As we explored in my Google finds that STEM aren’t the most important skills post, Google determined that “the seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.”
This is consistent with the findings of the employer-led Partnership for 21st Century Learning who describe the foundation skills for worker success as the 4Cs: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.
Given the importance that employers place on these non-content and non-occupation specific skills you would think that employers would be leading the push to reform the education system––from birth through college––to make these so-called soft skills the foundation skills for all.
The opposite is the case. Take for example the new report and K-12 recommendations from Business Leaders for Michigan entitled Business Leaders’ Insights: Leading Practices in K–12 Education That Can Improve Student Outcomes in Michigan. Their goal: “This report, a third-party review of Michigan’s education system, was developed to explore policies and practices that might help raise K– 12 performance from the bottom quarter of scores to being a “Top Ten” U.S. state in reading and math across National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) categories.
- Is communicating and listening well tested on the NAEP? No.
- Is possessing insights into others tested on the NAEP? No.
- Is having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues tested on the NAEP? No.
- Is being a good critical thinker and problem solver tested on the NAEP? Probably to some degree. Although single right answer multiple choice tests are the antithesis of critical thinking and problem solving.
- Is being able to make connections across complex ideas tested on the NAEP? Almost certainly not.
The report in essence is a call to go all in on education designed to build content knowledge as measured by single right answer multiple choice tests.
The business community has been arguing for years that you cannot improve what you don’t measure. That getting the metrics right and holding people accountable for doing well on those metrics are essential to improvement. By making becoming “a “Top Ten” U.S. state in reading and math across National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) categories” THE metric for K-12 education in Michigan what you will get is an education system that will almost exclusively focus on building skills that are on the test. What you won’t get is an education system that is designed to build the skills that Google has identified as the top characteristics of their most successful employees, nor will you get an education that is designed to build the Partnership for 21st Century Learning 4Cs.
In the long run this is not good for employers or for the Michigan economy. Far more important, this is not good for Michigan’s children. All Michigan children need and deserve a high quality education that develops the broad skills that employers like Google are looking for today. And prepares them for an economy where none of us have a clue what the jobs and occupations of the future will be. To be career rock climbers, having the ability and agility to constantly switch occupations.