Student Well-Being

Schools Urged to Teach Life Skills for Success Alongside Academics

By Caralee J. Adams — November 26, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If students are going to make a successful transition to college and career, schools need to do more than focus on academics. Experts say helping students develop grit, self-discipline, and critical thinking needs to be prioritized, as well.

A new report by the New America Foundation emphasizes the value of these “skills for success” and encourages K-12 educators to integrate activities to promote them into the classroom.

While prekindergarten programs have paid attention to this holistic approach to teaching, that focus is often lost in elementary, middle, and high school, according to “Skills for Success: Supporting and Assessing Key Habits, Mindsets, and Skills in Pre-K-12", released last week.

Authors Melissa Tooley and Laura Bornfreund, both on staff at the foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit, write that investing time in developing these life skills pays off in success in postsecondary and career settings.

With college enrollment growing, but completion rates remaining flat, educators are looking for ways to incorporate so-called soft skills into their college- and career-readiness efforts.

The report makes several recommendations for how the government, local educational agencies, educators, and research institutions can encourage schools to devote time to developing these life skills.

Schools should make their practices that influence students’ skills in these areas more visible and progress should be monitored by outside stakeholders. This might mean including school climate in accountability systems, the authors suggest. This should not be at the expense of moving away from accountability for academic achievement, they add.

For these skills to receive attention, educators need to understand their value and learn about strategies for promoting them through training, the report noted. “Research shows that many of these skills, such as self-regulation and cooperation, are, in fact, closely linked to academic achievement,” the report said. “There are some promising approaches available, both from Pre-K and K-12, for supporting the skills, habits, and mindsets that enable students to be successful academically as well as professionally and personally throughout their lives.”

The New America Foundation recommends funding more research to find out the most-effective approaches to teaching these life skills and establishing regulations to create skills for success standards that can help ensure schools make this a priority.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.