Character and Culture


"Because of McAuliffe's sincere beliefs in and encouragement of individuality and diversity, I feel that the kids here are almost protected from what happens to many children during their middle school years. The students here aren't made to feel like they have to conform to any one look or style; they are allowed to develop socially at their own pace." ~ Parent of McAuliffe Graduate

At McAuliffe, character development is at the heart of everything we do. We work hard to cultivate a culture of respect and care for self and others. By modeling and teaching Habits of Work and Learning, scholars become effective learners prepared for high school and beyond. By problem solving when difficulties arise and employing restorative practices when members of the community are harmed, scholars learn to be accountable to the community and our shared values. Our curriculum engages scholars in meaningful projects that expand their perspectives and aim to make the world a better place.


The evidence we present for our three claims shows how scholars practice and develop these skills enabling them to make a difference in our school and local community.

Claim #1

McAuliffe scholars develop Habits of Work and Learning which help them become effective and successful middle school learners.

Claim #2  

McAuliffe scholars take responsibility for their choices and mend relationships using restorative practices.

Claim #3

McAuliffe scholars positively impact the school and local community through their academic studies and work products.

In addition to our claims and evidence, several aspects of the McAuliffe program -- crew, norms, diversity & inclusion, and outdoor adventure --  define our progress in the character dimension of student achievement.

Crew is central to scholars’ sense of belonging at McAuliffe. In Crew, scholars develop relationships with a small group of scholars through daily check ins, team building activities, and service projects. Scholars also learn to track and articulate their academic progress, prepare for their student-led conferences and set academic and HOWLs goals. Frequently, crews plan activities outside of the school day to participate in service projects, get together with crew families, or just to hang out together!

"Crew is the main focus of our learning philosophy. We are a team and if one part of the crew does not pull equally the crew is not as effective. We are all responsible for the working of the crew but in order to be a good crew member one must be responsible for their own growth too.” Evan S., Class of 2015

NORMS -- classroom agreements and crew “full value contracts” -- are seen throughout McAuliffe. During norming processes, scholars are asked to think about the expectations and values that will help them, and their classmates, to create a positive and productive learning environment. We use norms to celebrate successes and hold each other accountable. For examples, if a class is having a difficult time with interruptions, the class may circle up to check in on the classroom norms, identify what’s going well and not going well, and determine what norm they need to focus on. In some cases, norms may be added or adjusted during the year based on input from the group.


Adventure class provides scholars another opportunity to complete collaborative activities that have elements of real or perceived risk. Educational experiences usually involve close interaction with the natural environment, the rock wall,  or the use of other challenge course elements in the school’s Adventure Center. During each initiative, scholars are challenged to problem solve, develop effective methods of communication, and apply critical thinking to unique situations. Additionally, each cohort of scholars embarks on an annual multi-day, overnight adventure-based experience. Experiences are scaffolded per grade, with increasing challenge and challenge options from 6th to 8th grades.

Students lead other scholars to promote a strong school culture through their participation in three groups: Student Culture Team, Gay, Straight Alliance, and Standing Strong.

Student Culture Team: During 2016-17, we piloted a Student Culture Team. The pilot was met with great success and interest by students on the team. 2016-17 priorities for the team included planning and facilitating grade level meetings, two whole school community meetings, and a school social (dance). In 2017-18, the group will be facilitated by the Culture & Character Coach (formerly the School Counselor facilitating the group) and assisted by one or two School Counselors. 

This  image of the Student Culture Team includes a McAuliffe family with a child diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. The Student Culture Team supported the “#WhyNotDevin” initiative to combat Devin’s cancerous tumor by hosting a fundraiser during the dance they hosted in spring 2017.

Gay Straight Alliance (GSA): The GSA is a group led by students and faculty advisors to create a safe space for students questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity and to discuss issues related to the LGBTQ community and allies. The GSA is open to all students and faculty and is well attended by scholars who identify as LGBTQ and LGBTQ allies.


Standing Strong Anti-Bullying Club: Standing Strong’s mission is to make sure all students feel safe and included in the school community. The Standing Strong Anti-Bullying Club was established during the 2015-16 school year by a group of students and faculty.

The slideshow to the right shows submissions to the annual Standing Strong Anti-Bullying Poster Contest.