Can standardized tests measure soft skills?

In a nation that prides itself on the potential of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” and the promise of upward mobility, one would assume that hard work is a consistent part of our culture. It would follow, then, that students in America show extraordinary ability to perform consistently at the start of a test as well as at the end. This is simply not the case.

A new study on student performance on an international assessment called the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) suggests that students’ perseverance on the test correlates with a nation’s economic growth.  Results from America’s students’ performance on PISA put the country solidly in the middle of the pack on achievement as well as the decline in performance from the beginning to the end of the test. These recent findings indicate PISA results may spell trouble for our economy.

It’s true that tests can’t measure everything, but we should pay attention to the things they can. This new research is telling a story we should hear; other countries have figured out something we haven’t. We could cry foul against the measurement tool. We brush away our performance as the result of “test fatigue.”  I doubt our competition is doing the same.

Students in countries that outperform the US have the ability to perform as well at the beginning as well as the end of the test. Who’s to say that “stick-to-itiveness” doesn’t apply to the rest of their lives – or in their college years or careers?

If we want to hold our own as an economy, we must show real resolve to ferret out the causes of our mediocre performance and address them. We have to see more students graduating high school ready for their next challenges. More students prepared for the workplace. More students completing higher education.

Now is the time to figure out how to equip these students with the “grit” to navigate these waters successfully. It’s not just our nation’s pocketbook we have to worry about; our children’s livelihoods could be at stake.

We believe every Texas child, regardless of race, ethnicity or zip code, deserves a quality education. You can help make that happen.