(The standards were developed by the Character Collaborative and its membership.)
Colleges and schools that meet standards will do the following:
Implementation of Character Criteria
Work to achieve a consensus at all levels of the institution that attributes of character and ethical conduct are central to the mission and life of the institution.
- Acknowledge resistance to change and build support
- Campus leaders must lead conversation, direct initiatives
- Arguments for centrality of character:
- Keep the faith with founding principles
- Character attributes are strong predictor of success
- Individuals of character foster a healthy campus culture
Communicate publicly that character attributes will be considered in evaluating candidates for admission, including information about (a) the general methodology for making admission decisions and (b) how character criteria will be included.
- To address skepticism about including “soft skills” in admission, demonstrate science behind assessment of character
- Counter cynicism about how admission works, what it takes to get in, and who gets financial aid.
- Ones at greatest disadvantage are families who don’t have access to information about how the system works or the money to “work the system.”
Implement practices that make it clear to campus stakeholders and external audiences that an aim of using character criteria in admission is to open doors to promising students who may otherwise be excluded.
Important Assumptions Pertaining to Access
- Character is malleable, so all students have potential to become individuals with attributes of character
- Character strengths are not the domain of a particular social environment, social-economic status or ethnicity.
- Promising students may lack a preferred application profile because they live in family, neighborhood or school environments that deter sustained academic progress and a strong transcript.
- These students may exhibit attributes of character, combined with academic “potential,” that predict success in school and beyond.
- Adding character to the decision equation opens doors of access.
Identify the character attributes that are most important to the school and for consideration in admission by reviewing (a) institutional documents, such as mission and vision statements, and (b) promising developments nationally for incorporating character criteria in admission.
- “Keep the faith” with institutional philosophy and beliefs
- Literature includes numerous lists/rubrics of non-cognitive, social-emotional, ethical, character-based attributes (e.g., Duckworth’s Grit Scale; Character Skills Snapshot)
- Search research that links specific character attributes to specific outcomes.
Identify and develop valid and reliable ways to assess selected attributes by drawing on research literature and experts in testing and evaluation.
- Because who gets in is a “high stakes” decision (affects future of youth) and “no measure of student competence is perfectly valid (Duckworth et all), institutions have obligation to study the science of assessment.
- Must study and define validity of alternative methods for assessing targeted character attributes, such as: (a) instruments (e.g., Character Skills Snapshot; Grit Scale), (b research-based rubrics and (c) essays, interviews, recommendations, application.
Rate character attributes and candidates in a logical, valid and consistent way and integrate the results of the assessment in the overall decision matrix in an explicit way.
- To outsiders, the “black box” is how decisions are made, so developing and communicating the general decision process for including character criteria is crucial to credibility.
- Seek explicit scoring of questionnaire results, coding of responses, rating scales, narrative summary
- Admissions office must
- (a) carefully define character attributes
- (b) develop a methodology for assessing character attributes that meets validity standards
- (c) record and report results
- (d) rate and compare candidates
- Arrange regular professional development for the admission team
Implement ongoing institutional research that addresses the validity of the character assessments and their predictive power on outcomes of importance to the institution.
- Connecting character assessment results to important institutional aims is “consequential validity.”
- Employ a campus or outside expert in research design and implementation.
- Report regularly to the board, administrative team and faculty on the successes, challenges, evolution and outcomes of incorporating character criteria in the admission process.
- As institutional leaders, assure school audiences that you are being fair to all applicants and demonstrating best practice in the way you assess students.