If everybody knows that test scores and grades aren’t the keys to success, how do we teach, and measure, the things that are?
Point Taken! If we know that academic success in school is not as predictive of future engagement and success in life as Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and “Grit” to use the current terminology—then how do we teach and assess these important skills? This NYT Magazine would have us believe we need to add lots of new programs to our academic schedules and they may be partially right--but the real answer has been under our noses in schools for decades: Extra-curricular activities!
Let me share a passge from the book Bowling Alone written by By Robert D. Putnam over a decade ago about the importance of extracurricular activities, sports and the performing arts in developing engaged citizens and people with adequate EQ to work on teams, solve problems and generally learn enough about themselves to get along with others:
"Participation in extracurricular activities (both school linked and independent) is another proven means to increase civic and social involvement in later life. In fact, participation in high school music groups, athletic teams, service clubs, and the like is among the strongest precursors of adult participation, even when we compare demographically matched groups.4 From a civic point of view, extracurricular activities are anything but “frills,” yet funding for them was decimated during the 1980s and 1990s. Reversing that perverse development would be a good start toward our goal of youthful reengagement by 2010. Finally, we know that smaller schools encourage more active involvement in extracurricular activity than big schools – more students in smaller schools have an opportunity to play trombone or left tackle or King Lear. Smaller schools, like smaller towns, generate higher expectations for mutual reciprocity and collective action. So deconcentrating megaschools or creating smaller “schools within schools” will almost surely produce civic dividends..."
Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, 2000, p. 405.
My take a-way: choose a small school that emphasizes participation in a wide variety of extra curricular activities AND pays close attention to the social emotional development of children.
".....school is an emotional caldron: a constant stream of academic and social challenges that can generate feelings ranging from loneliness to euphoria. Educators and parents have long assumed that a child’s ability to cope with such stresses is either innate — a matter of temperament — or else acquired “along the way,” in the rough and tumble of ordinary interaction. But in practice, Brackett says, many children never develop those crucial skills. “It’s like saying that a child doesn’t need to study English because she talks with her parents at home,” Brackett told me last spring. “Emotional skills are the same. A teacher might say, ‘Calm down!’ — but how exactly do you calm down when you’re feeling anxious? Where do you learn the skills to manage those feelings?”
A growing number of educators and psychologists now believe that the answer to that question is in school. George Lucas’s Edutopia foundation has lobbied for the teaching of social and emotional skills for the past decade; the State of Illinois passed a bill in 2003 making “social and emotional learning” a part of school curriculums. Thousands of schools now use one of the several dozen programs, including Brackett’s own, that have been approved as “evidence-based” by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, a Chicago-based nonprofit. All told, there are now tens of thousands of emotional-literacy programs running in cities nationwide....."