At a time when many school districts are cutting everything from art programs to PE in an effort to focus only on those classes that will boost standardized test scores, it's refreshing to hear about a school system investing in something other than the Common Core. A new program in Kentucky schools is taking a broader approach than just reading, writing and arithmetic. Kids will focus instead on a program called Core Life, and school officials are hoping it will give them the background they need to make better life choices in the years to come.

Core Life is unique in that it focuses on character traits, such as responsibility, honesty, optimism and even empathy — traits that could help kids as they make tough choices throughout their lives. The pilot program, launched recently at a handful of Kentucky elementary schools, will follow a 13-week curriculum in which kids learn about how to espouse a different character trait each week. The 13 core traits in the program are respect, responsibility, rules, goals, volunteering, empathy, gratitude, tolerance, healthy living, moderation, honesty, wisdom and optimism. 

What's interesting is that many people might assume that these are character traits that kids are just innately born with. And while it's true that some kids are just naturally optimistic or responsible or honest, it's also true that not every kid will understand how to set goals or the importance of volunteering or having empathy for others. Especially if they don't have a strong example set at home.

It's one thing to just tell kids, "Don't tell lies," but its another to teach them why, and give them to tools they need to choose honesty, even in tough situations.

School administrators hope that by teaching kids these fundamentals at a young age, it will better equip them to make the right decisions when it comes to drugs, bullying, sex and other issues that teens and young adults face on a daily basis. It may not boost their standardized test scores. But it may just help them have a better life. 

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Forget Common Core: Let's focus on character
In addition to the 3 R's, Kentucky kids will get lessons in respect, responsibility and rule following.