ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Integrating Common Core and Character Education: Why It Is Essential and How It Can Be Done

With more states adopting the Common Core State Standards, it can be overwhelming for U.S. schools and teachers to consider "adding" anything else. But character education isn't about adding, it's about integrating with all that you already do. In a new position paper from whole child partner Character Education Partnership, authors Kristin Fink and Karen Geller make the case that the Common Core State Standards are good for education, but Common Core integrated with character education is even better.

Download the paper to discover

  • Details on integrating character education and the Common Core;
  • Three ways to strengthen Common Core; and
  • Powerful strategies and best practices for your school to integrate.

Following is an excerpt from the paper:

So What Can All Stakeholders Do to Replicate Promising Practices that Integrate Common Core and Character Education?

Three Things School Leaders Can Do To Get Started:

  1. Have high expectations and provide support to teachers to make the paradigm shifts necessary for Common Core implementation through quality professional development and planning time.
  2. Provide time at every faculty meeting for teachers to discuss Common Core issues, present model lessons, and plan for a climate and culture of respect, responsibility, and excellence that supports student learning.
  3. Provide time for teachers to comb through data and make instructional decisions together based on their findings. Explore school climate measurement tools and improvement models that shape an effective improvement process.

Three Things Elementary Teachers Can Do:

  1. Form grade-level and cross-grade level study groups to learn about the Common Core together, and to do grade-level and schoolwide planning.
  2. Collaborate to plan a wide range of ways to integrate daily reading and writing across the curriculum and to gather engaging, high-quality informational text sets to support basal selections.
  3. Intentionally plan for and create caring learning environments for students by, for example, pairing 6th graders with 1st graders as buddy partners who walk to school assemblies together, read together, and do service projects together.

Three Things Secondary Teachers Can Do:

  1. Form departmental and cross-departmental study groups to learn about the Common Core together, and to gather engaging informational text sets of varying complexity to support literary selections and interdisciplinary teaching.
  2. Develop departmental and schoolwide plans for making the paradigm shifts necessary to implement the Common Core that include daily reading, writing, and speaking in every subject in a caring and supportive schoolwide learning environment.
  3. Have students read and discuss a wide range of engaging, complex informational and literary texts that illustrate people who have achieved and contributed to the work and prosperity of the world across various fields.

Three Things School Board Members Can Do:

  1. Provide leadership to schools and districts and have high expectations for quality implementation of the Common Core, including intentional planning for the supportive school climate needed for every student to succeed. Emphasize school climate measurement tools and improvement models that shape an effective improvement process.
  2. Plan for and provide meaningful support and resources to schools and districts to make the profound paradigm shifts in the Common Core and to address the new performance assessments.
  3. Provide ongoing quality professional development opportunities for teachers, including resource banks, to learn more about the Common Core and to gain expertise in implementation and performance assessment.

Three Things Parents Can Do:

  1. Partner with their child's school to learn more about the Common Core and how to support their student to be successful.
  2. Provide a variety of reading materials for their child that include both literary and informational text, (i.e., stories, nonfiction books, articles, etc.).
  3. Work with the school to encourage it to teach the same character lessons that are taught at home, such as respect, responsibility, and effort.

Three Things University Teacher Education Programs Can Do:

  1. Make the Common Core part of all teacher education planning and embed a Common Core focus in every teacher education course.
  2. Include teaching on how to plan for and create optimal learning environments that help all young people develop academically, social-emotionally, and ethically in all classroom management, methods, special education, and English as a second language (ESL) courses.
  3. Develop a resource bank of articles, assessments, and research on the Common Core, character education, school climate, and social-emotional learning that supports optimal student development and success.

Schools should be places where students become college, career, and civic ready. They should also be places where students develop, achieve, and flourish physically, intellectually, academically, civically, aesthetically, socially, emotionally, ethically, and spiritually.

The Common Core takes a major step toward helping schools become such places by widening and sharpening our vision of what it means to be an educated person in the 21st century. To achieve the Common Core's full potential will require integrating Common Core standards with educating for character. If Common Core is taught in a context of core values and quality character education, it can inspire hearts and minds, transform human relationships, promote both excellence and ethics, and move the work of the world forward.

To achieve a full and effective integration of Common Core and character education is no easy task. But as we have tried to demonstrate in this white paper, it is a job that can be done. And it is one we surely must do if we wish to prepare our students for a very different world than has existed in the past, and to enable all students to make a positive difference in that world and a happy and flourishing life for themselves.

For more information, visit the Character Education Partnership website.

Kristin FinkKristin Fink, a former junior high and high school English teacher and a secondary language arts district specialist, is currently a faculty member at Utah State University where she teaches and coordinates the Alternative Route to Licensure program for teachers. She is the former executive director of Community of Caring in Washington, D.C., where she worked for Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. Fink was the first person in the nation to serve as a full-time character education specialist in a state department of education. She also coordinated the annual Dialogue on Democracy activities as the executive director of the Utah Coalition for Civic, Character, and Service Learning. She has served as an officer on the board of directors for the Character Education Partnership and is currently on its Education Advisory Council. Connect with Fink by e-mail at

Karen GellerKaren Geller is an associate professor at Immaculata University and principal of Upper Merion Area Middle School in King of Prussia, Penn. Geller is a leader in character education and has utilized her strong curricular and administrative skills to inspire and motivate her staff and to integrate character education values throughout the school environment and across the curriculum. Her school is a 2010 National School of Character as well as a 2011 Johns Hopkins National Network of Partnership Schools. She is currently on the Education Advisory Council for the Character Education Partnership and is a site visitor for the National Schools of Character Program. Connect with Geller by e-mail at

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