Santa Clara University

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About Character Education

The Character Based Literacy Program of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University is a literacy project in character education. As such, its first objective is to promote school practices that encourage students to become better people and citizens by positively influencing the values, thought processes, and coping skills of students in order to encourage pro-social rather than antisocial behavior. CBL, or Character Based Literacy, utilizes the English language arts curriculum to accomplish this goal because literacy is fundamental to success in school and in life for all students. It is also a natural place to pursue questions of value and character as they occur in literature, language expression, and the writing and creative processes. 

Character Education

CBL is a project that serves students who have had marginal success in school. For this reason, the program began in the court-community schools operated by the county offices of education. These schools are a safety net for students who are incarcerated, in foster or institutional care, homeless, hospitalized, or in special community schools for expelled, delinquent, and out of control youth. CBL began as the vision of teachers and administrators who believe that student character, literacy, and school success can be markedly improved in these schools. The program also meets state standards, uses acceptable instructional materials, and results in sufficient student progress to merit grade level credit.  

Character Education

CBL is a subscription, web-based middle and high school program using selections from California’s Recommended Readings in Literature. It is organized in value themed units and is designed to engage students’ imaginations, connect them to characters they care about, and provides opportunities to discuss the context of the literature. CBL daily lessons are based on the PRREE sequence: Prepare, Read, Respond, Explore, Extend. Daily lessons pay attention to particular values in the readings and teach rational ways of thinking about problems and conflicts in the story. They also teach skills for coping with situations such as those faced by the characters in the day’s reading.  

Extensive support is provided to teachers through initial training in the program methods, consultations with CBL staff, and through a wealth of program materials including daily lesson plans in English language arts. Web lesson plans for U.S. and world history, biology, earth sciences and human sciences are a free resource provided by the Character Based Literacy Program. 

Character Education

Major funding for the development of the Character Based Literacy program has come from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation and from the Markkula Family Foundation through generous and repeated multi-year grants. Additional funding for expansion in southern California has been provided by the Daniels Fund and the Von Der Ahe Foundation. Resources have also been provided by Verity Corporation, Adaptec Corporation, Affymetrix Corporation, Symantek Corporation and Xilinx, Inc. Thane Kreiner and Cheryl Breetmor. Continued funding has also been provided by CBL subscribers of County Offices of Education and numerous school districts.