Smart and Good Schools

Thomas Lickona, Ph.D. & Matthew Davidson, Ph.D.

Smart & Good High Schools is a national study of American high schools—including site visits to 24 diverse schools, hundreds of interviews, a comprehensive research review, and the input of a National Experts Panel and a National Student Leaders Panel. The report offers a vision of educational excellence designed to foster human flourishing over a lifetime. From our research we draw two major conclusions:

  1. There is national consensus regarding the need for character— doing our best work, doing the right thing, living a life of purpose.
  • Cultural indicators from every sector of American life—political and military, business and education, sports and entertainment, families and communities—demonstrate the need to develop citizens of all ages who lead ethical and purposeful lives and contribute to a productive, just, and caring society.
  • There has been a growing response— evidenced by public discourse about character, employers’ emphasis on character in the workplace, attention to character in educational research and social science, and a resurgence of character education in our schools and communities—to meet this need for character.
  • To date, high schools have not responded adequately to these character challenges; one reason is that character education has not previously conceptualized character to include both excellence and ethics—performance character and moral character.
  1. Smart & Good High Schools educate for character—both performance character and moral character. Smart & Good High Schools:
    • believe that both performance character and moral character—excellence and ethics—are essential for leading a productive, ethical, and fulfilling life.
    • utilize all things in the life of the school—curriculum, discipline, co-curricular activities, rituals, and traditions—as opportunities to develop performance character and moral character.
    • create an ethical learning community where faculty and staff, students, parents, and the wider community support and challenge each other in their quest for excellence and ethics.
    • create a professional ethical learning community where faculty, staff, and administrators are committed to continuous self-development and ongoing improvement of the practices used to develop performance character and moral character.
    • establish the necessary preconditions—such as strong leadership, optimal school size, time for planning and reflection, supportive scheduling, manageable teaching loads, a safe and orderly environment, trusting and respectful relationships, and adequate budgetary resources—that make it possible to implement the Smart & Good High Schools vision.

Read the full executive summary.