Term of Award

Spring 2002

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Committee Chair

Michael Richardson

Committee Member 1

Bryan W. Griffin

Committee Member 2

Cathy S. Jording

Committee Member 3

Catherine C. Wooddy

Abstract

Moral Education was a topic of heated discussion in the twentieth century. The American people demanded the separation of church and state and feared indoctrination by educators yet clamored for schools to address the moral problems of the youth. Despite the controversies and legal battles that surrounded moral education, educators intermittently tried to meet the moral needs of society by incorporating ethics into the formal curriculum. After several failed initiatives, a new form of moral education was formed, which was character education. Character education integrated elements of leadership theory and effective school practices in its program. The result was a sum of principles known as "The Eleven Principles of Character Education". These elements were accepted by most character education theorists. As a result of governmental and societal endorsement, character education programs were developed and initiated in most areas of the United States.

Although character education was widely accepted, there was little research to support either the effectiveness of the program or the connection between the principal and implementation of this initiative. Therefore, this dissertation examined the perceptions of the principal in the implementation of character education. In the Review of Literature, the researcher examined moral education's history, the controversies that surrounded it, the current character education initiative, and the role of the principal in the implementation process. Once the researcher had investigated these areas, a descriptive study was performed by sending a survey to all Georgia middle school principals. The Likert-type survey asked the principals to score their demographics, the schools' demographics, the importance level the principals placed on character education and the level of implementation at their schools. Principals were also asked to respond to an open-ended item. The principals were contacted on three occasions by mail and asked to respond to the survey. Out of the 347 Georgia middle school principals, 144 responded to the survey.

The data from the survey were analyzed using the SPSS computer program. Frequencies, Pearson's Correlations, and ANCOVAs were used. The results from the analysis showed that the level of character education implementation did vary by the amount of importance the principal placed on character education, by the amount of character education training the principal had received, and the ethnicity of the school's student population. The level of importance placed on character education also varied by the amount of character education training, the ethnicity of the school, and the percentage of students on free/reduced lunches.

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