At The Brentwood School’s lower school, serving kindergarten through sixth grade, character development, diversity and caring are central to school life and its backbone is “a meaningful and nurturing relationship between faculty and students,” says Lower School Counselor and Character Education Coordinator Laura Taylor. “No student slips through the cracks. Children feel safe and that’s when they thrive.”
It’s no surprise, then, that the school is being honored this October as a National School of Character (NSOC) by Character.org. It is the only independent school and the only school in California to receive the honor in 2016.
The school, which emphasizes self-awareness, empathy and a strong moral compass, is one of 68 educational institutions and four districts being recognized. Character.org (formerly the Character Education Partnership) is a Washington DC-based nonprofit dedicated to providing leadership and advocacy for character in schools, families, communities and workplaces throughout the world, and to helping develop a culture where young people thrive academically and ethically. As President and CEO Becky Sipos puts it, “The country is hungry for character right now!”
Character.org has awarded The National School of Character designation since 1998, and schools complete a rigorous application process, often taking several years to fully implement aspects of the organization’s “11 Principles of Effective Character Education,” which provide the basis for the recognition. These include promoting ethical values, creating a caring community and providing students with opportunities for moral action. The honor was initiated, says Sipos, because “school climate and culture are as impactful on a student as test scores. When you get the school culture right, grades go up too.”
In addition to being honored this year, The Brentwood School was a State School of Character in 2009 and an NSOC in 2009. “I was filled with excitement, relief, and pride for the faculty and administration when I learned [the news],” says Taylor, who led this year’s campaign and application process. “Character.org has been an incredible source of inspiration. As a recognized standard of excellence in the field of character education, their commendation and feedback affirms our efforts and will guide our continued growth.”