There’s more to grit than just hard work, University of Pennsylvania psychology Professor Angela Duckworth said Tuesday to begin the second day of the ASU+GSV Summit. Having “sustained passion” along with perseverance also separates those who become successful from those who have potential but don’t do anything to nurture it, she said.
“We all know people who had tremendous talent who didn’t do anything with it,” she said, adding that in addition to the hard work that’s needed to master a skill, children and adults also need to apply that skill.
Duckworth challenged the 10,000 hours rule that suggests sticking with a task for at least that long will allow a person to develop expertise in that area. High-quality practice — not just practice alone — can make the difference in whether someone continues to improve or plateaus. “It’s possible to stay on the plateau if you’re not practicing like experts do,” she said.
Dropping out — in the sense that an individual lets go of activities or pursuits in which he or she is not succeeding — allows someone to find that area where they can excel. But at the same time, she noted that educators and parents should encourage children not to give up on something they love just because they’re not winning or being recognized for their efforts.
“I worry about kids who have never learned to stick with anything for a long time,” she said.
She described a cycle of what she called “deliberate practice,” which begins with a “stretch goal,” a 100% focus on attaining that goal, getting feedback, and then reflecting on that feedback and refining one’s practice as needed.
In recent years, some researchers have argued with Duckworth’s studies, suggesting that she is overstating the impact of grit or that these are personality traits that don’t change very much. But Duckworth stressed that all children have the potential for grit.
She added that it’s important for schools to honor students’ personal interests and not only focus on strengthening their areas of weakness.
State, district leaders discuss ‘bold’ steps to support aspiring leaders and urban students
Education administrators who are working to increase diversity in school leadership and improve outcomes for poor and minority students were featured in an afternoon session led by Chiefs for Change, an advocacy group of 27 district and state leaders.
The organization decided about two years ago that supporting districts and state departments of education in creating those leadership pipelines was an “area where we really needed to get involved,” said CEO Mike Magee. He added that chiefs can be “bold and have staying power,” and that many of the organization’s members have longer-than-average tenures in their districts.
In the San Antonio Independent School District, Superintendent Pedro Martinez has created a partnership with Relay Graduate School of Education, based in New York City, to manage a school and to create a teacher residency program in which 75 teachers will earn a Master of Arts in Teaching degree. The model, which has now spread to a second site, is different from a charter school in that the teachers are still district employees and it is still a neighborhood school.
“What I love is they are supporting teachers on a daily basis,” Martinez says.
With Relay’s expertise, students are also exposed to more “rigorous content,” students are more engaged in school, and parents are visiting the school more often, he says.
Matthew Montano, deputy secretary of teaching and learning at the New Mexico Public Education Department, described his state’s effort to support teacher leadership through annual summits and in reviewing and improving curriculum materials.
The third summit will be held this year with sessions led mostly by teachers. “There was just a hunger for teachers to have access to policy conversations as well as curriculum design conversations,” he said.
Montano also talked about how a mentor who took “a chance on a Mexican-American kid from poverty” began his career in education as a special education assistant. With mentorship, he rose to become principal of a high school, then took a district position and now works at the state level.
Wanda Legrand, the deputy chancellor for social, emotional and academic development for the District of Columbia Public Schools, agreed that she grew as a leader because she was encouraged by mentors not to rest on her achievements.
“I’ve had mentors in my life that made me really uncomfortable about being comfortable,” she said.
Both Legrand and Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of the Orange County (FL) Public Schools, also talked about their districts’ social-emotional learning (SEL) initiatives. Orange County is implementing a program based on Duckworth’s research at the middle school level. “We think that’s a paramount time” for goal setting, decision making and giving students opportunities to try a lot of different activities, Jenkins said.
The panelists also spoke about their districts' efforts to increase graduation rates and ensure that more students are successful in college, such as offering Khan Academy’s SAT tutorial program, increasing enrollment in Advanced Placement courses, and exposing more students to colleges and universities where they otherwise would not have considered applying.
“That has now become my mission,” Martinez said.
‘The power to change kids’ lives’
The evening session began with a moment of silence to honor former First Lady Barbara Bush. On Monday evening, former President George W. Bush, in addressing the attendees, discussed his mother’s health and said he was “at peace because she is at peace.”
The agenda included singer, songwriter and actor John Legend, who shared his background in Springfield, OH, and the current efforts of his nonprofit organization, the Show Me Campaign, to support teachers, businesses and community partners in creating learning experiences that connect school with students’ lives outside of school.
The LRNG Innovators program was developed in partnership with the National Writing Project and the John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation. The projects include a blend of video game and fashion design in Brooklyn, involving girls in environmental science research in Oxford, MS, and students rethinking historical monuments in Charlottesville — even before the riot last year.
“Teachers have the power to change kids’ lives,” he said. In high school, he said he didn’t see writing as one of his strengths and was dealing with a personal crisis following the death of a family member. A teacher and counselor, he said, “believed I could aim higher than my circumstances.”