Institute for Economic and Social Research

Comparing the reliability and predictive power of child, teacher, and guardian reports of noncognitive skills


Proceedings of the national academy of sciences of the United States of America

Shuaizhang Feng, Yujie Han, James J. Heckman, & Tim Kautz



Children’s noncognitive or socioemotional skills (e.g., persistence and self-control) are typically measured using surveys in which either children rate their own skills or adults rate the skills of children. For many purposes—including program evaluation and monitoring school systems—ratings are often collected from multiple perspectives about a single child (e.g., from both the child and an adult). Collecting data from multiple perspectives is costly, and there is limited evidence on the benefits of this approach. Using a longitudinal survey, this study compares children’s noncognitive skills as reported by themselves, their guardians, and their teachers. Although reports from all three types of respondents are correlated with each other, teacher reports have the highest internal consistency and are the most predictive of children’s later cognitive outcomes and behavior in school. The teacher reports add predictive power beyond baseline measures of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) for most outcomes in schools. Measures collected from children and guardians add minimal predictive power beyond the teacher reports.


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