Posted on March 17, 2016

By Martin R. West

Evidence confirms that student skills other than academic achievement and ability predict a broad range of academic and life outcomes. This evidence, along with a new federal requirement that state accountability systems include an indicator of school quality or student success not based on test scores, has sparked interest in incorporating such “non-cognitive” or “social-emotional” skills into school accountability systems.

Yet important questions have been raised about the suitability of extant measures of non-cognitive skills, most of which rely on asking students to assess their own abilities, for accountability purposes. Key concerns include the possibility of misleading information due to reference bias in students’ self-reports and that students may simply inflate their self-ratings to improve their school’s standing once stakes have been attached.

The most ambitious effort to deploy common measures of non-cognitive skills as part of a performance management system is unfolding in California’s CORE Districts, a consortium of nine school districts that collectively serve over one million students. In the 2014-15 school year, CORE conducted a field test of measures of four social-emotional skills involving more than 450,000 students in grades 3-12. Starting this year, information from these measures will be publicly reported and is expected to play a modest role in schools’ performance ratings, comprising eight percent of overall scores.

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