“Character education is creating environments where negative and anti-social behaviors are less likely to flourish or go unnoticed or unreported. Character education is creating schools where children feel safe because they are in an atmosphere that values respect, responsibility, caring and honesty, not because a guard or metal detector is posted at the door. After all, character education is helping to foster in young people what, in the end, counts most, a heart, a conscience and the ability to know that is right and what is wrong.”  Esther Schaeffer, Executive Director/CEO, Character Education Partnership, speaking at The Role of Character Education in America’s Schools Hearing of the Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000.

“Social and emotional learning (SEL) enhances students’ capacity to integrate skills, attitudes, and behaviors to deal effectively and ethically with daily tasks and challenges” (Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning).

Evidenced Based Practice

Foundations for Success: Validity and Reliability Underpinning the FACE Project’s Principles, Design, and Implementation

The Functional Approach to Character Education Project’s (FACE Project) mission is to partner with schools and communities to promote the healthy growth and development of individuals which in turn cultivates a successful school environment, promotes personal empowerment and establishes support for each student to find their voice. The FACE Project’s school-based Character Education program for children in preschool through 5th Grade centers around an individualized curricula for teachers and counselors of roughly 30 weekly lessons per grade level that are designed to promote tolerance, empathy, respect and celebrating differences. The FACE Project includes curricula for teachers and school counselors, and the curricula is designed to improve classroom management and school-wide social and emotional development incentives. School professionals are offered in-service training with follow-up consultations for supporting programing around the best teaching, learning and person/group centered growth approach .

Some additional key aspects of the FACE Project are:

● The curriculum is developmentally specific, and so is effective for children of multiple ages.

● Lessons are designed to align stepwise, where each lesson builds upon learnings and principles

from earlier sessions.

● Stepwise lessons are designed to move the students through group process stages to a well

functioning safe cohesive classroom

● Various delivery methods are employed, to suit different learning styles (Multimodal).

● The technology-based approach allows for easy, fun, active. flexible lesson delivery and


● Structured around Character Education (CE) and Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) Principles and

Outcomes (e.g. reducing teen pregnancy, decreasing bullying, improving school cohesiveness,

improving school performance and decreasing dropout rates).

● Lessons are designed to propel cognitive moral thinking, and positive social, emotional and

behavioral growth

The classroom materials are developed by teachers and counselors for their teacher/counselor peers, and to integrate with the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) and Standards for School Counseling Programs in Virginia Public Schools. The FACE Project has been supported by generous grants from the Annenberg Foundation, the Better Living Foundation, the Build-a-Bear Bear Hugs Foundation, the Darrin-McHone Charitable Foundation, and the Walmart Foundation, and has already reached over10,000 students in 8 Virginia counties.

For more information, see:

The Functional Approach to Character Education Project’s Validity  

The FACE Project’s design and approach takes well-supported theories about what makes students, teachers and schools successful, and puts them into action. But not all attempts to fully translate social theory into effective programs are successful. The FACE Project was designed around principles of developmental specificity, stepwise and multimodal learning, CE, and SEL. How valid is the project’s implementation, or how well have its theoretical underpinnings and best-practice principles been translated into practice? In other words, is the program what was intended to be?

The aspects of the project’s validity to consider are:

1. Construct Validity: Are the aspects of the program properly designed and labeled?

2. Concurrent and Convergent Validity: Are different aspects of the program distinguishable from

one another, and is the program similar to other programs of its type?

3. Content Validity: What comprises a program of a given type, and does this program include all

the key components?

4. Discriminant Validity: How is the program different from programs it is not intended to


1. Construct Validity: The FACE Project labels a number of key characteristics of its approach;multimodal, developmentally specific, cognitive development, emotional development, social development , behavioral development, family and community development and group development. As lesson plans (see ) illustrate, counselors or teachers can choose to integrate book reading into the lesson, or can play a video containing the same story. The lesson plans are different for each grade, becoming longer, centering more on interaction and class input, and assigning more complex, independent tasks for later grades. The lessons are visual, verbal, and kinesthetic. They help children expand their understanding of themselves (thinking, feeling and behaving) from self centeredness to broader ranges of understanding others and community toward global awareness.

2. Concurrent and Convergent Validity: Each lesson covers a single specific topic, distinguishing principles such as honesty, integrity, and reliability by covering them in separate, distinct lessons. By relying closely on the principles of CE, the program centers around clearly delineated definitions for trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. The FACE project is similar to, but an improvement on, existing Character Education (CE) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs.

The program is school-wide, involves teachers, counselors and administrators, parents and community members, involves all students, and has comprehensive evidenced based lessons, and provides support for the program’s successful use. The project shares many common characteristics with other well-designed, school-wide, classroom based SEL approaches, including: 1) Engaging stakeholders in SEL planning and implementation; 2) Collaborating to develop a vision and long-term plan for the project; 3) Adults model social-emotional competence; and 4) Monitor SEL implementation processes and student outcomes. For monitoring purposes, the FACE Project now tracks outcomes for participating schools via school-level data on behavioral measures, including academic performance, school cohesiveness, school climate, number of discipline referrals, suspensions and expulsions. Preliminary data of this kind support the FACE Project: the one school that fully implemented the project throughout the 2014-15 school year reported 11 instances (3.2 instances for every 100 students) for 2014-15, and then none the following year (2015-16). There are 11 FACE project partners for 2016-17, for whom data will soon be available to assess outcomes for the year after project implementation in the same way. Further, aligning with CE principles, the FACE Project is: 1) Interwoven into the school procedure and environment; 2) structured to instruct through experience, example, illustration and participation; 3) Taught in specific lessons that supplement the standard curriculum; 4) Takes cultural, social, religious and political diversity into consideration; and 5) Instills “ the values and virtues of each person”.

3. Content Validity: In addition to all six CE pillars, the FACE Project curriculum incorporates the key SEL competencies: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. It integrates efforts to improve school-wide practices and policies, as well as leveraging family and community partnerships, which are key constructs under the SEL framework. Because the FACE Project closely adheres to these principles, evidence that Character Education and Socio-Emotional Learning programs can effectively improve behavioral and academic outcomes lend support for the FACE Project‘s approach.

4. Discriminant Validity: The FACE project is not a box of posters and directions to design a program in each school and district. Rather, it is a turnkey program designed with the best the latest research that social science has to offer and it continues to evolve with new information provided regularly through survey and outreach to and from stakeholders. The FACE Project is deliberately designed to be a non-judgmental and non-prescriptive approach—it does not serve to identify problems and then propose reactionary solutions. The project is a forum for generating positive, character based foundations upon which future, strategic efforts can grow to address problems and build capabilities and resources.

The Functional Approach to Character Education Project’s Reliability

Additional support for the FACE Project can be found in its reliability of program implementation overtime. in accordance with the definition of reliability, the project is sufficiently well-defined for the multiple aspects of the program to be implemented effectively across different contexts. There are two types of reliability to consider:

1. Implementation Reliability: The consistency with which individual aspects of the program are


2. Internal Consistency: Consistency, or overlap, in the effectiveness in delivery across multiple aspects of the project’s implementation (i.e. successful delivery in one aspect is likely related to successful delivery of other aspects of the program).

Data collected as of March 2017 from twenty teacher and counselor feedback surveys were employed to illustrate the FACE Project’s reliability (two different versions of the survey were administered across the twenty respondents, with some shared questions). The surveys allow teaching professionals to provide assessments and comments/suggestions about the effectiveness of the program and its lessons, as well as their school’s specific character education needs. They also provide data to prove the effectiveness of the project. Three separate aspects of the project’s implementation were considered: 1) Fidelity to the lesson plan; 2) Satisfaction with the lesson overall; and 3) Responsiveness , or the degree to which the teaching professionals would use the FACE Project’s lessons again.

1. Implementation Reliability: Reports from the lesson assessments have indicated high, and consistently high, fidelity in lesson delivery. Six out of ten respondents to the lesson assessment survey including a question about completing the full lesson indicated that they were able to complete the lesson plan in the time frame allotted; this included respondents whose lessons were for Pre-K, 3rd, and 4th Grades, from multiple schools (three in total), and across five distinct lesson plans. Satisfaction with the lessons is also high, and has been consistently high across multiple grades, schools, and lesson plans. Six out of eight respondents to the assessment rated the overall quality of the lesson as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ (the remaining two rated the program as ‘average’). Again, these positive responses concerned multiple grades (Pre-K, 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th), were from multiple schools (four in total), and five different lesson plans .

Responsiveness to the program has been similarly high and consistently high. In lesson assessments where respondents were asked whether they would use the lesson again (combining two different versions of a survey for a total of twenty), nineteen out of twenty said that they would use the lesson again, or use it with modifications (nine out of nineteen said that they would use the lessons again without modifications). These positive responses concerned multiple grades (Pre-K, 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th), were from multiple schools (at least four; one of the surveys did not ask which school the lesson was given), and ten different lesson plans.

2. Internal Consistency: The lesson assessments also suggest that those reporting higher dosage, are also more likely to report higher satisfaction and responsiveness. Of the eight surveys where responses were given to all all three dosage, satisfaction, and responsiveness items, six indicated that they completed the full lesson, and seven out of eight of these respondents also reported that the overall quality of the lesson was good or excellent, while all six also indicated that they would use the lesson again.


The FACE Project has a foundation of validity and reliability. It is a well-defined, demonstrably effective translation and application of its theoretical underpinnings. Further, assessments from teacher and counselors indicate that the program is well-established enough to be consistently delivered and positively received.

For example, in her 2016 letter of support for the FACE project, Kim Muraskin from Riverbend Elementary School, in Elkton, VA says:

“They are my go to lessons when I need to address a topic in a developmentally appropriate way across the grade levels. I love how engaging and active the lessons are…I appreciate the chance to use this curriculum in helping my students become compassionate, productive, and successful.”

This memo was prepared 4/24/17 by Peter J. Lovegrove, Ph.D. (JBS International, Inc.) in collaboration with FACE Project staff

Latest FACE Research!

Below is the Assessment of Schools Enrolled in The FACE Project: in 2016-17 compared to the 2015-16 year in the same schools where FACE was not enrolled. The data collected by the Viriginia State Department of Education Climate Survey found:

In the majority of schools that began implementing the FACE project in the 2016-17 school year, problem behaviors either remained consistent or decreased from 2015-16 to 2016-17.

This memo describes the methods and findings from a study assessing of the number of students who were reported for behavioral infractions, were suspended (long- and short-term), and were expelled while attending schools that began implementing the FACE project curriculum at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.


A researcher from the FACE project downloaded data from the Safe Schools Information Resource (SSIR) section of the Virginia Department of Education website ( on 1/30/18. The table below details the schools for which data were gathered. All eleven schools were elementary schools located in four Virginia districts, with a range of one to four schools per district.

Elementary School District 2015-16 Enrollment 2016-17 Enrollment
Amherst Amherst 303 301
Central Amherst 316 321
Madison Heights Amherst 496 481
Temperance Amherst 90 83
Clark Charlottesville 345 355
Jouett Louisa 612 570
Moss Nuckols Louisa 594 590
Thomas Jefferson Louisa 611 630
Trevilians Elementary Louisa 487 488
Rockfish River Nelson 361 365
Tye River Nelson 502 460

The variables extracted were indicators of problem behavior during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. They included the number of students reported for behavioral infractions and subject to specific disciplinary measures.

Data from the SSIR website are adjusted to maintain students’ confidentiality per FERPA standards. Any cell containing a frequency between 1 and 10 is replaced with a ‘<’ symbol. So that the analysis could include as much data as possible—using unadjusted numbers would mean dropping schools with a ‘<’ in a cell prior to analysis—the number of infractions, suspensions, and expulsions was adjusted to a score with a series of ordered values:

  • Score 0: No infractions/suspensions/expulsions
  • Score 1: One to ten infractions/suspensions/expulsions
  • Score 2: Eleven to twenty infractions/suspensions/expulsions
  • Score 3: Twenty-one to thirty infractions/suspensions/expulsions
  • Score 4: Thirty-one to forty infractions/suspensions/expulsions
  • Score 5: Forty-one or more infractions/suspensions/expulsions

Note that the following results should be interpreted as a school’s score on this constructed variable, not as the specific number of infractions, suspensions, or expulsions.


This section describes the results from a descriptive analysis using frequencies and percentages and a repeated measures t-test, both of which were used to assess problem behavior in schools newly-enrolled in the FACE Project in 2016-17 school year.

Descriptive Statistics

The following three tables detail the scores for each school that began implementing in the FACE Project in 2016-17. No schools enrolled in the FACE project had any expulsions during the observation period, and so this information is not listed in the tables.

Elementary School


District (N=4) 2015-16 Student Offenders Score (Range 0-5) 2016-17 Student Offenders Score (Range 0-5) Score Change from 2015-16 to 2016-17 (Decrease, No Change, Increase)
Amherst Amherst 1.00 1.00 No Change
Central Amherst 2.00 3.00 Increase
Madison Heights Amherst 3.00 3.00 No Change
Temperance Amherst .00 1.00 Increase
Clark Charlottesville 1.00 1.00 No Change
Jouett Louisa 3.00 3.00 No Change
Moss Nuckols Louisa 2.00 4.00 Increase
Thomas Jefferson Louisa 3.00 3.00 No Change
Trevilians Elementary Louisa 3.00 3.00 No Change
Rockfish River Nelson 3.00 2.00 Decrease
Tye River Nelson 2.00 3.00 Increase
Elementary School


District (N=4) 2015-16 Students Short-Term Suspended Score (Range 0-5) 2016-17 Students Short-Term Suspended Score (Range 0-5) Score Change from 2015-16 to 2016-17 (Decrease, No Change, Increase)
Amherst Amherst 1.00 .00 Decrease
Central Amherst 1.00 2.00 Increase
Madison Heights Amherst 2.00 2.00 No Change
Temperance Amherst .00 .00 No Change
Clark Charlottesville 1.00 1.00 No Change
Jouett Louisa 3.00 3.00 No Change
Moss Nuckols Louisa 2.00 4.00 Increase
Thomas Jefferson Louisa 3.00 3.00 No Change
Trevilians Elementary Louisa 2.00 2.00 No Change
Rockfish River Nelson 3.00 2.00 Decrease
Tye River Nelson 2.00 3.00 No Change
Elementary School


District (N=4) 2015-16 Students Long-Term Suspended Score

(Range 0-5)

2016-17 Students Long-Term Suspended Score (Range 0-5) Score Change from 2015-16 to 2016-17 (Decrease, No Change, Increase)
Amherst Amherst .00 .00 No Change
Central Amherst .00 .00 No Change
Madison Heights Amherst .00 .00 No Change
Temperance Amherst .00 .00 No Change
Clark Charlottesville .00 .00 No Change
Jouett Louisa .00 .00 No Change
Moss Nuckols Louisa .00 .00 No Change
Thomas Jefferson Louisa .00 .00 No Change
Trevilians Elementary Louisa 1.00 .00 Decrease
Rockfish River Nelson .00 .00 No Change
Tye River Nelson .00 .00 No Change

The tables indicate that the majority of schools maintained or decreased scores across all three problem behavior variables. Seven of the eleven schools (64 percent; 9 percent of schools decreased, while 55 percent had no change) reduced or maintained their behavioral infractions scores. Nine of the eleven schools (82 percent; 18 percent of schools decreased, while 64 percent had no change) reduced or maintained their short-term suspension scores. All eleven schools (9 percent of schools decreased, while 91 percent had no change) reduced or maintained their long-term suspension scores, though note that the number of long-term suspensions is very low (i.e., almost always zero) across all the schools for both school years.

Repeated Measures T-Tests

The table below details results from a t-test for repeated measures (also termed paired-group or dependent means), which assessed whether changes in student offender and short-term suspension scores across the schools was statistically significant. Long-term suspensions were not included in the analysis because they were so uncommon across the schools in both study years.

Problem Behavior Measure 2015-16 and 2016-17 Mean Scores T Statistic Degrees of Freedom (DF) P-Value
Student Offenders Score 2015-16: 2.09

2016-17: 2.46

1.49 10 .17
Short-Term Suspensions Score 2015-16: 1.81

2016-17: 2.00

.69 10 .51

As this table details, the t-statistic for all three problem behavior scores, indicated that the student offenders and short-term suspensions scores increased in schools that began implementing the FACE Project in 2016-17. It was previously noted that most schools maintained or decreased their problem behavior scores over the two-year study period. At the same time, though, enough schools saw increases in those problem behavior scores (and those increases were of sufficient size) for the average score to in fact increase across the full sample. However, this pattern was not statistically significant at the p < .05 level.


In the majority of schools that began implementing the FACE project in the 2016-17 school year, problem behaviors either remained consistent or decreased from 2015-16 to 2016-17. Inferential statistics did not conclusively indicate a significant pattern of change in schools over the two years studied, however.


Teachers Value SEL

Teachers across America know that social and emotional learning is essential to student success in school, the workplace, and life. A survey of teachers commissioned by CASEL in 2013 found 93 percent of teachers want a greater focus on social and emotional learning in schools. These educators know that social and emotional skills are teachable and are calling for schools to prioritize integrating SEL learning practices and strategies into the curriculum as well as school culture.

SEL Impact on Lifetime Outcomes

A 2015 national study published in the American Journal of Public Health found statistically significant associations between SEL skills in kindergarten and key outcomes for young adults years later in education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health.

The study concluded that early prosocial skills decreased the likelihood of living in or being on a waiting list for public housing, receiving public assistance, having any involvement with police before adulthood, and ever spending time in a detention facility (Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning).

Many studies have been conducted reporting positive results of character education programs.  Some examples of such research include:

  • A 2000 evaluation by the University of South Carolina’s Center for Child and Family Studies of South Carolina’s 4-year character education initiative found that 91% of administrators reported improvement in student attitudes, 89% reported improvement in student behavior, 60% reported improvement in academic performance, and 65% reported improvement in teacher and staff attitudes.
  • In 3 separate studies spanning almost 20 years, the Developmental Studies Center documented numerous positive outcomes for students who have attended elementary schools that implemented its Child Development Project (CDP).  Research consistently shows that students in CDP schools engage in more pro-social behavior are: more skilled at resolving interpersonal conflicts; more concerned about others; more committed to democratic values; and, able to demonstrate significant reductions in alcohol and marijuana use, and in delinquent behaviors. Preliminary findings from a follow-up study of students in middle school indicate that former CDP students are more “connected” to school, work harder and are more engaged in their classes, and have higher course grades and achievement test scores than non-CDP students. In addition, they engage in less misconduct at school, are more involved in positive youth activities, and report that more of their friends are similarly positively involved in school and their communities.
  • A study by Oregon State University researchers found that Positive Action, a program that teaches social and emotional skills and character development to elementary school children, can improve academic test scores as much as 10% on national standardized math and reading tests. Other key findings include: 21% improvement on state reading tests; 51% improvement on state math tests; 70% fewer suspensions; and 15% less absenteeism.
  • In a report titled, The Relationship of Character Education Implementation and Academic Achievement in Elementary Schools by Benninga, Berkowitz, Kuehn, & Smith in 2003, the authors explored links between character education programs and improvements in academic achievement in elementary schools. Most existing research addresses only the effects of individual programs. Benninga, et al., were able to obtain more general results by comparing scores on a rubric measuring traits of character education programs in more than 600 California schools to a numeric indicator that summarizes the results of various statewide assessments. The team found that schools with the strongest character education scores tended to have higher academic scores by a small but significant margin.