ProExam Blog

New EdWeek Commentary: We Should Measure Students' Noncognitive Skills

Posted by Jonathan E. Martin on Aug 4, 2016 6:18:32 PM
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Noncognitive skills are an ongoing hot topic in education, and for good reason—there is an extraordinary movement of renewed emphasis upon social and emotional learning (SEL), the kind of learning that research has well established is essential for all kids.

However, much is being missed in the national conversation about this subject. Researchers in university departments of psychology and educational assessment, as well as scientists at various measurement companies, have been industriously innovating, developing evidence-based systems by which we can effectively student character strengths and noncognitive skills. These new systems overcome the faking, subjectivity, and reference bias problems that plague “first generation” measurement methods.

We are finally able to confidently measure the noncognitive skills we have long known are critically important, and then use this better information in a myriad of ways. We can see which SEL programs are having the greatest success, and distinguish which groups of students are thriving, and which need more attention and support. School-leaders committed to educating the whole child and wanting to be held accountable for developing both cognitive and noncognitive strengths in their students can now present their boards and supervisors both types of data for their evaluation. Board members who demand “metrics” for every strategic plan objective can now be appeased with sound evidence of the plan’s success (or lack thereof) in developing student character.

Read the article on Education Week, "We Should Measure Students' Noncognitive Skills," for insights into both the importance of the measurement of these skills and why all methods for assessment and measurement are not created equal. 

Student noncognitive skills are hugely important in their own right. It’s critical for all children to grow in social skills, curiosity, and resilience, whether or not their academic outcomes improve.

Learn About Tessera— Next Generation Noncognitive Assessment System



An independent, not-for-profit organization, ProExam has been helping to set standards in educational assessment and professional credentialing for 75 years. ProExam’s Center for Innovative Assessments, headed by Chief Scientist Richard D. Roberts, PhD, focuses on developing groundbreaking methods to better assess noncognitive skills and Tessera™its suite of noncognitive assessments for K–12 students, is being piloted in schools nationwide.

Jonathan Martin is an educational author and consultant with 15 years of experience as an independent school principal/head of school. He holds degrees from Harvard University, Starr King School for the Ministry and the University of San Francisco School of Education, and was a Visiting Fellow at the Klingenstein Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. He regularly presents at conferences and provides workshops to schools, boards and faculties around the country on 21st century learning and assessment.


Topics: noncognitive skills, assessments, education, character strengths, ESSA, SEL, Tessera