So What?

Classy, Gritty Back to School Edition

August 19, 2016  • Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program

“So What?” – Your BI-Weekly Guide to Advocacy With Impact

Lovingly selected and lightly snarked by Team APEP: David Devlin-Foltz, Susanna Dilliplane, and Alex Gabriel
Shout out to grit

At the Democratic National Convention, Meryl Streep gave a shout out to grit and grace, claiming these are the two qualities necessary to be the first woman of anything. Grit, a personality trait that encompasses stick-with-it-ness and perseverance, was popularized by Angela Duckworth. She lifts up grit as the key to achieving lasting success for students. If you are curious about your grit-level, you can take her short survey. The ability to measure change in personality traits, such as grit, opens the possibility of assessing students and job training participants on other desirable personality characteristics, ranging from curiosity to zest. And in fact, some employers prefer to hire on the basis of personality traits, especially stick-to-it-ness. So if a teacher or employer inquires how zesty you are, take the question seriously and answer it enthusiastically.

How do you measure a year?

The musical Rent fills evaluators with tears… and ideas. When the chorus sweetly sings “how do we measure a year?” and then offers “in daylight, in sunsets… in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?” as potential metrics, inspired evaluators may brashly endeavor to measure love. As this musical highlights, some of the hardest things to measure are the most important, and some of the easiest things to measure are…not so important. According to Gallup, schools encounter a similar dilemma and commonly gather test scores that reveal only slices of content knowledge without lifting up other traits. We should ask how we measure achievement: Is it in grittiness, in sunrises, or in subjects loved?

You can go to school, but you can’t buy class

So…are you in the middle class?  Check out the Pew Research Center’s income calculator that breaks it down for us, by state.  It’s a muddle; Maryland and Mississippi have different middles.  But if you are one of those “average Americans” who thinks the economists don’t get you,  then check out NPR’s series “The New Middle” that adds some flavor to our understanding of what it means to be middle class. Passers-by provide a surprising range of answers from struggling to afford the trifecta of food, shelter, and transportation to annual luxurious vacations. For some, particularly recent college graduates, an in-unit washer and dryer is a hallmark of social mobility. But here in D.C., the Washington Post reminds us that the cost of living comfortably is quite high– in fact higher than the average salary of your average policy analyst.