October 23, 2008

Social Skills As Important As Tests

Ten years after high school graduation, students rated as conscientious and cooperative by teachers earned more than other classmates, U.S. researchers say.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study challenges the idea that racial, ethnic and socioeconomic gaps in educational attainment and earnings can be narrowed solely by emphasizing cognitive skills.

"It's important to note that good schools do more than teach reading, writing, and math. They socialize students and provide the kinds of learning opportunities that help them to become good citizens and to be successful in the labor market," Christy Lleras said in a statement.

"Unless we address the differences in school climates and curriculum that foster good work habits and other social skills, we're doing a huge disservice to low-income kids who may be entering the labor market right after high school, especially in our increasingly service-oriented economy."

The study, published in the Social Science Research, analyzed data from a study of 11,000 10th-graders for 10 years, tracking test scores and teacher appraisals.

After controlling for students' achievement test scores, family socioeconomic status and educational attainment, the study found social skills as conscientiousness, cooperativeness, and motivation were as important as test scores for success in the workplace.