The Evidence on Non-Cognitive Skills from California’s CORE Districts

brookingslogoPreviously, this blog introduced readers to the work of California’s CORE Districts. Now preliminary evidence is out, and we are able to look more closely at the use of self-report surveys of non-cognitive skills as a potential element of school accountability systems.

Analysis of data from the CORE field test indicates that the scales used to measure student skills demonstrate strong reliability and are positively correlated with key indicators of academic performance and behavior, both across and within schools. These findings provide a broadly encouraging view of the potential for self-reports of social-emotional skills as an input into its system for evaluating school performance. However, they do not address how self-report measures of social-emotional skills would perform in a high-stakes setting – or even with the modest weight that will be attached to them within CORE.

CORE selected its measures of social-emotional learning based on evidence from other settings that they were valid predictors of academic success. Do those same relationships hold when administered at scale in its districts? The figure below shows the relationships between school-average social-emotional skills and key indicators of academic performance (GPA and state test scores) and student behavior (the percentage of students receiving suspensions and average absence rates) across CORE district middle schools. As expected, social-emotional skills are positively related with the academic indicators and negative correlated with the two indicators of student misbehavior.

newfig1esIn summary, the evidence is encouraging, but we still need more information about what may happen if these self-report surveys are tied to high-stakes decisions.

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