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Character Education

Wisconsin Character Education Partnership

The Wisconsin Character Education Partnership (WCEP) promotes the intentional, proactive efforts of educators to instill in all Wisconsin’s students, core universal ethical values such as integrity, honesty, fairness, responsibility, and respect for themselves and for others through character education. 

The WCEP and the University of Wisconsin’s School of Education sponsor the State Schools of Character (SSOC) award program for Wisconsin. This program, in partnership with, recognizes schools for their exemplary character education programs. Wisconsin is one of 30 states participating in the SSOC program. SSOC winners become eligible for the National Schools of Character (NSOC) recognition.

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Social and Emotional Learning and Character Education

These terms are often used interchangeably and while there are some similarities, there are some differences as well. According to Elias, Parker, Kash, Weissberg and O’Brien (2007) "Character education focuses on values and social and emotional learning focuses on skills and attitudes needed to function in relevant social environments."

Both approaches address school climate and both recognize the importance of the adults practicing the values or skills they teach and expect. Character education includes both ethical and performance values and is guided by eleven principles. Social and emotional learning includes teaching skills in self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making (CASEL).

To be sure, there is overlap in these two approaches and schools have found success with both. Local communities are in the best position to decide which approach will work in their schools. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction will provide resources and technical assistance for schools and districts to implement Social and Emotional Learning. For those interested in addressing these needs through a values-based approach, resources and supports can be found at and at the Wisconsin Character Education Partnership.

Elias, M.J., Parker, S.J., Kash, M., Weissberg, R.P., & O’Brien, M. (2007). Social and Emotional Learning, Moral Education, and Character Education: A Comparative Analysis and a View Toward Convergence. Retrieved from

If your school or district has developed and successfully implemented a character education practice, we encourage you to apply for a Wisconsin Promising Practices award.

For questions about this information, contact (608) 266-8960