Photo by Lev Kaye
Photo by Lev Kaye
“Clamoring! My students were clamoring for their Tessera results. Immediately after they took the assessment they asked how soon they could get their results, and they bugged me frequently about when they would become available.”
So says Eve Rifkin, the Director of College Access at a high school serving a demographically representative student population in downtown Tucson, Arizona. She teaches a required and universal college and career readiness class to seniors every year, and this year is excited to be using Tessera as an important part of her program.
Why? Rifkin explains that students tell her that they were seeking the affirmation that positive results might provide them, affirmation of strengths they believe they have and will be pleased to see confirmed. But more than that, they are eager for feedback and greater self-awareness of who they are as persons, as opposed to how high they achieve in mathematics and reading. “This is such a contrast to what they are used to; this is about who they are as humans.”
Most readers are probably familiar with the fascinating curve ball the 2015 Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as ESSA, has thrown into state-level mandated accountability indices. In addition to a set of “substantially weighted” academic indicators, states are to add to them “at least one additional indicator of school quality or student success beyond test scores.”
Although we are presently in a moment of political uncertainty with regards to the future of all federal policy and legislation, there is some reason to think ESSA will stand as is: it was passed, after all, in legislation by the Republican-controlled House and Senate before being signed by a Democratic President.
Let us first applaud the inclusion of this additional indicator, what the media is usually labeling (though not entirely accurately) the “Non-academic Indicator” (NAI) or “Non-academic Factor” (NAF) to the mix. This is great news: we know today more than ever before how important it is to broaden our gauges of educational effectiveness.
Can we grow grit in ourselves and others? And if so, how best might we do so?
Since grit grew to great heights of public awareness in the early 2010s thanks to a combination of magazine articles, best-selling books and TED talks, its significance has preoccupied many educators. Dr. Angela Duckworth’s research struck a nerve, secured her a MacArthur genius grant and launched a million conversations across the nation.
Photo by Brad Flickinger (CC by 2.0)
“SEL programs almost universally demonstrate a strong return on investment (ROI) over long periods of time.” So states a recent World Economic Forum (WEF) report, entitled “New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) through Technology.”
Although the U.S. has seen the most research about the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL), this is a global urgency. One SEL program, the Healing Classroom Initiative, which has been deployed in more than 20 nations including South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, has “realized considerable progress in both academic achievement and social benefits for students whose schooling had been interrupted by conflict.”
Parents and educators agree in surveys with what researchers have found in their studies. The report notes that “more than 90% of parents and teachers in China emphasize teaching children these skills, for example, and in the U.S., 81% of parents and 78% of teachers emphasize SEL.”
Photo by Chris Jobling (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Three questions well worth considering:
First of all, technology has most certainly changed the way we work. The speed of computing, data analysis, and decision-making has greatly increased. Communication happens nearly instantaneously, and telecommuting is becoming more common as we are able to work collaboratively online. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has estimated that more than 95%, 85%, and 65% of jobs in large, medium, and small businesses, respectively, in OECD countries now involve the internet. Another key driver of change is automation, as computing and robots are now able to take the place of humans in completing several types of tasks.
“Schools Really Can (and Should) Measure Noncognitive Skills" by Jonathan E. Martin, Principal for JonathanEMartin Ed. Services, and Jeremy Burrus, PhD, Principal Research Scientist for ProExam's Center of Innovative Assessment, was originally published on Getting Smart
The headlines shout that it can’t be done. That there aren’t effective, evidence-based methods for measuring noncognitive skills.
Our response: Yes it can and yes there are.
A front page news article in The New York Times, Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills, prompted several swift follow-up pieces around the web.
It is excellent to see the effort and attention being dedicated to this subject. We now know that social and emotional skills–which overlap with what many call character strengths, and others label noncognitive attributes–are as or more important than intellectual ability and cognitive aptitude for student and adult success in school, college, careers and life.
Photo by NEC Corporation of America with Creative Commons license.
Written by Jonathan E. Martin, Principal for JonathanEMartin Ed. Services, with Rich Roberts, PhD, Vice President and Chief Scientist for ProExam's Center for Innovative Assessments
Angela Duckworth has garnered a great deal of attention this week for her Sunday New York Times op-ed, entitled “Don’t Grade Schools On Grit.” In it, she cites Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the effect that schools have a responsibility to educate for character. She also marshals compelling evidence on the social and emotional learning (SEL) skills we often call character, such as grit, and that “teaching social and emotional skills can improve behavior and raise academic achievement.”
We agree wholeheartedly about the importance of SEL and character, and we appreciate all Dr. Duckworth has done to bring it attention. We write as friendly associates with Dr. Duckworth: Dr. Roberts has known her since she was a graduate student, and she has co-authored articles with him; I have met with her in small groups several times, interviewed her, and written about her frequently with great admiration.
One might think that advocates of social emotional learning, knowing the importance character development and recognizing the value of using evidence for better decision-making, would strongly support measurement of student learning in this domain. Surely we would want schools to better be able to know which students are developing these competencies and which are not, so we can better direct our attention to their needs. We need to know which programs are accomplishing our goals and which are not; we should better evaluate which approaches we should fund and promote and which we should de-emphasize.
Perhaps the greatest consensus in K-12 learning today centers upon the critical importance of student social and emotional learning and the development of their noncognitive character strengths—their skills for success in school and life.
This is not news to teachers. Ask a preschool assistant teacher or ask an AP Physics teacher and you’ll find resounding, even impassioned agreement: dependability, persistence, ambition, curiosity, and getting along with others matter as much, or very often much more, than cognitive ability. Education leaders have similarly embraced this understanding, with ASCD making the “whole child” its signature slogan and state and district leaders shifting the emphasis of schooling to skills and life success.