To the Editor:
The article “Top U.S. Companies: These Are the Skills Students Need in a Post-Pandemic World” (March 2, 2021) highlights the essential skills managers expect from today’s K-12 students and how schools can provide students with those skills. The Council for Aid to Education, the nonprofit assessment developer I lead, agrees that fact-based knowledge alone is no longer sufficient for college and career success.
Our data show that approximately 60 percent of students entering college are not proficient in the essential skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, and written communication—even though these skills are predictive of positive college and career outcomes. Since these skills are seldom explicitly taught in college curricula or in the workplace, most students have little opportunity to improve their proficiency and achieve their full potential.
The opportunity to improve students’ essential skills lies in identification and action, and secondary education must play a role. By assessing students’ essential skills early in their academic journeys, educators can use the results to provide targeted developmental support. Identifying and supporting students who may be at risk due to insufficient proficiency upon entry to higher education should also be a component to improving student success.
Measuring these essential skills can best be accomplished by using authentic, valid, and reliable assessments that allow educators to understand if their students are ready for their next step. Assessments with years of comparative data that educators can readily use to help students identify their strengths and areas for improvement are fundamental to developing the critical thinkers, problem-solvers, and communicators who can be successful in the future. Cultivating students’ essential skills now will go far in boosting future outcomes for students, parents, institutions, and the overall economy.
CEO & President
Council for Aid to Education
New York, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the March 24, 2021 edition of Education Week as Are Students Ready for Post-Pandemic Reality?