Now That Schools Are Promoting Broader Definitions of Success, How Do We Measure Progress?

Tom Vander Ark

As more schools adopt learning goals beyond reading, writing and math, certain questions are vexing school leaders worldwide: How can we measure growth in creative thinking? How can we spot a “self-aware” team member? How can we measure whether our graduating high school seniors have the habits necessary to succeed at college and throughout adult life?

The good news is that leading grantmakers have defined new goals for students, including the XQ Learner Goals, the Hewlett Foundation’s Deeper Learning outcomes, and MyWays from NGLC. Battelle for Kids also has a roadmap for schools to develop new graduate profiles.

Beyond the philanthropy sector, education leaders are also puzzling over how to encourage and monitor growth in important career and citizenship skills. For instance, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) is proactively updating its approach to authorizing and monitoring charter schools. “We’re thinking through how we encourage and measure social-emotional learning, citizenship, and critical thinking”, said David Frank (@dfranknyc), the Executive Director of the NYSED Charter School Office (CS) in Albany.

“We’re really interested in fostering the development of New Yorkers who are not only great at reading and math but also have a zest for learning, who can grow, thrive, and stand up for a set of values that they deeply nurture and explore. We want to encourage children to have a healthy sense of confidence in learning and don’t shy away from expressing their values and beliefs. We want to encourage schools to allow students to be creative thinkers and love learning but it’s a very hard metric to measure”, Frank added.

With the help of a generous federal grant, Frank and his team are supporting the creation and expansion of high-quality charter schools in New York state that support both strong academic and socio-emotional outcomes for at-risk students while at the same time improving charter school authorizing practices in New York and beyond. The NYSED CSO is also part of a National Best Practice Dissemination Grant led by the National Charter School Institute to share cutting-edge approaches to measuring non-academic contributors to positive developmental outcomes in children with other leading charter authorizers including SUNY Charter Schools Institute, Central Michigan University, Chicago Public Schools, Hillsborough County (Tampa), and the Nevada Department of Education.

Frank says that “ensuring that students can read, write, and engage in high-level math is still the core of the work we are doing. However, increasingly, we expect the charter schools we authorize to also meet the socio-emotional needs of students and push them to foster students to be able to interact with the curriculum and concepts being taught at a high level, perhaps best observed through meaningful student voice in the classroom. Having students think through problems of practice and coming to conclusions collaboratively and in unexpected ways should be in the DNA of any successful school.”