Henry Levin, the distinguished economist at Teachers College, has written an important new article in which he explains that test scores are only one dimension of student and national success. The link is only available for four weeks. It is only about 20 pages, so be sure to read it now or soon.

He shows, with extensive documentation, that non-cognitive qualities– like motivation, persistence, the ability to get along with others–are no less important than cognitive qualities and are undervalued in the present climate.

The international race to get higher and higher test scores ignores the non-cognitive dimension. It is a race that will narrow what children learn, what teachers may teach. It is not good for children or societies. It is a race that no one will win.

Here is the abstract:


Abstract Around the world we hear considerable talk about creating world-class schools. Usually the term refers to schools whose students get very high scores on the international comparisons of student achievement such as PISA or TIMSS. The practice of restricting the meaning of exemplary schools to the narrow criterion of achievement scores is usually premised on the view that test scores are closely linked to the provision of a capable labour force and competitive economy. In fact, the measured relationships between test scores and earnings or productivity are modest and explain a relatively small share of the larger link between educational attainment and economic outcomes. What has been omitted from such narrow assessments are the effects that education has on the development of interpersonal and intrapersonal skills and capabilities that affect the quality and productivity of the labour force. This article provides evidence on some of these relationships, on the degree to which the non-cognitive effects of schooling contribute to adult performance, and on the evidence that deliberate school interventions can influence non-cognitive outcomes. It concludes with the view that the quest for world-class schools must encompass a range of human development characteristics that extend considerably beyond test scores.