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Update: The Character Skills Assessment (CSA)

Update: The Character Skills Assessment (CSA)

From The Yield, Spring 2015 

Situation Judgment Tests (SJTs) are an increasingly common psychometric technique for measuring interpersonal and intrapersonal attributes. Respondents are presented with a scenario, and various answer options are provided. Test takers rank answers, select the best fit, or choose the best and the worst among them, and in doing so reveal their preferences and habits about self control, empathy, collaboration, and much more. 

These innovative item types will be a significant part of the new “non-cognitive” assessment being developed by SSATB to supplement the SSAT. SSATB is working in collaboration with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and 32 member schools (G32) to define and refine this tool, now called the Character Skills Assessment (CSA). (See the article “Measuring What Matters Most in Admission,” The Yield, Winter 2014.)  

The term character in this context has had wide and popular currency in recent years. Paul Tough used the term in the subtitle of his extraordinarily compelling and influential 2012 book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. Last October, the prominent and authoritative Brookings Institute also chose the same word for its landmark research report, “The Character Factor: Measures and Impact of Drive and Prudence.” Here again, the word “character” is used to describe the same general set of human qualities and attributes SSATB seeks to measure in the admission selection process. 

The question becomes, which particular skills among the many possibilities shall we focus upon? Following a series of deliberations and votes conducted among the educational leaders represented in the pilot group member schools (G32), the following attributes were identified as critical to success in independent schools: resilience, grit, curiosity, growth mindset, empathy, integrity, motivation, self-efficacy, and self-control. Several projects are in motion to advance this initiative. A formal white paper, written jointly by ETS and SSATB, will establish the goals and purpose of the endeavor and document the evidence basis for the approach being taken. Interested SSATB members will soon be able to read this publication. 

This winter and spring, groups of teachers from G32 schools are coming together to write SJTs—not unlike the community-based item writing approach already taken with the SSAT. Later this spring, students at the G32 schools will complete specially-designed surveys about their attitudes and personality preferences, which will ultimately dictate the design, development, and scoring of the CSA. 



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