Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Predictive Value of Doing Well on Tests

Zero. ICYMI that was the assessment Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google, gave of the value of a student's GPA to predict their ability to succeed at Google. Actually, iThomas Friedman's recent article on How to Get a Job at Google, the word he used was "worthless."  So much for GPA, AP, AYP, SAT, ACT, ETC.

Surely there are other (though maybe not cooler) places to work than Google, but the point of Mr. Friedman's article is the disconnect between what schools focus on and the lessons needed for those seeking jobs today. The role of content knowledge makes the list, but it is 5th of 5 characteristics. In order of importance, he lists them as:
  1. Learning Ability
  2. Emergent Leadership
  3. Humility
  4. Ownership
  5. Expertise
The ability to learn is a desirable commodity in a world where knowledge is easy to come by. Consider this: How would allowing students access to the internet change the kinds of questions you asked on a test or final exam? Whatever ability enables them to search, vet, and then create a compelling or creative argument to answer the question will make them much more employable in a world in which anyone can know anything at anytime.

Emergent leadership is not about the role playing that is being president of a club or captain of team. It is about knowing when to step up because one's particular skills and talents are required to move a project or idea or class or school forward. And similarly when one should sit down to make room for another's talents and skills. Humility, therefore, is also a desirable trait. 

Putting together Emergent Leadership and Humility with Ownership is equivalent to QISA's 7th Condition of Leadership & Responsibility. Students must not only be allowed to make decisions as emergent leaders, but also to accept full responsibility for the decisions they make. These qualities are not personality traits, they are  a set of skills that can be learned and nurtured. 

Apparently, the least important quality Google looks for is expertise. The thing the most time and energy is expended on in schools: Have you mastered math? Have you mastered science? Have you mastered the Great Gatsby? Have you mastered the U.S. Constitution? according to Mr. Bock is the very thing that should take up the least amount of our time and energy.

The take away is this: It's not that traditional measures of success are not at all important; it's that they are not nearly as important as we continue to make them out to be. In perspective, doing well in school--as schools traditionally measure "well"--is fine. However, there are several other more important skills schools should be working on that would serve students better than getting As and Bs. We know how to cultivate Expertise in schools. How do we cultivate Learning Ability, Emergent Leadership in all students, Humility, and a sense of Ownership?

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