Kirabo Jackson reminds us about the importance of non-cognitive ability with a careful statistical analysis. The critical policy issue is that we are increasing the use of student test scores in evaluating teachers. Jackson reminds us that (a) there are things important for success in life that don’t get picked up by test scores, and (b) teachers help students grow in many dimensions, not just what gets picked up on standardized tests.
Jackson put together a measure based on student absences, suspensions, and other measures. Then he statistically removes the part of that measure that can be explained by test scores. Usually “teacher effects” are measured by looking (loosely speaking) at the average test scores for a teacher, and then seeing how much those averages differ across teachers. Jackson does the same for his “non-cognitive” measure and finds that teachers affect these measures by about the same amount they affect test scores. But some teachers are better in one dimension and others are better in the other.
This research doesn’t say we shouldn’t use test scores in evaluating teachers. But when we use test scores (good) and leave out harder to measure contributions made by teachers (bad), we can miss out on identifying a lot of good teachers. Jackson’s research suggests that what we may miss a lot of such folks, or in his words:
Calculations indicate that teacher effects based on test scores alone fail to identify many excellent teachers.