A recent update to federal education law requires states to include at least one nonacademic measure in judging school performance. So other states are watching these districts as a potential model. But the race to test for so-called social-emotional skills has raised alarms even among the biggest proponents of teaching them, who warn that the definitions are unclear and the tests faulty.The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the tests but in the stakes. Go ahead and create the world's most perfect, reliable, valid, accurate, and all-around good measure of grit, or growth mindset, or whatever. Administer it in a setting where nobody has been primed to answer disingenuously and nobody has any real reason to deceive. You'll get results that tell you something meaningful. Now attach stakes to it. And watch as the teachers start feeding students slogans about grit and growth mindset, and students start giving answers that sound good rather than answers that accurately tell you something about their actions outside of the testing situation.
Fortunately, a few of the people interviewed in the article agree:
In their paper published in May, Dr. Duckworth and David Yeager argued that even if students do not fake their answers, the tests provide incentive for “superficial parroting” rather than real changes in mind-set.
“You think test scores are easy to game?” said Martin West, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who is working with the districts in California. “They’re relatively hard to game when you compare them to a self-report survey.”I actually don't fault the entire idea of measuring non-academic things. The very fact that people will try to game measures is actually an argument for measuring more things rather than fewer. The more things you measure the harder it is to game all of them at once. Still, it's better to make more of those measures be about things that are harder to game. As opposed to this.
This concludes our monthly feature titled "Something actually interesting in the NYT education section."