Measuring Grit is Not Science Fiction Any Longer
Three years after this draft report was published, the ridicule has turned into harsh reality for publicly educated students. American education is not focused on academics, it’s focusing on datamining student emotional behavior. A New York Times article quotes former ‘grit’ advocates in American education stating the test measures as dangerous and faulty. From Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills:
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.
“I do not think we should be doing this; it is a bad idea,” said Angela Duckworth, the MacArthur fellow who has done more than anyone to popularize social-emotional learning, making “grit” — the title of her book to be released in May — a buzzword in schools.
She resigned from the board of the group overseeing the California project, saying she could not support using the tests to evaluate school performance. Last spring, after attending a White House meeting on measuring social-emotional skills, she and a colleague wrote a paper warning that there were no reliable ways to do so. “Our working title was all measures suck, and they all suck in their own way,” she said.
Next year, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test of students in grades four, eight and 12 that is often referred to as the nation’s report card, will include questions about students’ social-emotional skills. A well-known international test, PISA, is moving toward the same.
The biggest concern about testing for social-emotional skills is that it typically relies on surveys asking students to evaluate recent behaviors or mind-sets, like how many days they remembered their homework, or if they consider themselves hard workers. This makes the testing highly susceptible to fakery and subjectivity. 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.
One of the issues raised in the article was the agreement on exactly what needs to be measured: Self-control? Empathy? Perseverance? Joy? How can self-control measurements be the same for the autistic child vs an ADD child vs an extroverted child? How is joy defined? And by whom? I would hazard to guess that a spiritual/religious definition of joy may be quite different than a clinical description. Which description is valid on a public school assessment performed by a classroom teacher? Should that classroom teacher be allowed to make psychometric notations and measurements in a student’s data set?
If parents are concerned more about academic excellence for their child vs the measurement of their emotional quotient, maybe they should employ a 1925 invention originally designed by Hugo Gernsback, an inventor, writer, magazine publisher and science fiction writer, and for whom the Hugo Awards are named. From twitter:
The technological terror of present day does not allow students to focus and concentrate on their studies as portrayed in Gernback’s Isolater’s advertisement. Maybe an updated version of the Isolater be available to those students who don’t need to work on their grit and joy and instead, want to focus on academic achievement. Educational technology to measure grit (attitudes, behaviors and beliefs) is now computerized and personally identifiable complete with a data set (cradle to grave) determining your child’s value as human capital to the workforce. It’s time to isolate your child from such invasive emotional data mining. Gernback’s science fiction invention is not out of the realm of possibility in 2016 for the serious academic student.
Read previous post, Study shows Grit not all it’s cracked up to be, on the failure of measuring grit.