As defined by the author of a recent study on “non-cognitive skills”, a good teacher is “one who teaches students the skills needed to be productive adults” (all quotes are from the original study.) However, “not every skill needed in adulthood is well-captured by performance on achievement tests.”
Indeed, this is especially true of such non-cognitive skills as adaptability, self-restraint, and motivation, which are “key determinants of adult outcomes.”
Moreover, the data actually shows that such skills matter more than academic skills even in terms of academic outcomes.
Looking at the results of all public school ninth graders in North Carolina between 2005 and 2012, the author found that increases in non-cognitive skills had a stronger correlation with high school graduation, 12th-Grade GPA, and intention to attend a 4-year college than increases in test scores.
Interestingly, test-score (cognitive) and non-cognitive value-added were weakly correlated, meaning that “many teachers who raise test scores do not improve behaviors, and vice versa.”
Indeed, to measure non-cognitive skills, the researcher used behaviors as proxies, creating a “behavior index” based on grades, absences, and suspensions.
In that sense, non-cognitive skills seem closely connected with social-emotional skills, which inlude the ability to regulate one’s emotions, make responsible decisions, feel empathy for others, and maintain positive relationships.
As a conclusion, “teacher effects on test scores capture only a fraction of teacher effects on human capital” and students’ life chances.
Reference: Kirabo Jackson (2018), “What Do Test Scores Miss? The Importance of Teacher Effects on Non–Test Score Outcomes”, Journal of Political Economy, 126:5, pp. 2072-2107.