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Social Studies

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Knowledge is Power Program is utilized by charter schools whose goal is to turn "underperforming Bronx-public-school students into college bound scholars" (Tough, 2012, 47) and is headed by David Levin.

"Home to some New York City's wealthiest families...and one of the most prestigious private schools in the city" (Tough, 2012, 55) headed by Dominic Randolph.

What is character?

Based off of Peterson and Seligman's research,  KIPPs adopted seven school-wide character strengths that are  evaluated by teachers on the KIPPs Character Report Card

24 Character Strengths established by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, 2004

Can character be taught?

I think there are two real ways to develop these skills. One way is to talk about them...the other way that educators can help students develop these skills is by challenging them..."

Subjects: KIPP Program & Riverdale Country School

How does this apply to middle school teachers?

These character strengths were implemented at KIPPs through posters, programs, dual-instruction and Character Report cards that matched behavior to one of seven strengths. The goal of the Character Report Cards were to help students gain skills that would help them transition to higher education and careers. Author Paul Tough stated that "[t]he best way for a young person to build character is for him to attempt something were there is a real and serious possibility of failure" (2012, 85).  The students at KIPPs are no strangers to failure but through character strength building they were able to build skills in cognitive behavior therapy, or the ability to consciously recognize self destructive thoughts and talk yourself into a better perspective (Tough, 2012, 91). They learned that character is about building positive habits and although habits are hard to change it's not impossible. All of these tools gave KIPPs student an advantage because "[w]hen a KIPP student graduates from college, he will not only have a BA but also something more valuable: the knowledge that he climbed a mountain to get it" (Tough, 2012, 104).

KIPPs Results

Riverdale decided to focus on performance and moral character skills that were integrated through a dialogic process of meandering conversations that gradually change people's minds (Tough, 2012, 77). One way Riverdale integrated these character skills was through an assembly that focused on the students' heroes to foster conversations about ethics and values.

"Character  is one of those words that complicate any conversation, mostly because it can mean very different things to different people" (Tough, 2012, 58). However, both David Levin and Dominic Randolph agreed that their students would benefit from the integration of character strength into their students' education. These skills can help students  create habits and gain awareness about their behavior which can help student achieve their long-term goals. Mike Witter, an English teacher at KIPPs stated that "[i]f you're going to be a good teacher, you have to believe in malleable  intelligence...and character is equally malleable.  If you teach students to pay attention to character, than their character will transform" (Tough, 2012, 99).This can be done by any content area teacher with the use of dual-purpose instruction which intentionally integrates character strengths into every lesson.  A teacher's job is to prepare the students for the future, which may or may not include the teacher's content area. The most impactful teacher can help students learn skills such as  resilience, hard work, motivation and social awareness that will help them be successful no matter where the future takes them.