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So, little Mason aced math. But he's really sliding in his integrity grade: Only a B-.

Parents, what if, in addition to algebra, reading and science scores, your child came home with a "character report card" as well?

That's the thinking one high-end prep-school principal in New York shared with writer Paul Tough in a Sunday New York Times education piece.

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Dominic Randolph presides over Riverdale Country School, where tuition starts at $38,500 (U.S.) a year for prekindergarten, and he thinks character should offset the current obsession with testing that colours both the school admissions process and a child's entire education. "This push on tests," he told Mr. Tough, "is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human."

His vision of the kind of character educators can instill:

"Whether it's the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful. Strangely, we've now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SATs, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they're doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they're screwed."

Mr. Randolph has looked for guidance to educators such as David Levin, the co-founder of the KIPP network of charter schools, which are aimed at improving the rates of post-secondary education for underprivileged students.

Mr. Levin noticed that the students who "persisted in college were not necessarily the ones who had excelled academically at KIPP; they were the ones with exceptional character strengths, like optimism and persistence and social intelligence," Mr. Tough writes. "They were the ones who were able to recover from a bad grade and resolve to do better next time; to bounce back from a fight with their parents; to resist the urge to go out to the movies and stay home and study instead."

Other traits that character-loving educators have come to embrace include citizenship, integrity and - one of the hottest terms in parenting today - self-regulation, Mr. Tough writes.

Would you welcomes this broader interpretation of success at school? What kind of grades would you have scored?

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