Akili Smith with Tenure

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Malcolm Gladwell weighs in on teacher quality, certification and value-added analysis in a must read article drawing attention to the similarities between teaching and the NFL draft.

Now, lots of people like to bust on the San Diego Chargers for drafting Ryan Leaf with the second overall pick in 1998 (one pick behind the great Peyton Manning btw).

Personally, I think the Bengals taking Akili Smith with a similar high pick the next year represents an even more tremendous screw up, and the Bengals turned down the Ricky Williams deal from the Saints to draft a guy who threw 5 touchdowns and 13 picks before getting cut. Instead, the could have had the Saints entire 1999 draft and a couple of high 2000 picks just to move down a few spots.

But I digress. Gladwell’s point is an excellent one: no one can figure out which college QB will translate into the pros, and no one can seem to figure out who will make an excellent teacher. Get them in the classroom and figure it out, but don’t give Akili Smith tenure.

2 Responses to Akili Smith with Tenure

  1. pm says:

    Gladwell quotes Hanushek’s estimate that replacing the worst 6% to 10% of teachers with average teachers would make a significant difference. This number was for all existing teachers and not just new teachers. So assuming Hanushek’s estimate is correct I don’t see how that leads to Gladwell’s conclusion. Adding the excellent qualifier — lets say that means the top 10% — would seem to make Gladwell’s conclusion more likely. And I would not be surprised if that is similar to choosing professional quarterbacks.

    The chart that has been posted on this blog a couple of times paints a much more dismal picture. And if you think that education sans teachers is just a joke, then you might find the following interesting:


  2. Alsadius says:

    Really cool column. Thanks for the link.

    Also, I did enjoy hearing about the “hole in the wall” experiment, though I can’t say it surprises me – people are very good at learning things that interest them, and for kids in remote India in 1998 a computer has to be fascinating as all hell.

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