Certification Process

Become a School of Character!

For schools in the United States, there are
two levels of certification: State and National.
Both reviews take place annually.

State Review

The state review takes place in December and January. State review teams evaluate applications based on the standards found in the 11 Principles Framework. Schools receive a score-sheet with comments citing strengths, areas of growth, and potential Promising Practices. Character.org announces the schools and districts that have met the criteria for state certification at the end of January. State certification is valid for five years.

Schools and districts that achieve state certification are invited to participate in the national review that same year using the same application. 

Schools that receive state certification may choose to wait before applying for national certification. This option provides schools time to address feedback received from the state review team that will help strengthen their application. Schools that receive state certification have five years in which they may apply for national certification. Schools may use the same application but are encouraged to submit a new application if they have made significant changes to their initiative or if applying in years 3, 4, or 5 of their state certification period. When submitted, the application will only be reviewed at the national level.

National Review
The national review, based on the information highlighted in the state application, takes place in February, March, and April. Character.org assigns a national evaluator to visit each school or district. All national applicants receive a score-sheet and a detailed report citing strengths and areas of growth. Character.org announces the schools and districts that have met the criteria for national certification in May.

International Review
Schools outside the United States submit their application in English and follow the same review process but use the name of the city where the school is located for certification if they meet the criteria of the first level of review, and the name of their country if they meet the criteria of the second level review. Schools invited to participate in the second level of review will receive a virtual or in-person site visit. The type of site visit will be determined by current conditions and other factors.

National Schools and Districts of Character applying for recertification submit a complete application in the year they are to be recertified. They are recertified first at the State level and then at the National level.

National Forum
All National Schools and School Districts of Character are formally recognized and celebrated at Character.org’s annual Forum in Washington D.C. One of the largest character development conferences in the world, the Forum brings together teachers, school leaders, and experts in the field eager to share and learn the latest approaches, practices, and research in character development. Check out the line-up from our most recent Forum.

Presenting at the Forum about my service work in Zambia with educators from
all over the country was transformative. All of a sudden I realized I was inspiring people. The entire experience, being in Zambia and at the Forum, changed the
way I viewed “school.” - Jacob (currently a college student)