How to Apply for National School of Character Recognition


Please note that contact information and demographic information entered in this section may appear on CEP’s website and in CEP publications if you are named a National Finalist.

Basic Information

*Complete Name of School:

*Street Address:


                                        *Zip Code:

*Main phone number:


Contact Information of Coordinator

*First Name: *Last Name:

*Title or Position:



Administrator Contact (if different from main contact person)

First Name:
Last Name:

Title or Position: E-mail:

Name of Principal (or head of school):

*Is he/she fully supportive of this application? [Yes/No]


*Setting: [urban (city), urban (town), suburban, rural]

*Grade levels:

*Category of grade levels: [elementary, middle, high, mixed]

*Student enrollment:


Note that the information entered in this section will appear on CEP’s website and in CEP publications for applicants named National Finalists.

Write a brief and compelling overview of your school and your character education journey. [1500 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

Describe your school setting and school demographics. What makes your school special or unique? What challenges do you face as a school community?
How and why did you begin your character initiative? What is your character initiative trying to accomplish?

What have been your greatest obstacles? How were parents, teachers, and community members brought on board?

What texts, experts, programs, and/or resources have been key influences on your character initiative?

Please have your principal or another character education leader in your school briefly respond to the following question. What advice would you have for those new to character education? [500 characters max] Name and title:

Attach a photo that represents your character initiative in action.


Describe your implementation of each of the 11 Principles below and attach evidence to support your narrative explanations.

Narrative responses: Explain your accomplishments as they relate to each of the principles. Note that CEP reviewers understand that certain programs or strategies may “fit” under more than one principle and that you have limited space to describe your many programs. Thus, you do not need to repeat your explanations of such programs. Be sure to be specific and give examples whenever possible. Note that each principle has 3 or 4 scoring items. The Applicant Tips are intended to assist you in making sure you have addressed all the key indicators of exemplary practice described under each scoring item.

Supporting evidence: Please limit your use of photos as evidence and be sure that any evidence that you reduce is not so small that evaluators cannot read it.


Principle 1: The school community promotes core ethical and performance values as the foundation of good character. [2,000 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

1.1 Stakeholders in the school community select or assent to a set of core values.

What are your core values? (You may call these pillars, virtues, traits, expectations, or a touchstone, for example.) How, when, why, and by whom were these selected and adopted? If they have been in place for some time or were selected at the district level, how do you revisit and reflect upon them?

1.2 Core ethical and performance values actively guide every aspect of life in the school.

Do students, staff, and parents use common language reflecting the school’s core values? How is this common language taught and promoted? How do staff teach, model, and integrate the core values into all aspects of school life? Do core values guide the hiring practices and the orientation of new teaching and non-teaching staff?

1.3 The school community articulates its character-related goals and expectations through visible statements of its core ethical and performance values. What is your school’s mission? How are the core values made visible to your school community? How and what do the core values “look like” and “sound like” in terms of observable behaviors?

Attach one page of portfolio evidence to support your Principle 1 responses.

Tip for Applicants: Examples of Evidence include
Vision and/or Mission statements, motto, touchstone

Visible statements or lists of core values in school building, on website, in student handbook/planner, discipline code, newsletters, etc.
Examples of how the core values are defined in terms of what they look/sound like


Principle 2: The school defines “character” comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing. [2,000 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

2.1 The school helps students acquire a developmentally appropriate understanding of what the core values mean in everyday behavior and grasp the reasons why some behaviors (e.g., doing your best and respecting others) represent good character and their opposites do not. How do staff help students understand the core values and how the core values can help them make good choices? How do students demonstrate this understanding?

2.2 The school helps students reflect upon the core values, appreciate them, desire to demonstrate them, and become committed to them. How do staff help students become committed to core values? What opportunities do students have to reflect on the core values through discussions of real-life problems and situations?

How do staff meet students’ needs for safety, belonging, competence, and autonomy?

2.3 The school helps students practice the core values so that they become habitual patterns of behavior.

How do staff encourage students to examine their own behavior in light of the core values and challenge them to make their behavior consistent with the core values? What practice in and feedback on academic and behavioral skills do students receive through everyday classroom operations? For example, do teachers conduct class meetings? If so, how many teachers use this strategy and how often? What opportunities do students have to practice the core values in the context of working with other students on class activities? For example, do teachers use cross-age buddies, peer mentors, cooperative learning, or other collaborative strategies?

Attach one page of portfolio evidence to support your Principle 2 responses.

Tip for Applicants: Examples of Evidence

Evidence / examples of strategies being used that help students practice core values – such as class meetings, cross-age buddies, peer mentors, and cooperative learning.
Evidence / examples of classroom routines and policies that help students understand and adopt core values


Principle 3: The school uses a comprehensive, intentional, and proactive approach to character development. [2,000 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

3.1 The school is intentional and proactive in addressing character at all grade levels.

Explain how individual teachers, grade-level teams, and the staff as a whole participate in planning for character education. What is your plan for character education? Is this a school level plan?

3.2 Character education is integrated into academic content and instruction.

How do teachers teach core values through their academic subjects and provide opportunities for students to discuss ethical issues? What examples can you give of lessons from teachers in diverse subject areas that explicitly include curricular integration of character?

3.3 Character education is a priority on how teachers conduct their classes. How do classroom routines and procedures address student needs and demonstrate respect for students? How do they reflect and help develop core values?

3.4 Character education is infused throughout the school day in classes, sports, meetings, and co-curricular activities. How do you communicate clear expectations of good character throughout the total school program (e.g., sports, clubs) and in all areas of the school (e.g., cafeteria, halls, playground, sports fields, library, buses)?

Attach up to two pages of portfolio evidence to support your Principle 3 responses.

Tip for Applicants: Examples of Evidence

Character education plan, goals, or calendar

Lesson plans or curriculum frameworks that demonstrate curricular integration of character / core values

Expectations for behavior throughout the school that are tied to core values


Principle 4: The school creates a caring community. [2,000 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

4.1 The school makes it a high priority to foster caring attachments between students and staff.

Do students perceive staff as caring and report that they could go to an adult in the school with a problem? How do you know? Do staff attend school events? Which ones? Does the school encourage students and teachers to meet in small group settings such as class meetings or advisor-advisee periods?
Do staff provide extra help in academic work and counsel or mentor students when needed?

4.2 The school makes it a high priority to help students form caring attachments to each other.

Do students perceive their peers as friendly and inclusive? How do you know? What educational strategies does the school use to encourage mutual respect among students?

4.3 The school takes steps to prevent peer cruelty and violence and deals with it effectively when it occurs.

What anti-bullying strategies and/or programs do you use? What impact have they had? What activities, programs, and processes that promote tolerance, understanding, respect, and peace among students do you have? How do staff deal with and discourage peer abuse and encourage respect among students?

4.4 The school makes it a high priority to foster caring attachments among adults within the school community. How are parents, community members, and guests made to feel welcome in the school? What efforts do staff make to form positive relationships with students’ families? How do staff perceive the work environment? How are relationships nurtured among staff? How does the administration foster a collegial atmosphere? Explain the impact on staff morale and teacher turnover.

Attach one page of portfolio evidence to support your Principle 4 responses.

Tip for Applicants: Examples of Evidence

Evidence / examples of strategies that form good relationships between staff and students (e.g. mentoring, advisories, tutoring)
Evidence / examples of staff interacting with students outside of the classroom (e.g. school/community events, mentoring/tutoring)

Evidence / examples of programs or strategies being used to build positive relationships among students (e.g. tolerance programs, anti-bullying strategies, class meetings, advisories, conflict resolution strategies) Evidence / examples of ways adults in the school community are brought together (e.g. staff gatherings and celebrations, school events, home visits)


Principle 5: The school provides students with opportunities for moral action. [2,000 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

5.1 The school sets clear expectations for students to engage in actions that develop and demonstrate good character. What are your expectations regarding service learning? How are your expectations for peaceful conflict resolution, academic integrity, good sportsmanship, and service to others taught? How can you be sure students know these expectations and that students and staff take responsibility for these expectations? How many students participated in service learning activities in the previous school year?

5.2 The school provides all students with varied opportunities for engaging in positive, responsible action within the school, and students engage in these opportunities and reflect on them.

Describe the opportunities students have for service within the school and to engage in projects to practice and/or advance conflict resolution, ethical decision-making, and academic integrity? How many students have, take advantage of, and benefit from these opportunities? How do teachers connect such service to the curriculum and core values (service learning)?

5.3 The school provides all students with repeated and varied opportunities for making contributions to the larger community, and students engage in these opportunities and reflect on them. What opportunities do students have to participate in service learning projects that contribute to the larger community? How many students have, take advantage of, and benefit from these opportunities?

How do teachers connect community service with the curriculum and core values, creating service learning experiences? Do you enable students to assess community needs, create ideas for meeting those needs, plan and coordinate service learning projects, and reflect on the positive consequences of community service?

Attach one page of portfolio evidence to support your Principle 5 responses.

Tip for Applicants: Examples of Evidence

Service learning calendar of events / opportunities

Conflict resolution / peer mediation strategies, trainings
Sportsmanship policies

Academic integrity policies / expectations

Evidence / examples of students serving the school (e.g., buddies, school beautification, leadership groups, peer mediators)

Evidence / examples of students serving the wider community (e.g., elderly, needy, veterans, animals, environment)

Evidence that demonstrates how service projects allow students to identify community needs, plan/organize projects, and reflect on outcomes

Evidence that service projects are tied to content/curriculum


Principle 6: The school offers a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners, develops their character, and helps them to succeed. [2,000 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

6.1 The academic curriculum provides meaningful and appropriate challenges to all students.

Explain ways teachers provide all students with opportunities to interact with academic content in engaging, hands-on, appropriate ways. How do you know students are excited about learning and feel challenged? How do you know parents feel their children are appropriately challenged?
How does the school community encourage students to seek mastery of content and skills? How does instruction increase students’ sense of competence and emphasizes student autonomy?

6.2 The school staff identifies, understands, and accommodates the diverse interests, cultures, and learning needs of all students.

Explain how staff engage in ongoing identification of response to students’ learning needs and cultural differences. What efforts are made to differentiate instruction? How do you know your efforts are effective? How do staff challenge and help all students do high-quality work and strive for continuous improvement? What achievement gaps between diverse student subgroups exist? What active steps are you taking to eliminate such gaps?

6.3 Teachers promote the development of performance character traits that support students’ intellectual growth, academic performance, and capacity for both self-direction and teamwork. How do teachers promote thinking habits that lead to intellectual growth in students? Explain how students set goals and are aware of their growth as learners. How do teachers promote work-related habits that help students do their best work? How do teachers promote social habits that help students work together harmoniously?

Attach one page of portfolio evidence to support your Principle 6 responses.

Tip for Applicants: Examples of Evidence

Examples of challenging, hands-on lessons and projects

Examples of differentiated instruction

Examples of sensitivity to cultural differences

Programs and strategies being used to address achievement gap issues

Strategies being used to help students set and reach goals

Examples of students having “voice and choice” in the classroom


Principle 7: The school fosters students’ self-motivation. [2,000 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

7.1 Staff and students recognize and celebrate the natural, beneficial consequences of acts of character rather than rewarding students with material recognition or rewards. How are students helped to understand on a personal level what it means to be self-motivated and why it is important? How have staff addressed the question of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation? Have they reflected on whether their practices develop self-motivation? Have they sought agreement on a shared philosophy regarding praise, rewards, and punishment? Are students recognized for good behavior or displaying core values? If so, how? How do classroom management strategies promote doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do? What methods of academic instruction enable students to produce work of which they should be proud? Do staff and students recognize and express positive comments to each other as part of the everyday life of the school?

What is your school’s approach to behavior management and discipline? How is this approach connected to the core values? How are staff trained in developmentally appropriate forms of classroom management? How does the discipline code use explanation, discussion, and natural and logical consequences in ways that help students learn from their mistakes and move forward? What role do students have in classroom management and school governance?

Attach one page of portfolio evidence to support your Principle 7 responses.

Tip for Applicants: Examples of Evidence

Behavior management / positive discipline strategies and policies

Opportunities for students to reflect on their choices in light of core values (e.g. Think Sheets)

Examples of staff development / training / discussions on topics such as behavior/classroom management and motivation


Principle 8: The school staff is an ethical learning community that shares responsibility for character education and adheres to the same core values that guide the students. [2,000 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

8.1 Staff model the core values in their interactions with students and each other, and students and parents perceive that they do. How do staff model core values in their interactions with students? How do they demonstrate respectful and supportive behavior? Do they see themselves as models for students? Do students and their parents view staff as models? How do you know?

8.2 The school includes all staff in planning, receiving staff development for, and carrying out the schoolwide character education initiative. 
Do all professional and support staff receive training and information on their role in the character education initiative? Do administrators, teachers, and counselors receive ongoing staff development? What recent professional development activities related to character development and opportunities for sharing have staff had? Do all staff have opportunities to be involved in character education planning and implementation? Are teachers, administrators, and counselors substantially involved?

8.3 The school makes time available for staff planning and reflection regarding character education.

How is character education included in faculty meetings and in-service days? Is release time provided for staff to develop promising ideas, plan events, and reflect? If not, how are staff able to plan and reflect? How and when do teachers use core values to reflect on their own behaviors and procedures?

Attach one page of portfolio evidence to support your Principle 8 responses.

Tip for Applicants: Examples of Evidence

Evidence of staff modeling of core values

Examples of / agendas from staff development /training
Faculty meeting agendas that show commitment to character education

Examples of resources provided to staff/faculty


Principle 9: The school fosters shared leadership and long-range support of the character education initiative. [2,000 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

9.1 The school’s character education initiative has leaders, including the school principal, who champion character education efforts, share leadership, and provide long-range support. What role does the principal play in championing the character effort? What would happen if the principal left? How do school leaders show their support for the long-range survival and growth of the character initiative? If you see your school as a leader in helping others schools with their character education efforts or if you have outreach plans, describe your leadership efforts.

9.2 A leadership group or structure (several linked groups) inclusive of staff, students, and parents guides the ongoing planning and implementation of the character education initiative and encourages the involvement of the whole school in character-related activities. What group or structure guides character education strategic planning and implementation? Who is a part of this group? How often does this group meet? How do they plan? How do they get input from stakeholders? How do the school’s regular governing mechanisms assume responsibility for management of character- related policies and plans?

9.3 Students are explicitly involved in creating and maintaining a sense of community and in other leadership roles that contribute to the character education effort. What role do students have in creating and maintaining standards of behavior? What leadership roles and responsibilities do they have within the classroom and school community? Do they value the leadership roles available to them and see themselves as contributing members of the wider community? How do you know?

Attach one page of portfolio evidence to support your Principle 9 responses.

Tip for Applicants: Examples of Evidence

Character education committee (or other committee or structure) plans, goals, meeting minutes, membership

Examples of staff and student leadership

Outreach efforts and plans, evidence of leadership in the field of character education (e.g., in-services, workshops, visits hosted)


Principle 10: The school engages families and community members as partners in the character-building effort. [2,000 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

10.1 The school engages families in the character education initiative.

Do parents serve in character education leadership roles? Are they actively involved in carrying the character initiative to the parent-teacher organization and parent community? Are families aware of and supportive of the initiative? How do you know? Do you offer workshops and resources on character education and general parenting skills? How do parents contribute to school and classroom activities beyond fundraising? How does the school reach out to and welcome all parents?

10.2 The administration and faculty regularly communicate with parents and guardians, providing suggestions and activities that help them reinforce the core values, and they survey parents, both formally and informally, on the effectiveness of the school’s character education efforts. How do you communicate with families about your character education efforts? How do you solicit input from families? How do you welcome new families to the school and orient them to the school’s character education mission?

10.3 The school recruits the help of the wider community.

Do community members serve in character education leadership roles? Are they actively involved in carrying the character initiative to the larger community? Are community members aware of and supportive of the initiative? How do you know? Do community members volunteer in the school and participate in school and classroom events?

Attach one page of portfolio evidence to support your Principle 10 responses.

Tip for Applicants: Examples of Evidence

Examples of communicating with parents (e.g. newsletters, phone, e-mail, website)

Examples of receiving communications from parents (e.g. surveys, meetings, informal chats)

Parent workshops and resources offered to families

Efforts/activities to welcome new families

Examples of parent and community member leadership and involvement

Volunteer opportunities for parents and community members

Evidence of partnerships with local community organizations and businesses


Principle 11: The school regularly assesses its culture and climate, the functioning of its staff as character educators, and the extent to which its students manifest good character.

Be sure in your narrative response and attached evidence for this principle that you clearly demonstrate the impact of character education on student academic achievement, student behavior, and school culture/climate. Be sure to provide specific quantitative and qualitative evidence. Use numbers rather than percentages when reporting changes in student behavior. The narrative and supporting evidence combined should demonstrate that your community has gathered data, reflected on it, and then acted as needed. [2,500 characters max]

Tip for Applicants: Questions to Consider

11.1 The school sets goals and regularly assesses (both quantitatively and qualitatively) its culture, climate, and functioning as an ethical learning community. How do you assess your character initiative? What data and input do you gather? How do you use data to make changes and improvements to the character education initiative?

11.2 Staff members reflect upon and report on their efforts to implement character education, as well as on their growth as character educators.
What feedback do teachers gather from their students on their perceptions of character-related activities and the extent to which teachers are modeling the core values? How do staff report to each other and to stakeholders on their efforts to meet character education goals? What opportunities do staff have to examine and reflect on data?

11.3 The school assesses student progress in developing an understanding of and a commitment to good character and the degree to which students act upon the core values.
What approaches do you use to assess student progress in the area of character development? What data collected on student behavior demonstrates student growth in the understanding of and commitment to good character?

Attach up to 4 pages of portfolio evidence to support your Principle 11 responses.

Tip for Applicants: Examples of Evidence


State test scores

Other evidence of academic achievement (e.g. grades, honor roll, course failures, homework compliance, students taking advanced courses, graduates attending college)

Daily attendance rates

Suspension rates

Dropout and graduation rates

Climate survey results (especially that show that bullying is infrequent and/or that students feel safe, students respect each other, teachers and students respect each other, and parents and teachers respect each other)

Examples of changes made after gathering and reflecting on data

Additional Tip for Applicants: Academic Integrity

Academic dishonesty refers to cheating, plagiarism, and the improper use of technology. Academic integrity runs throughout the 11 Principles (see Principles 3.2, 3.3, 5.1, 5.2, 6.3, 7.2, 11.1). Be sure that somewhere in your narrative explanation of the 11 Principles that you have described your expectations and policies regarding academic integrity, how these are communicated to students, and how you know your efforts are working. Consider: What policies and procedures support academic integrity (e.g., lessons on proper citation of sources and plagiarism, testing strategies to resist cheating, honor pledges or honor codes, and honor committees or courts)? How do teachers promote the importance of academic integrity (doing one’s own work, giving proper credit) in the completion of work? How do teachers discuss academic integrity with students? What data do you gather on academic dishonesty?



Please enter the averaged scores from your school Stakeholders’ Self-Assessment. To learn more about how to conduct this self-assessment, refer to the 11 Principles Scoring Guide on the inside back cover of the 11 Principles of Effective Character Education document.

Item 1 Item 2 Item 3 Item 4 Average
Principle #1 #DIV/0!
Principle #2 #DIV/0!
Principle #3 #DIV/0!
Principle #4 #DIV/0!
Principle #5 #DIV/0!
Principle #6 #DIV/0!
Principle #7 #DIV/0!
Principle #8 #DIV/0!
Principle #9 #DIV/0!
Principle #10 #DIV/0!
Principle #11 #DIV/0!
Total (average of each line divided by 11) #DIV/0!


If you have applied for SOC recognition in the past and received feedback from CEP, please describe what steps you have taken since that last application to address any areas for growth noted in your feedback. [1,500 characters max]


Once you submit this application the main contact listed in your application should receive a confirmation of receipt by e-mail.


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