Arlington Citizen-Journal

Dallas Cowboys, NFL, United Way to offer DFW eighth-graders a ‘Character Playbook’

Character Playbook doesn’t just tell kids what to do. It shows them with an interactive digital presentation that has the look of a dramatic graphic novel with teenage characters.
Character Playbook doesn’t just tell kids what to do. It shows them with an interactive digital presentation that has the look of a dramatic graphic novel with teenage characters. characterplaybook.com

A new classroom initiative from the United Way of Tarrant County, the Dallas Cowboys and the National Football League aims to teach junior high students in 11 Tarrant County schools the critical social and emotional skills they need to start high school on the right foot.

But Character Playbook — Building Healthy Relationships doesn’t just tell kids what to do. It shows them with an interactive digital presentation that has the look of a dramatic graphic novel with teenage characters. It will be piloted in Arlington’s Carter and Bailey junior high schools this month.

In the presentation, “kids see themselves,” said Jeanne Muldrew, student services coordinator for the Arlington school district. “It’s very diverse, so it makes it appealing.”

This fall, all 10 Arlington junior highs will present the Character Playbook to eighth-graders. The curriculum will also be rolled out at four Boys & Girls Clubs of Arlington and the Keller school district’s New Direction Learning Center, according to the United Way. The NFL is also working with the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas to offer the program in schools in Dallas, Frisco, Garland, McKinney and Mesquite.

The Character Playbook features six modules, or digital units, for students to work through as well as pre- and post-course surveys to assess learning.

The Character Playbook features six modules, or digital units, for students to work through as well as pre- and post-course surveys to assess learning. The subject areas are: understanding and managing emotions, analyzing influences, communicating effectively, stepping in, resolving conflicts and making decisions.

Muldrew said students need solid preparation before they step into high school, which is a larger arena with more choices and new responsibilities.

“These are some of the characteristics that you want them to become aware of in themselves. In their eighth-grade year, they’re practicing through these modules so that they have that foundation when they are transitioning onto a high school campus in ninth grade,” Muldrew said.

In their eighth-grade year, they’re practicing through these modules so that they have that foundation when they are transitioning onto a high school campus in ninth grade.

Jeanne Muldrew, student services coordinator for the Arlington school district

A Washington, D.C.-based technology company called Everfi developed Character Playbook to line up with nationally recognized educational standards. It is being provided free to schools as part of the NFL’s work in communities.

LaToya Stewart, vice president for community development for the United Way of Tarrant County, said the new initiative helps students by giving them “tools they need to be successful in the classroom that aren’t necessarily academic.”

11.5 percent of Tarrant County students must repeat the ninth grade, statistics show

National and local statistics illustrate how a successful transition from middle grades to high school can be challenging. In Tarrant County, 11.5 percent of students must repeat the ninth grade, and reports from organizations such as the National High School Center describe a “ninth-grade bulge,” wherein ninth-graders make up a disproportionate population of high school students because so many aren’t promoted to 10th grade.

Stewart said the Character Playbook fits with the United Way of Tarrant County’s Learn Well initiative to support students at risk of dropping out of school. Character Playbook also bolsters the Arlington school district’s efforts to address social and emotional growth in students to contribute to their success, Muldrew said. Both agreed that the Character Playbook is an example of the value that relationships with the Cowboys and NFL brings to North Texas.

“Our students are going to be blessed with the opportunity, and our community will reap the benefits of this program,” Muldrew said.

Twitter: @tracipeterson

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