Grading the Soft Skills

Old-School Tests Fall Short

Is it through computers? Paper and pencil? The education community is grappling with how to best measure the ability to function in a workplace. (Michael Price | Flatland)

It’s the time-honored question from students: when are we going to use this in real life?

But as we have seen in this season of Take Note, schools are increasingly focused on the “soft” skills that are relevant for the workplace, such as critical thinking and team work.

That brings up another question for the school of the future: how do you track students’ progress on such hard-to-measure skills? Rote learning certainly has its limitations, but at least it fits with the traditional letter-grade system in use for decades.

Educators and policymakers in Missouri and Kansas acknowledge they are still trying to figure out the best way to assess mastery of soft skills.

Yet solutions are emerging in the classroom, and within academia. Missouri, meanwhile, has identified something that seems to drive student success even more than measuring what they know.

Take Note is Kansas City PBS’s multi-year education reporting project. In this season, we are examining all aspects of the school of the future. Keep an eye on the website and join the conversation at #TakeNoteKC.


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