Caring Way unveiled in Downey

The Downey School Board members, City Council members, School Superintendent Dr. Wendy Doty, and Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard.

From Mario A. Guerra, Downey City Councilman:

On March 25, our CHARACTER COUNTS! Citywide Coalition met to honor our fine school district for their Golden Bell Award. We also unveiled our newest street in Downey: Caring Way.

Caring Way and Responsibility Row are now part of our city’s culture and will forever be a part of what we stand for. Our Citywide Coalition involves all aspects of our community. Our school district, city, Aspire, YMCA, youth sports leagues, Police, Fire, churches, and service organizations all work together to teach our youth that character really does matter.

CHARACTER COUNTS! is now a permanent part of our DNA and we are a better community because of it.

Downey renames street near hospital “Caring Way”

From The Downey Patriot:

As part of the city’s efforts to make the “Six Pillars of Character” more visible throughout the community, a stretch of road near the new Kaiser Permanente hospital has been named “Caring Way” … The City Council adopted the Six Pillars of Character in 2006. Created by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, the pillars emphasize trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

Late last year, City of Downey Council members voted to rename the entrance to the parking lot behind City Hall “Responsibility Row.” The goal of these street namings is to reinforce the message to Downey’s students and residents that character counts everywhere, not just in school. Read the story in The Downey Patriot.

Downey accepts the Golden Bell Award, and a surprise bonus award

Superintendent Dr. Wendy Doty and CHARACTER COUNTS! Teacher Trainer Mary Jo Enyeart went to San Francisco last week to receive the Golden Bell Award on behalf of the Downey, California, Unified School District.

Mary Jo Enyeart and Dr. Wendy Doty
CC! Teacher Trainer Mary Jo Enyeart, left, and Downey Superintendent Dr. Wendy Doty.

The California School Boards Association created the Golden Bell Awards to recognize exemplary school programs in 19 categories ranging from English Language Acquisition to Wellness. Since 2006, the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition (which includes the Downey USD, the City of Downey, and over 40 local businesses and community organizations) has focused on teaching students’ the Six Pillars of Character and integrating the CC! message throughout all aspects of life in the city. (Read about the impressive results here.)

Immediately after accepting the award, Doty and Enyeart were surprised to learn the district had also been granted the 2010 Partnership Award for Schools by the Cities, Counties, Schools Partnership. In their selection, the judges cited “the extent of collaboration, the impressive results, the ease of replication, and the quality of the solution to engaging and keeping high-risk youth in schools.”

Read more about Downey and the Golden Bell Award.

Watch a video of the presentation:

Dear CC!: How do you know CC! really works?

Dear CC!

Just how do you know that CC! works? I recently read an article that said there is no noticeable difference in kids who go through character education and those who don’t. Is that true? Can you please explain?


Mr. Skeptical


Dear Mr. Skeptical,

Are you referring to this article?

In an October issue of Education Week, Sarah D. Sparks summarized the findings of a recent study of the effects of seven different character education programs. (CHARACTER COUNTS! was not one of the programs.) During the three-year study conducted by the Institute for Educational Sciences, “68 percent to 72 percent of teachers in the schools using one of the programs reported using a related activity to address a school character education goal, compared to only 20 percent to 36 percent of teachers in the control group schools.”

Therein lies the problem. Most teachers using “a related activity” does not drive the message home that character counts all the time. For character education to work, good character must be modeled and taught to students all day every day, by every member of the school community.

Advocates of character education spoke to Education Week about the IES study. They cautioned that it was a single study, and that no one should take this to mean that character education simply doesn’t work. Linda McKay, a state and federal character education advocate, said, “[I]n order for character education to be effective, it really has to be a schoolwide process, a total school framework based on faculty, students, and parents.”

We agree with Ms. McKay. CHARACTER COUNTS! works because it’s a comprehensive program integrated into every aspect of school life. Good character isn’t something you can teach after your curriculum, when you have time; it has to be taught, enforced, advocated, and modeled by teachers, administrators, staff, and parents at all times.

We know CC! works because schools that adopt the program diligently collect data to measure its effects. Visit the Research Summary page of our website for a summary of the data that supports the efficacy of our programs. Our most recent data came from the award-winning Downey Unified School District in Southern California. The CC! program in Downey has yielded improvement in tests scores and graduation rates as well as a drop in school suspensions and expulsions.

Character education isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

The CC! National Office

Downey earns a Golden Bell


Students at Rio Hondo Elementary playing in front of the Six Pillars
Students at Price Elementary playing in front of the Six Pillars.

Every year the California School Boards Association presents the Golden Bell Awards to outstanding programs in school districts throughout California. The primary purpose of the award is to recognize and support “sustainable, innovative or exemplary programs which have been developed and successfully implemented by California teachers and administrators.”

Downey Unified School District earned a Golden Bell this year for its collaborative citywide program. In 2006 the CC! Coalition (which includes the Downey USD, the City of Downey, and over 40 local businesses and community organizations) set out to improve students’ character by focusing on the Six Pillars of Character and integrating the CC! message throughout all aspects of life in the city.

Under the supervision of District Superintendent Dr. Wendy Doty, Downey’s government, parks, theatres, libraries, local businesses, after-school programs, YMCA, sports leagues, police department, service organizations, and other groups all maintain and encourage the Six Pillars of Character, sending every student in the city a consistent, ubiquitous message.

As Downey Mayor Mario Guerra stated at a National Press Club conference in 2009, “It’s not just signage; it’s living the culture. It’s talking about it every single day.”

The results have been impressive:

  • In the four years after CHARACTER COUNTS! was implemented, annual district API scores rose 5.12%.
  • In the four years after CC! was implemented, the total number of suspension days decreased from 6417 to 3757, a decrease of 41.45%. This decrease in the number of suspensions generated a costs savings of $85,120, allowing resources to be released to provide greater services to students.
  • In the three years prior to CC! implementation, the total number of expulsions fell from 250 to 229, a decrease of 8.4%. This drop intensified in the four years after CHARACTER COUNTS! implementation, as the total number of expulsions fell 64.19% more, from 229 to 82.

The impact of the CC! Coalition extends beyond the schools: In that same National Press Club speech, Mayor Guerra noted, “Crime statistics have been going down since 2006, ever since we started CHARACTER COUNTS! in our city.”

We congratulate Downey on their success, and we hope to see other school districts and cities follow their great example.

Other Downey-related news: City of Downey Council members have voted to rename the entrance to the parking lot behind City Hall “Responsibility Row.” The goal is to reinforce the message to Downey’s students that character counts everywhere, not just in school. Read the story in the Downey Patriot.

Update: The October 21st edition of the Downey Patriot has a story about the Golden Bell Award and the dedication of Responsibility Row.