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The Myth of Achievement TestsThe GED and the Role of Character in American Life$
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James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, and Tim Kautz

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226100098

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226100128.001.0001

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Fostering and Measuring Skills Interventions That Improve Character and Cognition

Fostering and Measuring Skills Interventions That Improve Character and Cognition

(p.341) 9 Fostering and Measuring Skills Interventions That Improve Character and Cognition
The Myth of Achievement Tests

James J. Heckman

Tim Kautz

University of Chicago Press

This chapter reviews the recent literature on the economics and psychology of character skills. For many measures of adult achievement, character skills predict later life outcomes with the same, or greater, strength as measures of cognition. Character is a skill--not a trait. It can be enhanced and there are proven and effective ways to do so. At any age, character skills are stable across different tasks but performance depends on multiple skills and the effort expended. Reliable measures of character have been developed. While stable at any age, skills are not set in stone over the life cycle. Parents, schools, and social environments shape cognitive and character skills, although there are important genetic influences. The early years are important in laying the foundation for successful investment in the later years. Character skills are more malleable than cognitive skills at later ages. This chapter reviews a variety of interventions targeted to different stages of the life cycle. Building an early base of skills that promote later life learning and engagement in school and society is a better strategy. Prevention is more effective than remediation, but if adolescent remediation is attempted, it should focus on improving the more malleable character skills.

Keywords:   Cognition, Character, Interventions, Rate of Return

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