Giving Compass' Take:

• The 74 reports on the will of school districts across the U.S. to prepare students for the future of work, but argues that there doesn't seem to be a consensus or coordinated strategy on how to do so. 

• We know STEM learning is important, but which skills will translate in the age of automation? How can we measure success? These are questions that educators and those who support them must answer now.

• Here's how we may be able to assess "soft skills" for students with new tests.

Over the past decade, educators and policymakers have introduced a myriad of policies and programming to meet new challenges — sometimes directly, as with career and technical education and expanded offerings in STEM and information technology fields, but also in the catchall effort to boost self-directed thinking through higher standards, instruction requiring close student engagement, and better tests.

Some of this work lacks a common vocabulary. Social skills are often called soft or non-cognitive skills, or social-emotional skills, or personality traits, and refer to qualities ranging from creativity to perseverance. The vagueness may signify that schools haven’t fully internalized their role in “workforce development,” a term whose colorlessness masks its importance.

Education, business, and political leaders generally agree that, notwithstanding successful local initiatives and a move away from rote instruction by more skillful teachers, the broader effort to develop the future workforce has been unsystematic, reflecting regional differences as well as inequalities of race, gender, and income. Gaps in achievement translate into gaps in preparedness as students grow up in poor areas of cities and rural America.

The rise in importance of non-academic abilities reflects an understanding that students need to be prepared differently but exposes a lack of coherence in how to build those competencies.

Read the full article about schools lagging in workforce preparation by David Cantor at The 74.