Friday, 3 July 2015

Motivation, mindset and grit

"Every year, hundreds of thousands of U.S. students take the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP), the federally authorized test known as the "nation’s report card." Education Week reported recently that, beginning in 2017, NAEP will ask "background questions" designed to gauge each student’s level of "motivation, mindset, and grit." It’s not enough for the federal government to keep tabs on whether your child knows the material he’s been taught. Instead, it wants to peer inside his mind and critique his personality to see if he has the "noncognitive skills" government thinks he should."

"As described by the Educational Testing Service at a conference of the Association for Psychological Science, two of the categories on the NAEP background survey will be labeled "grit" and "desire for learning." Questions in these categories will be presented to all test-takers. Specific subject areas may include additional questions about other "noncognitive factors" such as "self-efficacy" and "personal achievement goals."

"Almost any parent would read this and wonder why his child’s mindsets and personal goals are any of the government’s business. Indeed, there is serious doubt whether NAEP even has the statutory authority to delve into such matters. The federal statute authorizing NAEP requires that the assessment "objectively measure academic achievement, knowledge, and skills" and that the tests "do not evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes . . . ." The statute further requires that NAEP "only collect information that is directly related to the appraisal of academic achievement . . . ."

"Presumably NAEP bureaucrats would argue that the background questions aren’t part of the assessment itself, so don’t violate the prohibition against assessing attitudes. Even so, is the non-cognitive information these questions collect "directly related to the appraisal of academic achievement"? Only in the sense that every aspect of one’s personality might theoretically affect one’s academic performance. If we take that broad a view, there is no limit to what NAEP can ask about..."

"The first objection that leaps to mind is that, for the most part, school personnel are not qualified to plumb the depths of a child’s psyche. As warned by clinical psychologist Gary Thompson, placing this type of responsibility on largely untrained personnel is playing with fire. And since the federal government is actively relaxing the privacy restrictions applicable to student data, the chances of this sensitive information getting into the wrong hands are enormous."

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It is well to remember that the Named Person scheme in Scotland is just one example of a global push to database and profile the world`s children. 

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