARACTER COUNTS! improves academic performance. Below are five examples in which CHARACTER COUNTS! was determined by the school to be the determining factor in academic achievements.

Downey, California

In the Downey School District near Los Angeles, CHARACTER COUNTS! has yielded improvements in test scores and graduation rates.

In the Downey School District near Los Angeles, CHARACTER COUNTS! has yielded improvements in test scores and graduation rates.

  • During the four years after CC! was implemented, annual district API scores rose 5.12%. The Coalition was a significant contributing factor in these gains which represent an increase of 63.1% over the previous three years when scores only rose 3.14%.
  • High school graduation rates have been over 92% since CHARACTER COUNTS! implementation, demonstrating increased student citizenship, and are even more impressive compared to the statewide graduation rate of 68.3%.

Lennox, California

Districts Results Across Multiple School Sites

Districts Results Across Multiple School Sites

In the Lennox School District in the Los Angeles area, the percentage of students at or above proficiency on the Mathematics CST increased steadily within two years following the introduction of CHARACTER COUNTS! (in conjunction with other teaching and curriculum strategies).

  • Elementary school: from 26% to 46%
  • Middle school (6th grade): from 11% to 27%
  • Middle school (7th and 8th grades): from 3% to 31%

Port St. John, Florida

CC! Improved Test Scores at Atlantis Elementary

CC! Improved Test Scores at Atlantis Elementary

The percentage of students scoring 3 or above (on an ascending 1-5 scale) on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test jumped from 45% to 78% in one year. According to scholars Robert Williams and Rosemarye Taylor, “There is a strong sense of a community of learners [at the school] and a culture that embraces the Six Pillars of Character education. This environment has resulted in fewer discipline referrals and increased achievement.”

[Source: Williams and Taylor, Leading With Character to Improve Student Achievement, 2004]

Hinsdale, Illinois

Image provided by Charles Banke Photography
National School of Character Award Winner

National School of Character Award Winner

With the introduction of CC! as the only new variable, Hinsdale Central High School has achieved consistent improvement in ACT and AP scores and increases in the number of National Merit Scholars.

See the full Case Study

Easton, Maryland

Maryland Department of Education Evaluation

Maryland Department of Education Evaluation

Easton schools that use high levels of CC! have shown statistically significant gains in academic performance, according to an evaluation released by the Maryland Department of Education.

Behavior and attitudes

We have results from 25 sources on CC!’s impact on general behavior and attitudes. Some are simple comparisons, others are sophisticated studies, but CHARACTER COUNTS! has led to improvements in every case, and usually dramatically. The evidence comes in these categories:

  1. CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition in Downey, California
  2. The South Dakota State University study
  3. Survey data from Puerto Rico’s nearly 500 public schools using CC!
  4. Data on juvenile crime in Florida
  5. School records of disruption
  6. Other surveys and questionnaires


The CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition is a collaboration between the Downey Unified School District, the City of Downey, local businesses, and community organizations whose goal is improving students’ character through citywide education focusing on the Six Pillars of Character. City government, including the mayor and city council, integrates this message across the city through legislation, community events, and signage. Additional partnerships with local businesses and community organizations maximize assistance and make the best use of available resources. The CC! Coalition strengthens students’ instructional support by encouraging good character, resulting in lower levels of disciplining.

  • Drop in Suspensions: In the three years prior to CC! implementation, the total number of suspension days rose from 5582 to 6417, an increase of 14.96%. However, 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.
  • Drop in Expulsions: 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.
  • Parent Satisfaction: 96.18% of parents surveyed feel “that the CC! program is a valuable part of the school, and 94.19% feel that “[their] child is exhibiting the 6 pillars of good character at home and at school.”
  • Teacher Satisfaction: 96.36% of teachers feel that “the content and training [they received to implement CHARACTER COUNTS!] is useful in helping build students’ character,” and 94.55% “would recommend [CC!] training to others.”
  • Student Satisfaction: 94.27% agree with the statement “I feel the CC! program makes me a better student,” and 94.94% agree with the statement, “The six pillars of good character help remind me to make good choices.”
  • Increase in demand for Downey schools from out-of-district students: Over the four years since CHARACTER COUNTS! was implemented, the number of permits granted to out-of-district students has risen from 505 to 1244, an increase of 146.34%. This is contrasted by the 4.72% decline in permits granted in the years prior to implementation.


One of the nation’s most thorough and multi-faceted assessments of character education has been taking place in South Dakota since 1997-98. It is a five-year study of CHARACTER COUNTS! and uses an extensive questionnaire covering demographics, attitudes, and behavior. Each year researchers based at South Dakota State University collect the evaluation forms from large numbers of students and teachers. The student sample comprises as many as 8,419 respondents.

The results show that CHARACTER COUNTS! cut crime and drug use sharply from 1998 to 2000. Students who said they had:

  • Broken into another’s property dropped 50 percent.
  • Used a fake ID dropped 56 percent.
  • Taken something without paying dropped 46 percent.
  • Drunk alcoholic beverages dropped 31 percent.
  • Taken illegal drugs dropped 32 percent.
  • Defaced or vandalized property dropped 46 percent.
  • Used physical force against someone who insulted them dropped 33 percent.

The program led to many other improvements. For example, students who said they had:

  • Cheated on an exam dropped 30 percent.
  • Received a detention or suspension dropped 28 percent.
  • Missed class without a legitimate excuse dropped 39 percent.
  • Teased someone because of race or ethnicity dropped 45 percent.
  • Borrowed money without repaying it dropped 34 percent.

Among the other findings:

  • Students reported improvement in every category of misdeed assessed.
  • Teachers reported better student behavior toward others and authority.
  • CHARACTER COUNTS! especially affected students in grades 1-6.
  • The more exposures per month students had to CHARACTER COUNTS!, the better they behaved.

The South Dakota State 4-H Foundation funded the research, and Rachelle Walsh-Vettern, Marcey Moss and Bill Wright (all associated with South Dakota State University) carried it out.

Read more about the South Dakota study. Results from earlier years are posted on the website of the South Dakota State University 4-H Cooperative Extension Service.


The “Tus Valores Cuentan” program is now in 487 public schools in Puerto Rico. The results have been amazing:

  • Administrators are engaged.
    – 89% said they work more harmoniously with teachers and that there’s more respect now.
    – 85% want the program to continue.
  • Teachers are engaged.
    – 89% of principals said teachers are now more prepared, creative and dedicated.
    – 86% of teachers said they were more positive about school and morale is higher.
  • Students are engaged.
    – 86% of principals report improved student engagement in their education.
    – 90% of parents saw improvement in their child’s motivation to learn.
  • Parents are engaged.
    – 78% said the program increased their involvement in their child’s education.
    – 75% said they are now more engaged in efforts to improve school facilities.
  • Quality of education has improved.
    – 85% of parents said the quality of their child’s education has improved.
    – 86% said their children are now more likely to take advantage of their education.


St. Johns County lies on the Atlantic coast just south of Jacksonville. CHARACTER COUNTS! began there in 1998-99. By 2002-03, youth crime had dropped dramatically. It also declined significantly compared to the Florida state average — and especially compared to Flagler County, which has never had CC!. Flagler lies just south of St. Johns and resembles it geographically, ethnically, and socioeconomically.

Below are official 2002-03 figures for juvenile offenses committed “on school grounds, on school transportation, and at off-campus, school-sponsored events,” compared to those in 1997-98, the year before CC!:

  • Cases of battery in St. Johns dropped to 18 percent of the pre-CC! level — compared to 84 percent in Flagler County and 67 percent in Florida.
  • Cases of larceny in St. Johns fell to 11 percent of the pre-CC! level — compared to 88 percent in Flagler County and 49 percent in Florida.
  • Drug offenses were 49 percent of the pre-CC! level — compared to 213 percent in Flagler County and 118 percent in the state.
  • Alcohol offenses were 19 percent of the pre-CC! level — compared to 606 percent in Flagler County and no change in the state.
  • Harassment cases were 47 percent of the pre-CC! level — compared to 789 percent in Flagler County and 76 percent in the state.
  • Total property offenses fell to 17 percent of the pre-CC! level — compared to 90 percent in Flagler County and 50 percent in the state.
  • Total juvenile crimes fell to 26 percent of the pre-CC! level — compared to 91 percent in Flagler County and 49 percent in the state.

[Source: Florida Department of Education]


Discipline referrals and other school records of disruption are useful evidence, since they show actual behavior. In the 17 cases below, CC! strikingly reduced the number of disruptions at school.

1) Tulare County, California. A principal reported that, among his nearly 300 sixth-grade students, suspensions decreased almost 30 percent during the first six months of the 1999 school year and 22 percent for the entire year. At another school, a sixth-grade teacher reported that discipline referrals had decreased by nearly 50 percent since implementing CHARACTER COUNTS!. [Source: John Forenti, former CC! Coordinator, Tulare County]

2) Tulare County, California. CC! almost eliminated recidivism at Tulare County Probation Youth Facility in California. Just 8% of the youths in the modified “boot camp” committed crimes in post aftercare, compared to a national rate of 72% — an amazing result. Only 30% of youths committed crimes in residence — less than half the national average of 64%. [Source: John Forenti, former CC! Coordinator, Tulare County]

3) Tulare County, California. In 1997 Donna Glassman-Sommer became principal at Kaweah High School. Michael Josephson had trained her in CHARACTER COUNTS!, and she immediately implemented it pervasively. In her second year, 1998-99, a new high school opened nearby and enrollment at Kaweah fell by about 50 percent, from 150 to around 75 students. Even considering the reduced enrollment, the dropoff in disruption has been marked:

  • Discipline referrals fell from 553 in the 1997-98 school year, the first with CC!, to 67 in 2000-2001 — a decline of 88 percent over four years. Factoring in the halved enrollment, the decline is 76 percent.
  • Dropouts fell from 17 in 1996-97, the year just before CC!, to only 2 in 1999-2000 — a decline of 88 percent. With the halved enrollment, the decline is 76 percent.
  • Suspensions fell from 259 in 1997-98 to 69 in 1999-2000 — a dropoff of 73 percent. With the halved enrollment, the decline is 47 percent.
  • Expulsions fell from 17 in 1997-98 to 2 in 1999-2000 — a decline of 88 percent. With the halved enrollment, the decline is 76 percent. [Source: John Forenti, former CC! Coordinator, Tulare County]

4) Easton, Maryland. In 1997, the year before CHARACTER COUNTS! was introduced to Moton Elementary School in Easton, teachers reported 115 incidents of classroom disruption. In 1998, the number fell to 36.

5) Frederick County, Maryland. Since introducing CC! at Ballenger Creek Elementary School, administrators report that referral rates are down more than 50 percent, incidents of violence are rare and attendance averages are in the upper 90th percentile.

6) Montcalm County, Michigan. At Blanchard Elementary, among 250 students, there were 106 discipline referrals in the fall of 1996-97, and 113 in the spring. Next year there were 68 discipline referrals in the fall of 1997-98, and only 34 in the spring. In other words, the number dropped 36 percent for the fall semester and 70 percent for the spring. In the third year there were 36 referrals in the fall of 1998-99. That is, the number for the fall semester had dropped 66 percent over two years. (Source: Principal Sheryl Presler).

7) Montcalm County, Michigan. At Webb Elementary, in the first semester of 1997-98 there were 60 discipline referrals, and in the second there were also 60. In the first semester of 1998-99, the number fell to 40.

8) Montcalm County, Michigan. At Lakeview Middle School, there were 425 discipline referrals in the first semester of 1997-98, and 430 in the second. In the first semester of 1998-99, there were 389.

9) Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of the earliest tests of CC! occurred at Bel-Air Elementary School. During September 1993 the school issued 64 official reprimands for bad behavior. Four months after systematically teaching the Six Pillars, with definitions and examples, the number of official reprimands had dropped to 17. The number of fights fell from 25 to 6. And the numbers stayed low. “Kids were bringing violence from the community into the school area,” recalls Mary Jane Aguilar, then Bel-Air’s school counselor. “We used to say things like ‘that’s not respectful’ and get a glazed look. You cannot expect a child to make a choice unless he knows two things. And many of our children only knew the aggressive response.”

10) Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 570 students at gang-plagued Garfield Middle School first were exposed to CHARACTER COUNTS! in October 1994. During the first 20 days of that school year, there were 91 recorded incidents of physical violence. One year later, during the same period, there were 26 such incidents. (Source: Then-principal Louis Martinez)

11) Albuquerque, New Mexico. Duranes Elementary School had 32 suspensions in 1993, the year before it began CHARACTER COUNTS!. It has had 2 so far in 2001-2. “Good behavior has become the norm and misbehavior the exception,” said principal Gabe Garcia in the U.S. Department of Education’s “Community Update,” October, 2001.

12) Granbury, Texas. Granbury Middle School had 65 recorded fights in the year before CHARACTER COUNTS! began. In the second year of its implementation, it had 19. [Source: Principal Jimmy Dawson in Hood County News, Oct. 31, 2005]

13) Lubbock, Texas. At North Ridge Elementary, in the Frenship ISD, there were 425 discipline referrals to the assistant principal the year before the school adopted CHARACTER COUNTS!. That number fell to 220 during the first year of the program, a 48 percent decrease. “The improvement in discipline has allowed teachers to move from giving kids information to helping kids access and process information. Teachers have become facilitators of learning,” wrote analysts Patricia Cloud Duttweiler and Marilyn Madden. (Source: “The District That Does What’s Best for Kids: Frenship ISD,” a Report for the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, Winter 2001.)

14) Round Rocks, Texas. After the Round Rocks School District in Texas initiated character education classes, Round Rocks’ Jollyville Elementary School reported a 40% drop in disciplinary referrals.

15) West Des Moines, Iowa. At the Clegg Park Elementary School, which has had CC! since fall of 1997, “time-outs” are down from 494 in the first quarter four years ago to 131 last year. Likewise, “quiet tables” (detentions) are down from 94 to 10 over that same time period, a dropoff of 89 percent.

16) Lombard, Illinois. Glenn Westlake Middle School introduced CHARACTER COUNTS! in 1997-98, and has kept track of its disciplinary problems since then. It found:

  • Suspensions increased 18 percent in the first year.

  • Suspensions dropped 35 percent in year two (1998-1999).

  • Suspensions dropped 24 percent in year three (from 1998-1999 to 1999-2000). Overall, they dropped 50 percent from 1997-98.

  • In year two, repeat suspensions fell 43 percent.

  • There was an average of 40 students suspended for fighting per year prior to the introduction ofCHARACTER COUNTS!. Subsequently:
    • First year: no significant change
    • Second year: 29 percent reduction
    • Third year: 23 percent reduction
  • Over two years, the number of students participating in extra-curricular activities increased 43 percent.

17) Lombard, Illinois. CC! began in Glenn Westlake Middle School in 1997-98, and Lombard police report that from 1997 to 2002, offenses typical of youths decreased. Crime reports of:

  • Graffiti fell from 115 to 45 (61%).
  • Curfew violation fell from 50 to 16 (68%).
  • Truancy fell from 51 to 19 (63%).
  • Marijuana use or possession from 109 to 89 (18%).
  • Illegal alcohol use or possession from 102 to 60 (41%).


Other surveys of CC! participants have taken place, and all are consistent with its conclusions. They have occurred in Virginia, Louisiana, Nebraska, Iowa and New Mexico:

VIRGINIA: Teacher observation

The largest detailed scientific survey of elementary school teachers has been underway in Virginia since 2000. For the past two years, Dr. Michael Lambur and Joe Hunnings of Virginia Tech have evaluated the 4-H/CHARACTER COUNTS! program in elementary schools across the state. Though precise numbers are not yet available, the conclusion is clear: CC! improved student behavior in every category assessed.

The researchers asked teachers to judge 24 kinds of student behavior, four for each Pillar of Character. For instance, “Set a good example for others to follow” fell under responsibility, and “Do what you say you will do” under trustworthiness.

In 2001, teachers returned surveys from 55 schools representing 7,014 elementary school students.  Of the 24 categories, investigators found statistically significant (<0.05) improvements in all but three: cheating (trustworthiness), using threats (respect), and judging others (respect). Even in these areas, changes moved in the right direction. When researchers calculated scores for each Pillar as a whole, they found statistically significant (<0.05) improvements in all Six Pillars.

In 2002, teachers returned surveys from 27 schools representing 462 classrooms and 7,740 elementary school students. This time results were even better. The investigators found statistically significant (<0.05) improvements from pre- to post-measurement in all 24 categories. When researchers calculated scores for each Pillar as a whole, they found statistically significant (<0.05) improvements from pre- to post-measurement for all Pillars.

The researchers conclude, “Overall, this data indicates that the 4-H/CC! program is making a significant impact in elementary schools in increasing behaviors that reflect positive character development.”

The study is ongoing. The investigators will evaluate elementary school teachers once again in 2002-3, as well as assess outcomes at the middle and high school student level, and gain perspectives from school administrators.

LOUISIANA: Teacher observation

In 1998-99 the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service surveyed teachers in 48 parishes (counties) regarding their perception of behavioral change in students who had used the CC! Coalition’s “Exercising Character” lesson plans. They received responses from 735 teachers throughout the state. Of them, 75 to 80 percent observed “some” to “very much” improvement in classroom behavior after using the CHARACTER COUNTS! “Exercising Character” lessons.

  • Has behavior improved related to the Pillar of trustworthiness?
    78.4 percent reported “some” to “very much” improvement.
  • Has behavior improved related to the Pillar of respect?
    78.4 percent reported “some” to “very much” improvement.
  • Has behavior improved related to the Pillar of responsibility?
    79.5 percent reported “some” to “very much” improvement.
  • Has behavior improved related to the Pillar of fairness?
    77.2 percent reported “some” to “very much” improvement.
  • Has behavior improved related to the Pillar of caring?
    81.6 percent reported “some” to “very much” improvement.
  • Has behavior improved related to the Pillar of citizenship?
    74.7 percent reported “some” to “very much” improvement.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents indicated that, apart from teaching lessons on the Six Pillars, they spent an extra five to 15 minutes per day on character education. Only 5.4 percent stated that they spent no additional time on character education.

In 1999-2000, the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service surveyed 191 principals and 75% of them observed “some” to “very much” improvement in behavior at their schools.

NEBRASKA: Teacher observation

In 2000 a survey took place of Nebraska teachers and facilitators using the Six-Pillar framework. Among the 57 respondents:

  • 85 percent reported an overall positive difference in the children they teach.
  • 73 percent reported students using the language of the Six Pillars.
  • 75 percent reported changing their own behavior as a result of teaching CHARACTER COUNTS!.
  • 61 percent reported seeing students help each other more frequently.
  • 55 percent reported seeing few instances of students blaming others.
  • 50 percent reported seeing more instances of students being truthful.

The teachers also noted that they now had a greater awareness of themselves as models for desirable behavior and that CHARACTER COUNTS! had enabled them to focus more on students’ positive behavior.

IOWA: Parent observations, student and teacher self-assessments

In 1999, Clegg Park Elementary School in West Des Moines surveyed parents, students, faculty and staff to gauge the effectiveness of its CHARACTER COUNTS! program.

Parents (114 responses)

  • Have you seen any changes in your child’s behavior that might be the result of CHARACTER COUNTS!?
    94 percent said “yes,” 26 percent said “a lot,” 68 percent said “a little,” and 7 percent said “not at all”
  • Does the CHARACTER COUNTS! program seem like a worthwhile effort to you?
    99 percent said “yes,” 85 percent said “a lot,” 14 percent said “a little,” and 1 percent said “not at all”
  • Has your child mentioned any of the Six Pillars of Character … in conversation at home?
    98 percent said “yes,” 51 percent said “a lot,” 47 percent said “a little,” and 2 percent said “not at all”
  • Has your child talked about what he/she has learned in our “success assemblies”?
    78 percent said “yes,” 20 percent said “a lot,” 58 percent said “a little,” and 22 percent said “not at all”
  • Have you participated in CC! home projects?
    62 percent said “yes.”


  • Do you think your behavior has changed after learning about the Six Pillars of character?
    82 percent said “yes,” 49 percent said “ a lot,” 33 percent said “a little,” and 18 percent said “not at all”
  • Do you think that learning about character traits such as T.R.R.F.C.C. [the Six Pillars] has been important to you?
    89 percent said “yes,” 67 percent said “a lot,” 22 percent said “a little,” and 11 percent said “not at all.”
  • Do you think the other students’ behaviors have changed as a result of CHARACTER COUNTS!?
    83 percent said “yes,” 28 percent said “a lot,” 54 percent said “a little,” and 17 percent said “not at all.”

Faculty/Staff (29 responses)

  • Do you think CHARACTER COUNTS! has had an impact on you personally?
    93 percent said “yes” and 7 percent said “no.”

NEW MEXICO: Parent observation

In 1998, the local CHARACTER COUNTS! task force surveyed parents in Albuquerque. Among the results:

  • 94 percent agreed that “it is important to teach character education in the public schools.”
  • 73 percent (83 percent of parents with children in elementary school) agreed with the statement, “I believe the character education program at my child’s school has made a difference in student behavior.” This finding parallels that in South Dakota, suggesting that CC! has a bigger impact on younger children.