Around the world we hear considerable talk about creating world-class schools. Usually the term refers to schools whose students get very high scores on the international comparisons of student achievement such as PISA or TIMSS. The practice of restricting the meaning of exemplary schools to the narrow criterion of achievement scores is usually premised on the view that test scores are closely linked to the provision of a capable labour force and competitive economy. In fact, the measured relationships between test scores and earnings or productivity are modest and explain a relatively small share of the larger link between educational attainment and economic outcomes. What has been omitted from such narrow assessments are the effects that education has on the development of interpersonal and intrapersonal skills and capabilities that affect the quality and productivity of the labour force. This article provides evidence on some of these relationships, on the degree to which the non-cognitive effects of schooling contribute to adult performance, and on the evidence that deliberate school interventions can influence non-cognitive outcomes. It concludes with the view that the quest for world-class schools must encompass a range of human development characteristics that extend considerably beyond test scores.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Almlund, M., Duckworth, A. L., Heckman, J., & Kautz, T. (2011, January). Personality psychology and economics. (Working paper 16822). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. http://www.nber.org/papers/w16822.pdf.
Barnett, W. S., et al. (2008). Educational effects of the Tools of the Mind curriculum: A randomized trial. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(3), 299–313.
Becker, G. (1964). Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis, with special reference to education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Belfield, C., Nores, M., Barnett, S., & Schweinhart, L. (2006). The High Scope/Perry Preschool Program: Cost-benefit analysis using data from the age—40 follow-up. Journal of Human Resources, 41(1), 162–190.
Blair, C., & Razza, R. P. (2007). Relating effortful control, executive function and false belief understanding to emerging math and literacy in kindergarten. Child Development, 78(2), 647–663.
Borghans, L., Duckworth, A. L., Heckman, J. J., & ter Weel, B. (2008a). The economics and psychology of personality traits. The Journal of Human Resources, 43(4), 972–1059.
Borghans, L., ter Weel, B., & Weinberg, B. A. (2008b). Interpersonal styles and labor market outcomes. The Journal of Human Resources, 43(4), 815–858.
Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1976). Schooling in capitalist America. New York: Basic Books.
Bowles, S., Gintis, H., & Osborne, M. (2001). The determinants of earnings: A behavioral approach. Journal of Economic Literature, 39(4), 137–1176.
Brunello, G., & Schlotter, M. (2010). The effect of non cognitive skills and personality traits on labour market outcomes. Analytical Report for the European Commission prepared by the European Expert Network on Economics of Education. http://www.epis.pt/downloads/dest_15_10_2010.pdf.
Camilli, G., Vargas, S., Ryan, S., & Barnett, W. S. (2010). Meta-analysis of the effects of early education interventions on cognitive and social development. Teachers College Record, 112(3), 579–620.
Card, D. (1999). The causal effect of education on earnings. In O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (Eds.), Handbook of labor economics (pp. 1802–1863). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Cawley, J., Heckman, J., & Vytlacil, E. (2001). Three observations on wages and measured cognitive ability. Labour Economics, 8(4), 419–442.
Coleman, J. S., et al. (1966). Equality of educational opportunity. Washington, DC: U.S. Office of Education, Government Printing Office.
Corcoran, S. (2010). Can teachers be evaluated by their students’ test scores? Should they be? The use of value-added measures of teacher effectiveness in policy and practice. Providence, RI: The Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University.
Cunha, F., & Heckman, J. J. (2008). Formulating, identifying and estimating the technology of cognitive and noncognitive skill formation. The Journal of Human Resources, 42(4), 738–782.
Cunha, F., & Heckman, J. J. (2010). Investing in our young people. In A. J. Reynolds, A. J. Rolnick, M. M. Englund, & J. A. Temple (Eds.), Childhood programs and practices in the first decade of life (pp. 381–414). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Dee, T., & West, M. R. (2011). The non-cognitive returns to class size. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33(1), 23–46.
Digman, J. (1990). Personality structure: Emergence of the five-factor model. Annual Review of Psychology, 41, 417–440.
Dreeben, C. (1968). On what is learned in school. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.
Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16(12), 939–944.
Duncan, G. J., & Magnuson, K. (2011). The nature and impact of early achievement skills, attention and behavior problems. In G. Duncan & R. Murnane (Eds.), Whither opportunity: Rising inequality and the uncertain life chance of low-income children (pp. 47–70). New York: Russell Sage.
Duncan, G. J., et al. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428–1446.
Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–432.
Finn, J. D., & Achilles, C. M. (1990). Answers and questions about class size: A statewide experiment. American Educational Research Journal, 27(3), 557–577.
Finn, J. D., Gerber, S. B., & Boyd-Zaharias, J. (2005). Small classes in the early grades, academic achievement and graduating from high school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 214–223.
Fortin, N. M. (2008). The gender wage gap among young adults in the United States: The importance of money vs. people. The Journal of Human Resources, 43(4), 884–918.
Gradstein, M., & Justman, M. (2002). Education, social cohesion, and economic growth. American Economic Review, 92(4), 1192–1204.
Hanushek, E., Rivkin, S., & Taylor, L. (1996). Aggregation and the estimated effects of school resources. Review of Economics and Statistics, 78(4), 611–627.
Hanushek, E., & Woessmann, L. (2008). The role of cognitive skills in economic development. Journal of Economic Literature, 46(3), 607–668.
Harris, D. (2009). Would accountability based on teacher value-added be smart policy? An examination of the statistical properties and policy alternatives. Educational Finance and Policy, 4(4), 319–350.
Hartigan, J., & Wigdor, A. (1989). Fairness in employment testing: Validity generalization, minority issues, and the General Aptitude Test Battery. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Heckman, J., Moon, S. H., Pinto, R., Savelyev, P., & Yavitz, A. (2010). A new cost-benefit and rate of return analysis for the Perry Preschool Program: A summary. In A. J. Reynolds, A. J. Rolnick, M. M. Englund, & J. A. Temple (Eds.), Childhood programs and practices in the first decade of life (pp. 366–380). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Heckman, J., & Rubenstein, Y. (2001). The importance of noncognitive skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program. American Economic Review, 91(2), 145–149.
Heineck, G., & Anger, S. (2010). The returns to cognitive ability and personality traits in Germany. Labour Economics, 17(3), 535–546.
Inkeles, A. (1966). The socialization of competence. Harvard Educational Review, 36(3), 265–283.
Inkeles, A. (1975). Becoming modern: Individual change in six developing countries. Ethos, 3(2), 323–342.
Inkeles, A., & Smith, D. (1974). Becoming modern: Individual changes in six developing societies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
IZA [Institute for the Study of Labor] (2011). Workshop: Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills, Bonn, 25–27 January. http://www.iza.org/link/CoNoCoSk2011.
Kniesner, T. J., & ter Weel, B. (Eds.) (2008, Fall). Noncognitive Skills and Their Development (Special issue), Journal of Human Resources, 43(4). http://jhr.uwpress.org.
Knudsen, E. I., Heckman, J. J., Cameron, J. L., & Shonkoff, J. P. (2006). Economic, neurobiological, and behavioral perspectives on building America’s future workforce. PNAS [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences], 103(27), 10155–10162.
Krueger, A., & Schkade, D. (2008). Sorting in the labor market: Do gregarious workers flock to interactive jobs? The Journal of Human Resources, 43(4), 859–883.
Kyllonen, P. C., Lipnevich, A. A., Burrus, J., & Roberts, R. D. (2008). Personality, motivation, and college readiness: A prospectus for assessment and development. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Levin, H. M. (1970). A new model of school effectiveness. In A. M. Mood (Ed.), Do teachers make a difference? (pp. 55–78). Washington, DC: Office of Education, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
Levin, H. M. (2009). The economic payoff to investing in educational justice. Educational Researcher, 38(1), 5–20.
Levin, H. M. (2012). The utility and need for incorporating noncognitive skills into large-scale educational assessments. In M. von Davier, E. Gonzalez, I. Kirsch, & K. Yamamoto (Eds.), The Role of international large-scale assessments: Perspectives from technology, economy, & educational research (pp. 67–86). New York: Springer.
Lindqvist, E., & Vestman, R. (2011). The labor market returns to cognitive and noncognitive ability: Evidence from the Swedish enlistment. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 3, 101–128.
Mosteller, F. (1995). The Tennessee Study of Class Size in the Early School Grades. The Future of Children, 5(2), 113–127.
Murnane, R., Willett, J., Bratz, M., & Duhaldeborde, Y. (2001). Do different dimensions of male high school students’ skills predict labor market success a decade later: Evidence from the NLSY. Economics of Education Review, 20, 311–320.
Murnane, R., Willett, J., Duhaldeborde, Y., & Tyler, J. (2000). How important are the cognitive skills of teenagers in predicting subsequent earnings? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 19(4), 547–568.
Murnane, R., Willett, J., & Levy, F. (1995). The growing importance of cognitive skills in wage determination. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 77(2), 251–266.
National Research Council (1984). High schools and the changing workplace: The employers’ view (Report of the Panel on Secondary School Education for the Changing Workplace). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Neuman, G. A., & Wright, J. (1999). Team effectiveness: Beyond skills and cognitive ability. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(3), 376–389.
Noftle, E. E., & Robins, R. W. (2007). Personality predictors of academic outcomes: Big five correlates of GPA and SAT scores. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(1), 116–130.
Nores, M., & Barnett, W. S. (2010). Benefits of early childhood interventions across the world: (Under) investing in the very young. Economics of Education Review, 29, 271–282.
Rothstein, R., Jacobsen, R., & Wilder, T. (2008). Grading education: Getting accountability right. New York: Teachers College Press.
Sackett, P. R., Schmitt, N., Ellingson, J. E., & Kabin, M. B. (2001). High stakes testing in employment, credentialing, and higher education: Prospects in a post-affirmative action world. American Psychologist, 56(4), 302–318.
Sameroff, A. (2010). A unified theory of development: A dialectic integration of nature and nurture. Child Development, 81(1), 6–22.
Schweinhart, L. J. (2010). The challenge of the High Scope Perry Preschool Study. In A. J. Reynolds, A. J. Rolnick, M. M. Englund, & J. A. Temple (Eds.), Childhood programs and practices in the first decade of life (pp. 366–380). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Segal, C. (2008). Classroom behavior. The Journal of Human Resources, 43(4), 783–814.
Shury, J., Winterbotham, M., Davies, B., & Oldfield, K. (2010). National employer skills survey for England 2009: Key findings report. South Yorkshire: UK Commission for Employment and Skills.
Urzua, S. (2008). Racial labor market gaps: The role of abilities and schooling choices. The Journal of Human Resources, 43(4), 919–971.
Vignoles, A., De Coulon, A., & Marcenaro-Gutierrez, O. (2011). The value of basic skills in the British labour market. Oxford Economic Papers, 63(1), 27–48.
Zemsky, R., & Iannozzi, M. (1995). A reality check: First findings from the EQW National Employer Survey (EQW Issue no. 10). Philadelphia: National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce, University of Pennsylvania. http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED398385.pdf.
About this article
Cite this article
Levin, H.M. More than just test scores. Prospects 42, 269–284 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11125-012-9240-z
- World-class education
- Test scores
- Interpersonal and intrapersonal characteristics
- Socio-emotional learning
- Economic productivity