To Groom Good Teachers, Look to Quarterbacks

Schools, NFL face surprisingly similar recruiting hurdles
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2008 3:31 PM CST
Mizzou QBs Chase Daniel and Chase Patton might have equal chances of success in the NFL, though Patton hasn't started a single college game. Pre-NFL performance isn't too predictive of later success.   (Photo: Business Wire)
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(Newser) – Underperforming public schools can take a lesson from the NFL, but it's not an easy one, writes Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker. In much the same way that accurately evaluating a college quarterback is impossible, predicting a teacher's classroom success depends on countless intangibles. "No one knows what a person with the potential to be a great teacher looks like," Gladwell observes. "The school system has a quarterback problem."

Contrasting classrooms with a Missouri football game, Gladwell tails experts who help him make his case. "A college quarterback joining the NFL has to learn to play an entirely new game," he writes. Likewise, master’s degrees and certification "are expensive, time-consuming credentials that almost every district expects teachers to acquire; neither makes a difference in the classroom." The way to find good educators, he contends, may be to lower standards and evaluate candidates after they've begun teaching, not before.