Evaluation Finds: Schools in Character Development Initiative Experience Higher Test Scores
June 30, 2020 Buffalo, NY: CITRS released a comprehensive report by an external evaluator today regarding the first two years of a pilot character development initiative they completed in 22 of the 58 Buffalo Public Schools (BPS). This project gives teachers, staff, and administrators the tools to incorporate character development into the entire school day. The outcomes showed impressive results in academics in the schools where the program was utilized as compared to non-participating BPS schools. Most notably, external evaluator Multi-Dimensional Education Inc (www.MDedInc.com) discovered that BPS schools participating in the CITRS/Character Counts! Initiative, compared to non-participating BPS schools (control group), experienced statistically significant improvements in reading proficiency (i.e. English Language Arts (ELA) tests scores). In addition, teachers, parents, and students felt the initiative was effective and were highly committed and supportive of the initiative. Also, the parents felt that students’ behaviors were positively impacted, and students felt the initiative helps them be a good person. “We are so pleased with the results of the independent auditor,” said Suzanne Bracci, CITRS Western New York Regional Director. “We knew from the enthusiastic adoption by the school community that the program was effective, but now we have a side-by-side comparison that shows some solid evidence of the positive impact character development has had on the students.” Support of the initiative at schools is high with surveys finding that 97% of staff support the initiative. “The Character Counts Program has a high buy-in from the teaching staff because it provides an umbrella of expectations for people to be their best,” said Jeffrey Banks, Principal at the Lorraine Academy, Buffalo Public School #72. “The six pillars are the gateway to allowing all staff, students and parents to put forth their best and respect differences, learn how to problem solve, resolve conflicts with dignity and persevere through challenging times.” In regard to the impact on reading proficiency, the independent evaluator, MDed Inc stated in their report, “This finding is significant as most interventions do not produce statistical evidence of academic change until years 3 and 4 of programing. While other impacts can be seen within a school immediately following initiative implementation, such an academic impact after only two years is unexpectedly notable and publishable.” As MDed Inc also shared in their report, “Improved ELA proficiency (i.e. which some consider being an indicator or gauge of reading comprehension) is a major predictor of other academic outcomes and the secret to improving test scores across the board. In other words, if a student can improve the level with which they read and comprehend, it makes common sense they also would be able to perform better on lengthy worded math, science and history questions.” Schools concur. “Our ELA scores have gone up as a result of creating a school climate and culture that is predictable and centered on growing people. A happy calmness is the result when students’ emotional and educational needs are being met. Our teachers support this program because they see it work with our students and parents. Our focus is not on the conflict, but on the growth of students. Our students have a clear understanding of the academic and behavioral expectations,” Banks added. “We are very fortunate to have this program in our school. It has been a driving force in getting our students and staff to believe in themselves and each other.” Since January 2017, the CITRS/CC! initiative has been serving 14,000 PreK-12 grade students in 22 Buffalo Public Schools, their families, and the community. The initiative is creating a lasting positive school climate of safety, caring, respect and good citizenship. CITRS provides administrators, teachers, schools, and districts with the most effective tools and approaches they need to successfully integrate comprehensive character development into school environments, including during the COVID epidemic. CITRS utilizes a proactive approach to Social-Emotional Learning and character development through resource materials, lesson plans, coaching and professional development to empower teachers with the tools to promote student self-management, self-care and resiliency, academic improvement and workplace readiness, and to build positive and productive relationships. About Us: CITRS is a nonprofit that stands for Character, Integrity, Trust, Relationships and Success. Its mission is to empower people to achieve success by building a strong foundation of character. CITRS works with educators, organizations and school districts to develop character-centered environments, in which students thrive ethically, socially, and academically. It is headquartered in Bryn Mawr, PA and co-founded by Clay Hamlin and Gene Miller.