The Myth of Achievement Tests: The GED and the Role of Character in American Life

University of Chicago Press
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Achievement tests play an important role in modern societies. They are used to evaluate schools, to assign students to tracks within schools, and to identify weaknesses in student knowledge. The GED is an achievement test used to grant the status of high school graduate to anyone who passes it. GED recipients currently account for 12 percent of all high school credentials issued each year in the United States. But do achievement tests predict success in life?

The Myth of Achievement Tests shows that achievement tests like the GED fail to measure important life skills. James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Tim Kautz, and a group of scholars offer an in-depth exploration of how the GED came to be used throughout the United States and why our reliance on it is dangerous. Drawing on decades of research, the authors show that, while GED recipients score as well on achievement tests as high school graduates who do not enroll in college, high school graduates vastly outperform GED recipients in terms of their earnings, employment opportunities, educational attainment, and health. The authors show that the differences in success between GED recipients and high school graduates are driven by character skills. Achievement tests like the GED do not adequately capture character skills like conscientiousness, perseverance, sociability, and curiosity. These skills are important in predicting a variety of life outcomes. They can be measured, and they can be taught.

Using the GED as a case study, the authors explore what achievement tests miss and show the dangers of an educational system based on them. They call for a return to an emphasis on character in our schools, our systems of accountability, and our national dialogue.

Contributors
Eric Grodsky, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Andrew Halpern-Manners, Indiana University Bloomington
Paul A. LaFontaine, Federal Communications Commission
Janice H. Laurence, Temple University
Lois M. Quinn, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Pedro L. Rodríguez, Institute of Advanced Studies in Administration
John Robert Warren, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
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About the author

James J. Heckman is a Nobel Prize–winning economist and the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago. He is the director of the Economics Research Center at the University of Chicago and codirector of the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Global Working Group, an initiative of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and the Becker-Friedman Institute. John Eric Humphries is a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago. Tim Kautz is a PhD candidate in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago and the recipient of a National Science Foundation fellowship.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Jan 14, 2014
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Pages
472
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ISBN
9780226100128
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economics / General
Business & Economics / Education
Business & Economics / General
Education / Secondary
Education / Testing & Measurement
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Organise your way to renewed focus and calm

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Get organised, focused and proactiveConquer the daily incoming delugeSpend more time on important workLeverage your desktop and mobile technology

When work is coming at you from every direction, it's difficult to focus and prioritise. Things get lost in the shuffle. But when you channel everything into a single stream, you settle into a flow and get more accomplished in less time. Smart Work is your guide to finding your flow— and the bottom of your inbox.

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