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Why The Effort To Make Elementary School Testing More Nuanced Is Not Going Well

If you’re the type of parent who balks at Common Core-driven curriculums and believes schools need to teach things like self control and conscientiousness alongside letters and numbers, a lot has gone your way in recent years. In fact, the federal government now wants states to begin testing their students for social and emotional intelligence the same way they test for math and language skills. How that might work is currently playing out in California, and it’s getting messy.

The issue is that no one can agree on how to test for that stuff. Angela Duckworth, a Macarthur Fellow who’s largely credited for introducing the concept of “grit” into elementary education, recently resigned from the board advising California on how to implement testing around the very concepts she champions. According to Duckworth, California’s method of testing, which involves students self-reporting their emotions and behavior, is proven to not work. “There are so many ways to do this wrong,” seconds Camille A. Farrington in The New York Times. “In education, we have a great track record of finding the wrong way to do stuff.” The University Of Chicago pays Farrington to figure out how to measure social and emotional skills, and even she thinks it’s a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.

Report CardJohn Lawlor

Proponents of the tests point out that they keep social and emotional education on the front burner of education policy, and that some testing is better than none at all. In California, these tests will account for 8 percent of a school’s overall score, and no teacher will risk losing their job over how their kids perform. Meanwhile, the rest of the country — as it so often does — is watching how things go in the Golden State before figuring out how tough, sensitive, and resilient their own kids are.

[H/T] New York Times