Response to Our Survey for Educators

Thank you to the more than 1,000 people who have already submitted our survey on the state of American education today. We especially appreciate the many insightful and interesting comments respondents submitted with the survey, and we wanted to share some of them with you here.

If you haven’t taken the survey yet, there is still time. As you read through these, think about whether you agree or disagree — and then click here to register your opinions and comments.

I work in a very high-achieving, high-stress high school. The students are good at hiding problems to be successful in the classroom.

I work at a school were classroom management takes precedent over classroom teaching. I have written students up and called parents and I see no change in the student’s behaviors. I had some students wrestling and playing in the computer lab and when they did not heed several warnings, I called in an administrator who basically sent them back into to classroom to boast about how they “didn’t even get in no trouble so it doesn’t matter anyway”. Students are not being taught that there are true consequences for their actions.

Top administrators at central office need to come back to reality and get themselves back into the classroom before telling what and where and how to do our jobs with all these aspects of life evolving during instructional time. It is wonderful to upgrade our technology but over the years staff members have abuse the instructional time for personal time which is a disgrace to dedicate educators.

I have seen an increase in Gang activity and students joining gangs at an earlier age. Some are recruited in Elementary School and come to 5th grade recruiting others. Many of the parents seem indifferent. Most students at the school are not interested in studying and seem to know they will be passed on to the next grade regardless of their grades or knowing the common core standards. Teachers are penalized for having English Language Learners and Exceptional Ed students count towards their evaluations because they do not make the progress of the Gen Ed’s on the tests. I also disagree with having everything done on the computer. How are students to use their strategies of underlining and finding deeper meaning. On the math test they cannot see 4 graphs together they have to scroll down to compare each one individually. Teachers have to spend more time making sure they have things up on their walls then actually planning a lesson.

My job satisfaction has always been high. I love working with students and helping them have the “aha” moments. Just today, a student realized they could teach others code and be an entrepreneur – at age 14! I have noticed that students are reporting smoking marijuana more because we talk openly in class. I believe it is because of the 20 or so states that allow medicinal use of marijuana. Some students report that they smoke with their parents (and this is Texas where it is illegal)! Nonetheless, I still love each and every one of my students and treat them all fairly because I consider each one of my students to be PRECIOUS!

Parents do not let their children take responsibility for their mistakes. They blame everyone but their child so the child keeps doing the same self-defeating behaviors.

Parents need to understand that teaching begins at home. It is there that the child learns that they are responsible for their own actions.

In spite of excellent teaching methodology, student achievement remains stagnant at best. Most students stay up too late, unsupervised, and do not take responsibility for learning in the classroom. They do not have a good work ethic, and when they are given a more challenging task, give up too easily. They are not being taught basic social skills such as perseverance by their parents. And speaking of parents, although I send out regular emails and call, I rarely hear from them. Six weeks into the school year, I had a parent pull up in the teacher parking lot yesterday, said her severely handicapped son missed his bus, and asked if she could leave him with me. She didn’t know her son’s teachers’ names. I repeat, she didn’t know the teachers’ names. Oh my gosh. The young man could not communicate, barely walk, and she dumped him in the parking lot. I have been in the business almost 20 years. Too much is being asked of educators, and parents and students need to be held accountable. This profession used to be fun. Now, we are just laughed at by students, parents and the media. I used to encourage students to go into teaching. Not anymore.

Re-assessment is negatively impacting students. Students are less prepared for the real world when they have no real accountability. Our school lets them turn in work late without penalty and allows them to re-do tests. Students need to learn from their mistakes. They don’t have that opportunity in our school because they get chance after chance and are not held responsibility for their poor choices. This actually encourages more poor choices and a decrease in ownership for their own learning. I’m sick of the changes I’ve seen in education recently. I don’t want to quit because I love what I do, but my profession is quitting me.

I think students have not changed that much, overall. I do feel that in an effort to do more for students, we are preventing their development in self-reliance and problem-solving. They are becoming less responsible for their own learning and their own grades as schools (teachers) feel pressure to do more for students. Secondly, I feel that so many administrators are so young which in some cases is alright, but often times have precious little experience in the classroom

Those making decisions for education are not considering the whole child, but only how they score on standardized assessments. Children are experiencing less parental involvement, and more pressure than ever to perform on assessments. They are not being taught personal responsibility and work ethic in many cases, which shows in their school performance.

The biggest concern I have with students is the over-involvement of their parents. Many parents do not hold their students accountable, nor do they allow the schools to hold them accountable for their actions. It seems more and more common that parents are searching for loopholes to justify their child’s actions. We are becoming a very irresponsible country and until people start taking responsibility for their actions, it’s going to get worse.

Because of the focus of schools to “teach to the test,” there isn’t any time to teach in a creative way that allows students to explore and learn individual moral character and/or independent thinking skills. They know how to take a test, but they can’t solve simple problems or develop social skills and character.

Students are not given the opportunity to make choices. They are unable to reason and make adequate decisions. They are not taught to problem solve.

Students aren’t being educated on media literacy, life skills , and/or ethical standards. Parents expect schools to do it and schools expect parents to do it. Meanwhile students are stuck in the middle with no one giving them proper moral, ethical or practical guidance.

The demands on teachers have gotten much worse, while our pay and other compensation has gone down. Every year for the last six or seven years, we have been asked to do much more with much less. For example, our budget continually gets cut, but we are expected to be doing many different things with students, particularly with technology, that we don’t have the resources for. In addition, student behavior and responsibility for education has stayed about the same, while we keep increasing the stakes and making it harder to graduate. Therefore, the people who make decisions in education (not the ones who know anything about being in the classroom, but those who make decisions for us) are making our jobs much more difficult without giving us proper support.

I’ve been in education for 42 years. Contrary to popular and widely held beliefs, this generation of students is wonderful. They’re better educated – Thank you, teachers! – and they’re engaged in the big issues of society. I’m very optimistic about today’s school kids.

Part of our mission is to teach the whole child. We incorporate social-emotional, ethics and leadership courses within the school day. We also incorporate restorative justice practices which helps to put a cessation to violent action and thought.

I am proud to teach at a school where the staff, including non-instructional staff works whole-heartedly and cohesively to make this one of the best schools in state. The teachers work together instead of against each other. We pool and share resources to ensure our instruction is top quality. Positive results come from positive reinforcement and high expectations. However, the trend I see as an educator is higher and higher expectations for the students, teachers, and parents. I believe in higher expectations, but when do the expectations exceed our limits or cause some to give up? Many teachers are forced to jam pack every second of time with intense instruction and send students home with practice they aren’t ready for because we have so much material to cover. I teach at an A school with wonderful test scores. I am proud of our achievements, but it seems like these children and parents are getting more and more burned out every year. We have a problem when the demands are so high kids are stressed out and crying over so much work. My second grade nephew has nightmares about finishing his classwork and he is an excellent student. Teachers work tons of overtime to adjust to the constant changes in our public school systems. Everyone is being stretched and I am happy for the stretching, but Common Core may end up stretching some until they break.

In my opinion our school district remains staunchly against addressing the need to teach the fundamental skills of ethics, character development, and social emotional learning choosing to continue to focus on implementing more academic programs without considering the need to lay the foundation necessary for successful academic outcomes. If we teach students the skills to be good people they will become educated people.

With all of the additional testing, RTI requirements, and extreme emphasis on strictly academics, teachers have no time to explore other areas of social/emotional development or critical thinking skills.

Since our school adopted the Character Counts program 4+ years ago I have seen great strides in students taking responsibility for their own behavior.

Teachers should be compensated more for the many roles they play as teachers…. State decision makers and schools boards are not responsive to the expectation that we need to attract and maintain quality teachers by paying them like professionals.

The state of special education, in particular, is upsetting. Administrators are more concerned with staying out of court than providing the services that the student truly needs. Teachers are urged to provide ridiculous accommodations that make student effort unnecessary, instead of encouraging teachers to use their best judgment in asking students to struggle, grow, and become independent.

I feel there are two core issues which are creating a downward spiral in our education system. 1. Too many parents who don’t teach their kids to take responsibility for their actions/teach their children how to be a productive part in society AND too many teachers skating by on tenure. We have some GREAT teachers, but we also have some really bad ones. As the teaching population ages, many become cynical and unmotivated…it’s a bad mix for selfish spoiled children. 


Take the survey on the state of American education.


Take Our Survey on the State of Education in America

[UPDATE, 10/20/13: See the early findings of the educators’ survey in this post by CC! president Michael Josephson.]
[UPDATE, 9/18/13: We now have a separate survey on education just for parents.]

The Josephson Institute has launched a comprehensive survey for educators (administrators, teachers and school staff) and parents of children in school. The survey covers Common Core, standardized testing, 21st Century skills, parent engagement and teacher morale, and is designed to give educators a clearer and more powerful voice in setting educational policy.

“We hope to have at least 15,000 responses in time to release results during CHARACTER COUNTS! Week 2013 (the third week in October). If you are an educator or parent of children in school please take a few minutes to fill out the online survey. Even if you are not, we hope you will forward the link ( or post it on your Facebook page or otherwise encourage educators and parents to participate.

Take the educators’ survey here.


Take the parents’ survey here.


The responses will be included in a 2013 report by the nonprofit Josephson Institute on the state of education in America. The more responses we receive, the louder the voice of educators will become.

“National research surveys are one of Josephson Institute’s strengths. Since 1992, we have conducted a national biennial survey of high school students. Called the Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, it has yielded the most comprehensive data available on the values, attitudes and behavior of high school students in the United States.”

Please share your feedback on the survey by posting a comment below.

What would Honest Abe Lincoln say?

SurveyWhat would Honest Abe Lincoln say about the values of today’s American youth? In our survey of more than 40,000 high school students, the gap between what students believe and their actions does not bode well for future generations.

This report comes on the heels of our report issued in October of 2010 on bullying in American high schools.

Survey highlights: while 89 percent of students believe that being a good person is more important than being rich, almost one in three boys and one in four girls admitted stealing from a store within the past year.  Moreover, 21 percent admitted they stole something from a parent or other relative, and 18 percent admitted stealing from a friend.

On lying, more than two in five said they sometimes lie to save money (48 percent of males and 35 percent of females). While 92 percent of students believe their parents want them to do the right thing, more than eight in ten confessed they lied to a parent about something significant.

Rampant cheating in school continues. A majority of students (59 percent) admitted cheating on a test during the last year, with 34 percent doing it more than two times. One in three admitted they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment.

“As bad as these numbers are, they appear to be understated,” said Michael Josephson, president of the Institute. “More than one in four students confessed they lied on at least one or two survey questions, which is typically an attempt to conceal misconduct.”

Josephson said the results of this survey, conducted in 2010, are slightly better than those of the 2008 survey. “We show some improvement in ethical behavior, but the baseline of values remains alarmingly low compared to what they believe,” he said, adding that a whopping 92 percent of students were satisfied with their personal ethics and character.

What would Lincoln say to our youth? A great believer in human potential, he might patiently remind them, “You have to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.”

* See the complete data tables

* Get a pdf of the press release

* Take our Integrity Survey

* Read about the Report Card on Bullying and Violence

* Surveys were conducted in 2009 and 2010 with a national sample of public and private high schools. For the general questions (over 40,000 responses), the accuracy is well within +/- 0.005 or 0.5%; for breakdowns of 20,000 the accuracy is +/- 0.69%, and for 10,000 the accuracy is +/- 0.98%; and even when there are just 1,000 responses, the accuracy is +/- 3.1%. Almost all standard errors of differences are much less than 1% for even small samples.

PISA Survey ties educational outcomes to future economic growth

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development recently conducted a Programme for International Student Assessment survey of reading literacy among 15-year-olds. From the results, the OECD concluded that greater wealth doesn’t necessarily make for better education levels. Similarly prosperous countries can diverge widely in terms of education level, but, according to Secretary-General Angel Gurría, “Better educational outcomes are a strong predictor for future economic growth.”

We can’t do much about our current economic situation, but how can schools achieve better outcomes and ensure future economic prosperity?

PISA’s conclusions reinforce our own findings that learning environment is crucial for student achievement. (Click here to read Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United States.)

On teacher-student relations: “Positive teacher-student relations can help to establish an environment that is conducive to learning. Research finds that students, particularly disadvantaged students, tend to learn more and have fewer disciplinary problems when they feel that their teachers take them seriously. One explanation is that positive teacher-student relations help foster social relationships, create communal learning environments and promote and strengthen adherence to norms conducive to learning.”

On school climate: “Classrooms and schools with more disciplinary problems are less conducive to learning, since teachers have to spend more time creating an orderly environment before instruction can begin. More interruptions within the classroom disrupt students’ engagement and their ability to follow the lessons.”

Korea and Finland topped the list in the study,which polled over 500,000 students in 70 economies. The United States didn’t make it into the top ten, though we did make some gains in reading.

Because CHARACTER COUNTS! does so much to improve school climate, we believe it is a crucial component in our continuing to improve educational outcomes. In addition to improving test scores and graduation rates, CC! has a proven track record of reducing suspensions and expulsions and increasing satisfaction of students, parents, and teachers. Improving all of these will help create an environment where students can learn.

Sign up for our new 3-day Character Development Seminar, which will provide participants with strategies to instill character values and create physically and emotionally safe environments.

Watch a short video about the survey, how it was done, and what it means, narrated by Andreas Schleicher, Head of Indicators and Analysis Division at OECD:


Study shows high school experience is more gloom than glee

Girls bullying another girl

In our recent survey (the largest ever undertaken of the attitudes and conduct of high school students), half of all high school students (50 percent) admit they bullied someone in the past year, and nearly half (47 percent) say they were bullied, teased, or taunted in a way that seriously upset them in the past year. The study reports the responses from 43,321 high school students. The margin of error is less than one percent.

“If the saying, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never harm me’ was ever true, it certainly is not so today,” said Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Josephson Institute. “Insults, name calling, relentless teasing, and malicious gossip often inflict deep and enduring pain,” he added.

“It’s not only the prevalence of bullying behavior and victimization that’s troublesome. The Internet has intensified the injury. What’s posted on the Internet is permanent, and it spreads like a virus – there is no refuge. The difference between the impact of bullying today versus 20 years ago is the difference between getting into a fist fight and using a gun.”

The study also found that one-third (33 percent) of all high school students say that violence is a big problem at their school, and one in four (24 percent) say they do not feel very safe at school. More than half (52 percent) admit that within the past year they hit a person because they were angry. Ten percent of students say they took a weapon to school at least once in the past 12 months, and 16 percent admit that they have been intoxicated at school.

“The combination of bullying, a penchant toward violence when one is angry, the availability of weapons, and the possibility of intoxication at school increases significantly the likelihood of retaliatory violence,” Josephson said.


What you can do:

Parents: Take our three online surveys to determine whether your child is being bullied, whether your child is a bully, and whether you’re doing all you can to prevent bullying.

Teachers: Book an anti-bullying workshop. Our one-day in-service workshop will teach you how to intervene, combat cyber-bullying, and promote a positive school climate. Learn more>>


Click on the links below to see the press generated by the Ethics of American Youth: 2010 survey. Click here for a more comprehensive list.

USA Today: “Bullying Survey: Most teens have hit someone out of anger”

Chicago Sun-Times: “Half of high schoolers admit bullying someone” Study: Half of high school students admit to bullying

NPR: Study: Half of Teens Admit Bullying in Last Year A Glimmer of Hope in Bad-News Survey About Bullying

Los Angeles Times Blog: Survey shows technology worsening teen bullying

San Francisco Chronicle: Study: Half of teens admit bullying in last year

Washington Post: The Answer Sheet: Are we raising a generation of bullies? “Half Of Teens Report Being Bullied In New Study”

The Canadian Press: National study: Half of high schoolers admit bullying in last year

Education Week: Half of U.S. Teens Admit Bullying in Last Year

The New York Times, Opinion by Charles M. Blow: Private School Civility Gap 

Count on 2 News, WCBD TV, Charleston, SC: “Feds tackle school bullying” (Video:)

Today Show: Bullying: Just a part of growing up? (Video:)

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams: DOE Bears Down on Bullying (Video:)