The focus of Character-Centered Teaching (CCT) is to integrate lessons on character into the school's overall academic program. Through CCT, character education is not an "add-on" program, but rather an "add-in" program. The overall CCT approach involves 12 guiding principles. The principles represent a common ground of basic understanding. The principles are common elements of society regardless of political leanings, race, religious convictions or gender. The 12 guiding principles are responsibility, contemplation, initiative, perseverance, optimism, courage, respect, compassion, adaptability, honesty, trustworthiness, and loyalty.
In Arkansas, the CCT initiative began with five public schools:
- Lakewood Elementary, North Little Rock School District
- Gardner Elementary School, Hot Springs School District
- J. J. Izard Elementary School, Van Buren School District
- Eudora Junior High School, Eudora School District
- Corning High School, Corning School District
These five geographically diverse schools each individualized their approach to CCT. At each site, an advisory committee, which included students, teachers, and administrators, as well as community members, was formed. The committee earmarked which principles they would focus on. In some instances, the community selected two or three of the principles, such as respect and responsibility, to target first.
The efforts at the individual schools were not limited to school activities. In Corning, for instance, the town's July 4 parade focused on the importance of character. Also, each school's local community demonstrated a tremendous amount of support. Community groups, as well as churches, became involved.
While serving as pilot sites, the schools received intense staff development and support. Dr. Martin Marrazo, Director of the International Center for Leadership in Education, visited each site twice, and gave them recommendations on implementing their individual programs. Dr. Marrazo is a nationally recognized leader in the field of character education.