Federal education law now requires one non-academic measure of school progress, which has led some districts to consider including students’ social and emotional growth as a performance measure. Education researchers and practicing educators increasingly agree that what are sometimes called “non-cognitive skills” like empathy, self-regulation and the ability to understand another person’s perspective, are an important component of improving academic outcomes.  A much thornier issue remains how to accurately measure qualities that are so personal and context specific.

“I do not think we should be doing this; it is a bad idea,” said Angela Duckworth, the MacArthur fellow who has done more than anyone to popularize social-emotional learning, making “grit” — the title of her book to be released in May — a buzzword in schools.

She resigned from the board of the group overseeing the California project, saying she could not support using the tests to evaluate school performance. Last spring, after attending a White House meeting on measuring social-emotional skills, she and a colleague wrote a paper warning that there were no reliable ways to do so. “Our working title was all measures suck, and they all suck in their own way,” she said.

And there is little agreement on what skills matter: Self-control? Empathy? Perseverance? Joy?

“There are so many ways to do this wrong,” said Camille A. Farrington, a researcher at the University of Chicago who is working with a network of schools across the country to measure the development of social-emotional skills. “In education, we have a great track record of finding the wrong way to do stuff.”

One argument in favor of measuring non-cognitive skills is tied to the funding that would support teaching those skills. The system tends to provide instructional dollars for things that get measured. But can this be done effectively?

Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills.

SAN FRANCISCO – The fifth graders in Jade Cooney’s classroom compete against a kitchen timer during lessons to see how long they can sustain good behavior – raising hands, disagreeing respectfully and looking one another in the eye – without losing time to insults or side conversations.

Experts Say Measuring Non-Cognitive Skills Won’t Work, But Districts Still Try 2 March,2016MindShift

  • joebeckmann

    Of course it can be done effectively, as the SCANS Report at the Department of Labor in the 1990’s shows. And it can be done by participants themselves, reflecting on their “soft skills” as Dr. Arnold Packer showed quite well in his Kellogg Foundation report on the “Verified Resume.” Do a little homework before a rant. Most surely such soft skills require reflection, require time and contrasts over that time and in different settings, but it is more important to teach that reflective analysis – in many, many ways – than it is to teach the square root of 65847513. And much of that teaching is best facilitated by a teacher, and led by student peers in teams. It may not produce a simple number, but, over time, it can since it can look at self-assessments at grade 4, 8, and 12 to see how well and how thoroughly a student has integrated the feedback from one process in its replication.

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