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Effects of the Lessons in Character English Language Arts Character Education Program on Behavior and Academic OutcomesEffects of the Lessons in Character English Language Arts Character Education Program on Behavior and Academic Outcomes

Regional need and study purpose. Despite the widespread popularity of character education programs, few randomized trials have examined the impact of such programs on the character traits, behavior, and academic outcomes of students. This study evaluates the effect of a promising English language arts character education program, Lessons in Character, on student academic performance, behavior, and social skills and on the school climate.

Intervention description. Lessons in Character consists of literature-based supplementary material designed to integrate easily into the schools' current English language arts curriculum. The program is unique in its use of English language arts to bring character education into the curriculum. Teachers become experts in the program through daily teaching—and in turn build strong support for schoolwide, comprehensive character education policies and practices.

Study design and period. The study, an experimental trial running from spring 2007 to spring 2010, includes 50 California elementary schools and around 15,000 students in grades 2–5. Two cohorts of elementary schools are participating. Cohort 1 implementation is in 2007/08 and 2008/09, with teacher professional development and coaching in late summer and early fall of year 1 (2007); cohort 2 implementation begins in 2008/09.

Key outcomes and measures. The study's key outcome variables—student academic achievement, behavior, and social skills and school climate—are assessed with standardized achievement tests, teacher reports on the Social Skills Rating System, and student and teacher surveys.

Data collection approach. Data are collected on three broad areas: student outcome, teacher background and school climate, and implementation. With the exception of teacher interviews, program teacher implementation logs, and survey items on program implementation, all measures are collected in both treatment and control sites.

Analysis plan. Multilevel regression models, which account for data clustering by school, are used to analyze the effect of Lessons in Character. Multiple comparison procedures are used for each outcome domain to reduce the probability of finding statistically significant program impacts when impacts are due to chance alone. Exploratory analyses also examine potential impacts on other areas, such as staff culture of belonging and student academic engagement, cooperation, and disciplinary referrals. In addition to estimating program impacts, the study also conducts exploratory analyses to investigate differences in program impacts by gender, race/ethnicity, and limited English proficiency.

Principal investigators. Thomas Hanson, PhD, Regional Educational Laboratory West and Barbara Dietsch, PhD, Regional Educational Laboratory West.

Additional Information. Region, contact information, and references

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