Schools of Character

2020 Guide

The journey to becoming a recognized School of Character is exhilarating, audacious, and meaningful for both students and staff involved. It’s challenging, but the outcomes make it worth it. Take a moment to go over the 2020 Guide and make sure you have everything you need to prepare yourself for the application process. More resources can be found on the Schools of Character page.

Getting Started

Build your team. Prior to completing your application online, you’ll want to assemble a team that will collect and reflect on the information. This will help you put together an excellent application and give you a snapshot of where you are on your character journey and where you want to go.

Plan out your artifacts. For each of the 11 Principles, we ask you to provide evidence of your implementation through artifacts, which must be PDF or Microsoft Word documents. You’ll have an opportunity to include links to web pages or videos in the “Additional Evidence” section.

Conduct your self-assessments early. Self-assessments are sent and managed through the website. Make sure you leave your responders enough time to complete the assessment before your submission.

Remember the character limits are set as a maximum. You do not have to use all of the characters to provide the information necessary. Also, note that spaces do count as characters in our system.

Compile your data early on and provide as many years as you can. In the data portion, you must provide at least 1 year of data for test scores, behavioral statistics and school climate surveys. For the other years, you may use “n/a” to fill required fields if you don’t have additional data.

Information to Provide

  • A narrative of your character story: your history and areas of improvement.
  • Your school’s implementation of the 11 Principles of Effective Character Education.
  • Visual evidence (aka artifacts) of your character initiatives.
  • Academic, behavioral and climate data.
  • Testimonials of stakeholders.

The application opens during the summer before the designation year. The 2020 Schools of Character cycle opens summer 2019. The application then closes on December 6, 2019. In order to complete the application, you must submit a fee of $250 for the state level review. If your school must use a purchase order, we recommend beginning that process early, so that you may pay for the application with a check. You may also use a credit card. If you use a purchase order, there will be a $25 fee for processing.

State Schools of Character are announced the last week of January 2020. State reviewers will examine the application, but in most cases, won’t provide a site visit. Once a school has been designated as a State School of Character which lasts 5 years, the school will be invited to apply for a National School of Character using the same application provided. In order to submit the application for national review, a fee of $250 must be provided. Again, we accept purchase orders, but you must pay an additional $25 processing fee. We will assign a national evaluator to visit your school/district either virtually or physically.

National Schools of Character will be announced mid-May 2020.


Here’s what you need to know about the application process:

  • Schools applying for the first time or who have previously received Emerging or Honorable Mention designations will be reviewed for State Schools of Character.
  • Schools with a National Schools of Character designation from 2015 or earlier will also be reviewed for State Schools of Character before a National review can occur.
  • All Schools of Character applications, along with the $250 fee, are due by December 6, 2019. Applications will be reviewed at the state level, and State Schools of Character will be announced in late January 2020.
  • If you are a current State School of Character applying for National designation, your application is also due December 6, 2019, along with the $250 fee. Your application will only be reviewed at the National level.
  • If you are designated as a 2020 State School of Character, you will have the opportunity to apply for National School of Character if you choose. You will have your state feedback to help you make this decision. If you choose to go forward, your application and your state feedback will be sent on for your school to be considered as a National School of Character. No edits may be made to the application between the State and National evaluation cycles.
  • Schools of Character outside of the United States will submit the application in English with a $500 fee. The school will decide if they want a virtual or physical site visit. If the school opts for a physical site visit, the school will cover travel expenses for the evaluator. For countries outside of Mexico, there will be a deep look at the cultural relevance of the 11 Principles before any designation is assigned.
  • National evaluators will review the application and conduct a site visit. National Schools of Character will be announced in May 2020.
  • Re-certifying schools: All current National Schools and Districts of Character (designated in 2015 or earlier) will now go through the same process as newly applying schools. They will be re-certified as State and then National School of Character. These applicants will all receive a site visit if they are named as a State School of Character.

Submitting Application
As you fill out the application, your progress will be saved automatically. For all file uploads, you may drag and drop a file or click “upload” to find your file. Once you have completed your application, it is not final until you hit Submit Application. Once you have submitted your application, you will no longer be able to edit it.

At the very end of the application, be prepared to pay a $250 mock audit (no designation), $250 application fee either by credit card or purchase order number. Evaluators will review your application using the 11 Principles of Effective Character as a scoring rubric. Every school or district that applies will receive feedback from these evaluators.

Mock Audits will be reviewed on a rolling basis and applicants should expect feedback within 6-8 weeks.
Through the accreditation process, schools that are named State Schools of Character will be notified by the end of January 2020. State Schools of Character applications will be invited to participate in national review by renowned experts in the field of character development. Those schools who elect to participate in national review will be required to submit an additional $250. National and Mexico Schools of Character will be notified by mid-May 2020.


Early August

Schools of Character application open.

December 6, 2019

Application closes at 11:59 p.m. EST

December 2019 — January 2020

State level reviews of applications.

Late January

State Schools of Character announced.

February — April 2020

National review.

May 2020

National Schools of Character announced.

June 2020 — May 2021

Recognition and outreach. All applicants receive feedback on their applications by the end of June. National Schools of Character receive recognition at’s National Forum in Washington, DC in October 2020. The Schools of Character Summit at the National Forum will include information on outreach and mentoring opportunities.

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