In the past 10 to 20 years, “Big Data” has entered the K-12 education practice field in a loud and demanding way. Accountability through high stakes test scores, teacher evaluations and school ratings is at the core of Big Data. Improve the numbers and our schools and children will succeed, goes the thinking.
“Numbers don’t lie,” goes the saying. But one can look at any number of different studies and the cited statics and conclude that test scores are going up, test scores are going down and or the sky is falling.
One thing most reasonable people agree on is wanting our children to graduate high school college and or career ready. To that end the focus has been understandably on the “Hard Skills” – Reading, writing and math.
But employers and colleges are still complaining that students or employees – our children – are still not ready.
Enter the “Soft Skills.” Soft skills are defined as EQ or Emotional Intelligence Quotient. These skills include: social graces, communication abilities, language skills, personal habits, cognitive or emotional empathy and leadership traits.
The National Career Service polled a sample of employers across different industries and asked what skills they want in their future workforce.
Here is what companies’ desire:
Communication skills, the ability to make a decision, showing commitment, time management skills, leadership skills, problem solving skills, being a team player, and the ability to work under pressure.
How many of these skills are measured on the high stakes tests our kids are currently taking?
The good news is that soft skills are teachable. The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability (NCWD) is a wonderful website with great information for parents. The site spells out the different soft skills and suggestions for working on them with your child.
Here are a few highlights
Communication skills –
Record your child playing a video game with a friend. Review the video and discuss voice level and tone.
Have your child interact with adult guests in your home. Your child can take the beverage orders, which requires listening and remembering.
Help your child build his vocabulary with The Word of the Day exercise on an online dictionary.
Play games as a family. Board games are a great way for a parent to model appropriate social skills, especially when there is winning and losing involved.
Encourage your child to participate in school activities such as the debate team, act in the school play or join a sports team.
Volunteer as a family at a local charity. Your child will learn how to interact with people from different backgrounds than their own.
Wrapping it up
The soft skills can be viewed as the glue that keeps a person together. Once your child masters her reading, writing and arithmetic, Big Data would have you believe she is ready to succeed. A simple conversation with employers tells us that is not true. The soft skills of determination, resiliency and flexibility are critical for success in life, but these do not get measured on the high stakes tests.
Engage the Brain encourages parents to work on improving their children’s soft skills to complement the hard skills. With consistent practice you can raise your child’s EQ score and help her become completely college and or career ready.
David Karch (Learning Specialist with Engage the Brain)