Schools of Character

Lori Soifer

Director of
Schools of Character

My character journey began on April 21, 1999, the day after Columbine. My own children were 9 and 12, and I was upset, sad, and scared. I simply could not understand how something like this could happen. With three other moms, I started a Campaign for Safe Homes in my school district. Soon after, I was asked to join the district's strategic planning committee, and in 2000, fostering a culture of character became a district goal. I had found my “voice” and was elected to my school board in 2005. During my 9 years as a Board of Education trustee, most of the schools in my district received their National Schools of Character certification. Shortly after I left the Board of Education, our school district was recognized as a National School District of Character. As a passionate advocate, I encourage you to learn more about the process to become a School of Character.


We recently certified
84 schools and 7 school districts as
our 2020 Schools of Character

We also certified one international school from the nation of Colombia. Each of these schools and districts
has put into place a comprehensive approach that inspires their students to understand, care about and consistently practice a set of core values that will enable them to flourish in school,
in relationships, in the workplace, and as citizens.

These schools underwent a rigorous evaluation process to achieve their certification, documenting how they have implemented the standards articulated in's 11 Principles Framework for Schools. Based on decades of research on effective schools, the 11 Principles Framework serves as a guide for schools to plan, implement, assess, and sustain their comprehensive character development initiative.

2020 national schools of character press release

Read about what makes a School of Character

Learn how the 2020 Schools of Character got here

All schools and districts who have been certified as a
2020 School of Character are recognized during's National Forum in Washington, D.C.

Our school was passionate about developing the collective character of our school community but unsure how to tie it all together in a cohesive manner. Once we learned about the 11 Principles Framework our efforts took off!
- Joe Duda, Middle School Principal

Benefits of becoming a
School of Character

More than 3 million educators, students, parents and community members across the country and internationally have been positively impacted by being involved with a School of Character. Over the years, school and community stakeholders have shared with us 3 significant benefits:

A palpable "ethic of caring" defines the school culture
Staff members use the word "family" to describe the culture of their school. Students perceive their teachers and staff as caring. Discipline reflects the positive relationships between the adults and students involved. Among staff, what begins as respectful relationships become caring attachments
between all members of the
school community.

A set of shared core values guides every aspect of the school
At the heart of each National School of Character is a set of shared "core values" that express and articulate what the school stands for. For example, at Woodbridge Elementary, the school staff strives every day to model the "Be the WE" creed that includes the character strengths of respect, kindness, acceptance, and service. Woodbridge teachers, staff, and parents describe their creed as the "beating heart" of the school.

The core values guide behaviors in the school, home, and community
Schools of Character foster in their students a commitment to be honest and trustworthy, to volunteer their time and talents to the common good, and when necessary, to show the courage to stand up for what is right. Teachers use service-learning to help students address "real world" issues. Schools of Character also offer students opportunities to take on leadership responsibilities related
to restorative practice, bully
resistance, academic integrity,
and sportsmanship.