Our Partnership in Character Education Program ( PCEP)
Miami-Dade County Public Schools received a Partnership in Character Education Program (PCEP) grant in 2005. This program, funded federally through the United States Department of Education, Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, afforded us the opportunity to infuse character education in our schools at a very meaningful level, with four (4) very specific components. These components are 1) Curriculum 2) Professional Development 3) Family Outreach, and 4) Curriculum based Service Learning.
In order to accomplish this, we began with a focus on teachers as key to the shift that needs to occur if Character Education is really going to reach students and create changes. For a long time, Character Education has been looked at in terms of student behavior and it has been common practice to have schools focus on one core value per month. We have nine district adopted core values that were used to frame our efforts but not viewed as values to be taught or presented in isolation or expected to be memorized by our students. We recognized that doing what has traditionally been done in terms of introducing values this way is how NOT to teach character education. The results of traditional approaches to character education have generally yielded the ability for students to regurgitate what they hear. We questioned whether students are internalizing the meaning of values and has this approach really produced any change in thinking for students, hence reflecting in positive changes in choices made. We also recognized that before students truly acquire new understandings, these must be viewed as important by their teachers. We also viewed as valuable, the opportunity for teachers to have some autonomy related to the design, choice and ultimate implementation of activities that they know are a fit with the students that they see on a daily basis, that they understand, and have an established rapport with. This is why the PCEP has not provided teachers with an add-on curriculum but rather has exposed them to experts in the field and provided the tools for them to utilize in their classrooms. The program has exposed them to best practices and has promoted their questioning and analysis of, within the context of their everyday pedagogical realities.