2093912_f520We admire people and fictional characters from all walks of life who display courage, bravery, spirit, strength of character, fortitude, resolve, determination, endurance, and spunk. All of these words are synonyms for a now “hated” word…. GRIT. Why?

I believe it is because it is another word stolen from our positive vocabulary by “reformistas” and thus has been deemed anathema to use.

That’s letting the wolf tell us what to believe!

However it seems, that even within the wolf’s lair there is a dispute about “grit” and the stupidity to try to test and measure it.

In this NYT article entitled, Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills, Kate Zernike interviews people on both sides of the argument about whether or not to test for the social and emotional skills educators know kids need to succeed in school and post high school.

She writes,

“A recent update to federal education law requires states to include at least one nonacademic measure in judging school performance…. 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.”

In fact, Angela Duckworth who is either credited or discredited for popularizing the term a few years ago is now saying,

“I do not think we should be doing this; it is a bad idea.” “Our working title was all measures suck, and they all suck in their own way.”

She resigned from the board of the group overseeing a 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.

Adding to this is Camille A. Farrington, a researcher at the University of Chicago who is working with a network of schools across the country to measure the development of social-emotional skills.

She says,

“There are so many ways to do this wrong.” “In education, we have a great track record of finding the wrong way to do stuff.”

I believe, and have always believed, that social and emotional traits do help determine an individual student’s chances at success regardless of their socioeconomic status.

I taught poor, middle class, and wealthy high school kids over 38 years in three separate schools. I have seen what happens when students, regardless of their background, develop the confidence to become courageous, take risks, learn to work on something for extended periods of time instead of giving up immediately, and watched them leap frog forward as a result.

I don’t care what word you want to use for this. It is a damn good feeling for that kid, their parents, and the teacher who was part of this transformation.

However there is no reason for beliefs, statements, or actions like this:

“Social-emotional learning will count for 8 percent of a school’s overall performance score; no teacher will lose a job for failing to instill a growth mind-set.”

“This work is so phenomenally important to the success of our kids in school and life. In some ways, we worry as much if not more about the possibility that these indicators remain on the back burner.”

Not only should these tests be taken off the back burner, they should be thrown in the trash. There is no reason to test for these traits unless there is money to be made by doing so. We know the impetus.

LIFE is the test. Let teachers prepare kids socially and emotionally as well as academically for it the right ways for the right reasons.