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kathleen thompson gonzalez, san juan

I apologize for the errors in the piece I just posted. I should have hit preview.

Cedar

I think another point worth conceding is the one made above regarding the difficulty in assessing and attributing performance in both quarterbacks and teachers. The entire article assumes that it is easy to separate "good" teachers from "bad" teachers, glibly positing that good teachers can cover more than twice the material. But of course the quantity of material is not the only, or even the best metric of teaching effectiveness. Nor are the many standardized tests administered, which often are chosen based on cost and convenience, as well as pedagogical value. For example, imagine an essay test of writing, evaluated based on the type of organization, logic, and style, as well as grammar. Such as test would be very labor intensive (and costly) to grade, therefore few states use this. However, teaching effective written communication is nonetheless held up as a standard in just about any curriculum.
I think based on the difficulty of assessing teaching effectiveness, adopting your easy categories of good teachers and bad teachers, often leads educational administrators down a misguided path, of trying to fire the bad ones, and saying that a chief problem with our educational system is the stability of teacher tenure. I am now a college professor, but my former public school system in DC now has a "hard charging reformer" (Michelle Rhee) who seems to think that she can herself find out who are the good teachers (and principals) and who are the bad, and has embarked on a scorched earth firing of many teachers and principals. I think your article, and its oversimplification of how teachers are evaluated potentially adds dangerous fuel to this fire.

Josh Millet

The article is an interesting read, but Gladwell's presentation of the "quarterback problem" does not stand up to any kind of statistical analysis. In fact, draft order and subsequent success are, by any statistical measure, highly correlated. Ryan Leaf and Tom Brady are outliers--but taken as a whole draft order is a very accurate predictor of subsequent performance. In fact, the evidence suggests that NFL player personnel evaluators have a record of predicting performance that would be the envy of any employer. See http://blog.criteriacorp.com/blog/bid/7688/Gladwell-s-New-Yorker-Article-on-Hiring

Karl B.

I just wanted to add that the teachers who come from a program like Teach for America should be looked at. The program is extremely selective and demanding, and I wonder how well their teachers compare to the average teacher, and what kind of incentives would be necessary to get them to stay on as teachers, and whether that would be worth it.

mike

interesting article, but I think it claims far more than it should thru a common error. By holding all other factors the same, it magnifies the importance of teaching. Read again the article and note it says "Suppose that Mrs. Brown and Mr. Smith both teach a classroom of third graders who score at the fiftieth percentile on math and reading tests on the first day of school, in September."

So sure, one class in this case may do better than the other and its attributable to the teacher. But what factors contributed to overall performance? How about parental involvement, adequate nutrition, influence of peers at home and in the classroom, etc? What is missing from Gladwell's story is any estimate or even mention of the relative magnitude of these other effects; the reader is left with the impression that teaching explains all.

This story reminds me of a lot of the studies you read about heritability and height. Height is said to be strongly inherited. But studies of height are done at a point in time; common for members of that society are the level of medical care, prevention of epidemics, nutrition & famine, etc. These dwarf the inherited differences for a population, as anyone who's ever visited a museum and wondered why the knights of the past (surely at the top of the food chain of their era) wore armor that is much too small for almost anyone to wear today has noticed. Even today you can notice the children of immigrants from poorer societies have taller offspring. Once your well-fed and immunized against disease, your illnesses treated, then genes explain height. And for children of similar backgrounds and abilities the teacher explains a lot; what's more interesting (and important) before we run off and change everything to match Gladwell's theories of the primacy of the teacher is to have a handle on the other influences. My bet is there's a lot more bang for the buck there.

David Marshak

Malcom Gladwell’s prescription for finding excellent teachers is faulty in three ways.

Gladwell agrees with most educators that standardized test scores are “only a crude measure.” But then he continues his analysis of teaching effectiveness, quoting Eric Hanushek, employing standardized test scores as the only measure. In this, he bases his entire analysis on what he has already called “a crude measure.” Huh?

Gladwell then presents the hiring of financial advisers as an example of skillful professional recruiting. His informant interviews 1000 people, hires 49, keeps 23, and expects 8 or 9 of them to be successful. Given that there are more than 3,000,000 teachers in the U.S., this schema for recruitment is about as useful to school leaders as a TRS 80.

Finally Gladwell says that “teaching should be open to anyone with a pulse and a college degree—and teachers should be judged after they have started their jobs…” What Gladwell ignores is that unlike financial advisors, teachers assume complete responsibility for 100% of their students from day one of their employment. These are actual children and teens who are assigned to this teacher, not clients who can choose a newbie advisor or not. A new “teacher with a pulse” who fails will do far more damage than just to her/his own career.

Current teacher education programs cannot guarantee excellent teachers, but they are far more likely to place new teachers into classrooms with kids who will do less damage if they fail than Gladwell’s “any man with a pulse.”

Sometimes Gladwell’s connections between diverse subjects are creative and informative. In this article he seems more interested in musing about quarterbacks than in thinking systemically about teacher preparation.

David Marshak

John Wesley

You are wrong to dismiss the QB vs. point guard comparison as useless. You would likely find that predicting the success of pro point guards based on college performance and draft position is much more successful than predicting QB performance. This would reveal that there is something special about the pro QB position.

This would be far more interesting than the teacher comparison you selected. The article is anecdotal nonsense, lacking true insight. Typical Gladwell.

Mike

Josh,

As a teacher who attended one of the top teacher preparation programs in the nation and who has been teaching now for four years let me assure you that the time spent in the classroom as a student is virtually useless when it comes to predicting who will be a good teacher.

It would not be useless if it was videotaped an broken down like it was in the New Yorker article, but it is not.

Even if it was, a student-teaching scenario doesn't simulate real teaching any better than playing college football simulates NFL football for a QB.

I was an "A" student in my student-teaching and looked great to those who observed me, but when I got my own classroom I found out that I was light years away from being a great teacher.

Only now, in my 4th year, is it really possible, or fair for that matter, for someone to determine whether I am a good teacher. Of course I already have tenure, so now it doesn't matter.

Luckily for me I happened to get a job working in a department that took pride in helping young new teachers and I invited (and angered the union in the process) my department head and principal to come observe any time they wanted so that I could get a lot of feedback.

I believe I am a good teacher today (with a lot to learn still) because I got a lot of good feedback from people who already knew how to teach. Sadly teacher's unions are doing everything they can to limit administrator observations to once or twice a year, even for young teachers without tenure, thus limiting any good feedback that new teachers can get.

In the four years that I have taught I have watched at least 5 teachers in the school who were universally disliked get tenure because the administration had not observed them enough to know if they were any good. Now they have tenure and the administration wishes they could fire them.

The entire system is broken and the certification system is at the root of the disaster. My colleagues spend more time trying to keep up or improve certifications than they do planning lessons. It really is a tragedy.

Imagine if NFL teams told backup QB's to spend the week studying for written tests and not practicing. How do you think they would perform if they were needed on Sunday?

John

I am afraid that this article is off base. Many people, from outside teaching, think that it is the quality of the teacher that matters. As a teacher, I have to disagree with this. Most teachers know their subject matter much better than any high school student is capable of learning within four years. I teach German, and no student of mine will equal me within four years. It comes down to work ethic. Family background is a much better predictor of student success period. You can have the best teacher in the world in that classroom, but if the kids don't value education, don't do their homework or have a disrespectful attitude towards the teacher, what is going to happen? I have had all kinds of students over the years, and the kids right off the boat from Asia, from Russia way outperform my lazy American students. It is all about family culture. I thought that you, Malcolm Gladwell, having studied Asian cultures towards work, etc. would have gotten this. The quality of the teacher doesn't have that much to do with it. I loved my English teacher during high school and he was inspiring, but I still didn't do my homework. I didn't have the work ethic until years later. Think about it. You can fill Chicago Public Schools with PhD teachers from all over the globe, and the students will still tell their teachers to F___ off, and not do their homework.

Sam

Good and bad point about Matt Cassell, sure he did not play much in college, but he also went to USC. Any quarterback at USC is an excellent athlete, and could probably start at any other school. Also, Pete Carroll is known for running a pro like system, so while New England definitely is a good environment for quarterbacks, the basics that Matt Cassell learned probably come from USC. It would be interesting to take a Division 3 QB and throw him into New England's system (no pun intended) and see how he performs.

Mike

John,

I have heard that same tired excuse from a lot of my colleagues, and frankly I find it sad.

Yes, kids who have a better home life are better prepared to learn and easier to teach, and for those kids the quality of teacher matters less. But, for kids who do not have the type of support and encouragement at home that is ideal, a good teacher can make a huge difference.

If your school is like mine though the teachers who have been there longer, and who are theoretically better prepared to deal with kids who need some extra support, get to choose the honors classes to teach. They want those classes because they are easy of course. A trained monkey could teach an honors class full of compliant students with parents at home who are making sure kids do all their work.

In the lower tracks and in urban schools the quality of teacher is crucial. A good teacher is not going to turn a low achieving urban classroom with kids from tough homes into PhD candidates in one year. But 12 good teachers in a row would mean that many more of those kids graduate and go to college.

Michael Josefowicz

It seems clear that "what needs to be done" is somewhere in the comments and the practice of those who have taken the time to blog.

But I don't think the issue of power and incentives in the present system have been discussed.

To be clear, I am not suggesting any straight forward relationship between rewards and the maintenance of the status quo. But,consider the weight of the institutions that are heavily invested in granting credentials. Consider the ease of making decisions with clear metrics - test results, appropriate certifications. Metrics are often more important in relieving the stress of decision making than in measuring what they purportedly measure.

I think it's plausible to believe this is going to change relatively soon. Much of the conceptual work of "what is to be done" has been done. Many examples of what works have emerged on the ground.

To scale will need a shift in institutional power in the game.

We are moving quickly into a world of information equality. The source of the competitive advantage of information based institutions is slipping away. Newspapers, schools, governmental agencies were/are all based on superior communication. As the internet destroys that advantage, sooner or later the benefits will be captured by students and teachers, as opposed to the institutions that are protecting their legacies.

Given the new stresses of America, it's a pretty good bet that we are close to watching this whole thing "tip."

Michael Josefowicz

The significant difference between football and teaching is that in football you know exactly when you've won. You also have a clear public record of when you messed up.

This well defined transparency is the necessary, but not sufficient condition, for big changes to happen.

Michael Josefowicz

Mr. Gladwell,

I read with great interest your recent article on IQ tests. I wonder if you have any thoughts about using some modification of those tests to test whether students are getting smarter.

Mike

I hope we're watching the whole thing tip, but we have barely scratched the surface, even in these blog comments, about what needs to be done.

As someone who has worked in the American education system for almost 10 years I can say with confidence that the whole system needs to be blown up and re-started.

Here is my short list of major changes that need to happen. They are not in order of importance because they all need to happen.

1. Schools need to re-focus their purpose. Our current public school system is almost completely focused on preparing kids for college (though I would argue we are doing a pitiful job of that) and yet many of our students will be going into fields that do not require a college education. I work at an upper-middle class suburban school and I have lost 6 students in my classes alone in the past two years who have dropped out because they legitimately felt that what we were teaching them was in no way preparing them for the jobs they were going to do. The sad thing is, they were right. We need to create a vocational track in our school systems that is legitimate and thorough. Most vocational programs I have encountered are places we can send the "bad kids" and that needs to stop.

2. Tenure needs to end. Teachers are not 19th century factory workers. We do not have to worry about unsafe working conditions (in most cases) and we cannot be replaced by unskilled laborers. Giving teachers tenure after 3 years makes some of us complacent and makes it nearly impossible to get rid of incompetent teachers. While the many of us who are good, dedicated teachers enjoy some job security, we make our jobs harder by keeping the dead weight around. When towns have to vote on school budgets they are not thinking about the best of us, they are thinking about the worst among us and I think part of their reluctance to fund us sometimes is because they don't want to pay that 25 year veteran who stopped working hard 22 years ago any more money.

3. As I mentioned in #1 we do a pitiful job of preparing kids for college. Our students are so concerned about grades and getting good grades so that they will get into college that they are not actually preparing for college. Many of them are working very hard, but they are not really learning anything. If we gave them 6 hours of homework a night and collected every scrap of work they did and graded it (and believe me, this is the goal of a number of my colleagues) they would do it, but they would not learn much. At every level of public education we are failing to train students to be thinkers and researchers. They will read and memorize any text we tell them to and they will dutifully complete hours of word problems, but if we give them any freedom to create their own model of learning they are lost. I know this because my classroom is set up in such a way. My students are expected to read for understanding and to seek deeper meaning and discover answers on their own, without me, the teacher, providing clear answers. This model frustrates my students because they have become so used to being spoon-fed that they don't have any idea how to discover or analyze information.

4. Less is more. We need to get away from the model that says more homework is the way to prove that we are making kids "work hard". Working hard in the academic sense has as much to do with depth of analysis, if not more, than it has to do with how much time students spend working. At our school when middle school parents are trying to help their children decide (or in most cases, deciding for them) whether or not they should be in honors classes, the number one thing that they want to know is "how much more HW is there"?

The dirty secret of course is that most of us who teach honors classes give a lot less of what would traditionally be called HW. Students in those classes tend to be more self-motivated and will do reading assignments without a set of questions being attached to it that they need to hand in to "prove" that they did the work.

The traditional model of HW as a way of making sure kids are "working hard" needs to be blown up. HW should consist of two things - practice or reading. That is, if you are in a math or science class where practice of certain types of problems is required than it makes sense to practice them nightly...though not necessarily for hours at a time. However, I do not think it is necessary or useful to collect said HW and grade it. Instead, students should be checking answers on their own and then seeing the teacher for extra help or asking questions during class about anything that they struggled with.

As for reading, if you teach history, like i do, or English than you know that there is a lot of reading that needs to be done outside of the classroom. For younger students especially that reading should be accompanied by "study guide" type questions so that they will learn to keep an eye on the important topics being covered. Again though, collecting and grading that work does not make for thoughtful students, it makes for compliant ones.

Let me share with you an example of how the "assign, collect, grade" model has damaged my students understanding of the purpose of education. When I assign a reading and my students arrive the day that it's due and I do not have a homework quiz (sometimes I do, sometimes I don't) they often complain that "I really read that carefully, what a waste of time!"

So, if it is not being graded, right now, than it is a "waste of time"? These are "honors" students and they only care about getting a grade. They cannot see that by carefully reading something they have practiced a skill, learned key information that will help them understand future topics and, for those who just care about grades, will help them on later tests. I probably discuss this idea with my students daily...but the opposite is being reinforced in most of their other classes because teachers feel obligated to grade a lot of things so that they can justify their grades to complaining parents.

Ok, I said this would be short, which it has not been, but one last point for people to chew on and disagree about.

5. Tracking of students needs to go. If someone told you that you were not in the "smart" group as a youngster how much would you enjoy school and learning? There are mountains of research that say that tracking is damaging to all students, including the "smart" ones. However, teachers like it because it is easier to teach classes of "smart", "average" or "dumb" students instead of mixed classrooms. It's bad for kids, but easier for us, so it stays.

Ok, that is it for now. I am hoping to get some feedback on my thoughts here, especially from fellow educators. Thanks for reading this far! Let's start a revolution!

robert tannenbaum

Table of Contents
malcolm,
i have written a book on how to help elementary students learn. i wonder if your brother would be interested in reading a chapter, or reading the book. it has methods that not only work, but work quickly and anyone can do it.
i can send the chapters one by one to you or your brother via email. let me know. below is the table of contents for :
Grampa Charlie and the Eisenhower Principle.

Chapter one: This chapter explains my reasons for writing this book, along with a discussion of the Eisenhower Principle and the first lesson I designed that took that Principle seriously. It worked and I was on my way.

Chapter two: In chapter two I talk about student health and psychological problems, and the four kinds of students, and why you don’t treat every student the same way.

Chapter three: Chapter three presents a possible solution to the serious and huge problem of high student geographical mobility.

Chapter four: Chapter four is a long discussion of my techniques relating to behavior management. It is the longest chapter in the book, and for some teachers, it will be the most important. It is hard to help children learn when you are up to your ass in alligators.

Chapter five: Chapter five discusses using the Fry Word List in order to fight illiteracy. I also discuss my “vocabulary baseball” method. This chapter will help teachers bring children from pre-primer level to third or fourth grade reading level in two weeks. Yes, really.

Chapter six: In Dade County I was known as an outstanding math teacher. In this chapter I explain my methods that teach addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and word problem solving. Your students will absolutely know their multiplication facts perfectly after using my methods.

Chapter seven: Teaching cursive writing may be going out of style due to the modern use of computers. Here I tell the reader my methods which still will apply for the next few years until all children can have a personal lap top computer of his own. I lectured at Barry University for years showing this method to education majors.

Chapter eight: In chapter eight I relate my favorite methods when teaching health, science, and social studies. Check out my “ten question” approach to the textbook chapters. The ten question method will get better work and learning production out of your students.

Chapter nine: In chapter nine I go through the five days of the week explaining my language arts methods. Included are some of my favorite lessons. Teachers who love language arts will love this chapter.

Chapter ten: Teachers waste too much time rewriting lesson plans in little tiny boxes. In this chapter I show teachers my advanced method for writing excellent lesson plans, and how to maintain a good plan book. It will be an upgrade over many present and outdated methods, and will save teachers about four or five hours of double work a week. As Stephan A. Smith says, “No problem!”





robert tannenbaum

oh, i do not want to post my email address, but will give you my phone number here in florida.
bob tannenbaum
954-457-9910. please call if you are interested in reviewing or using my teaching methods. thanks.

robert tannenbaum

dear mike,
you are absolutely right about the kids who don't have the family support or cultural background needing the best teachers. towards the end of my career,i set up an academic excellence class on each grade level in my school, because the other kids in each class were disrupting their progress. the principal assigned me to teach the sixth grade (no middle schools then) academic excellence class. one of my students in the current sixth grade regular class pleaded with me to stay in the other sixth grade classes. he said that i was a great teacher and that "we need you more than those kids do."
well, i am jewish and the guilt factor hit at once, so i stayed teaching regular kids until i retired. he was right of course. it would have been much easier for me to teach gifted or a.e. classes as i am gifted, and i have a degree in that stuff too, but his point was well taken. because of the choice i made, i was forced to retire three years early,for health reasons, and now receive a much smaller pension. however, after his statement, i could not look at myself in the mirror if i had done otherwise. i also turned down a fellowship at brooklyn college (and a free phd at columbia) because i felt i was needed in new york's ghetto schools. i taught in brownsville, in brooklyn, and liberty city in miami. it doesn't get any tougher.and i loved it and i loved every single student. well, almost...lol..
bob tannenbaum

robert tannenbaum

oh, and any teacher now working who is in a tough situation, or would like to get better at his or her profession, please call me too. number is 954-457-9910. just call, give me your email address, and i will send you either a chapter or the entire book. gratis. i never wrote it for the money. if i had wanted money, i would have been one of those lawyers malcolm writes about. i grew up with them, and one of my friends, stanley meltzer, was a new york states attorney. money never interested me. learning did. not teaching, but learning....when we dropped a book in my youth, we kissed it when we picked it up.that's culture ladies and gents...bob t.

Ed Quigley

What fascinated me about the question posed in your Education article is that it applies perfectly to air traffic controllers - we really don't know who to hire, we use low-added-value flags to weed out some applicants, then we send a lot of candidates to initial training and to the field. The first legit indication of their capability is at the Tower or Center working traffic (which means your airplane).

It astounds me that with all our experience, research, and technology, we still haven't found a better way to hire than to have the wannabee spend time, fortune, youth and opportunity, and for the organization to spend time, resources, instructors, and face the operational risk of introducing these candidates to the operation.

What happens to the gifted bright people that don't make the cut? They're only guilty of ambition and initiative, they've told family and spouse that they're going to try this field, and we've even told them they're qualified to try out (because we can't tell who'll succeed, so we need a bunch of them to bear the risk).

Then they (predictably) wash out and have to adjust to being a failure, and we take away the identity that they'd begun to associate with, and where do they go from there?

And we justify this because it's what we do, because our niche is so unique (and the successful among us become all the more special), but really there's a lot of fields like this, and none of them are unique. Quarterbacks, teachers, air traffic controllers - the same issues are present in each domain.

Flip the coin: If an organization isn't good at predictive hiring, what makes them any good at firing?

And if the organization is also unable to FIRE effectively (hello, government agencies, school boards, etc) we end up with a continual backwater of incapable, emotionally stunted might-have-beens.

When that fetid backwater reaches the tipping point in an organization that's not good at firing, performance suffers dramatically.

I'm no kumbaya-hot-tub-lover, but there are huge emotional, economic, risk, and time costs in our inability to hire effectively.

http://vannevar.blogspot.com

Brad

What qualities did those good teachers possess? The one who recognized the wiggly girls were actually very engaged in the lesson and allowed them to be that way was clearly very empathetic and had the highest good of her students at heart. So the qualities evident in that teaching situation were empathy and courage. Her good teaching technique flowed out of that love. (Empathy + Courage = Love. Take that you math teachers!}

As a teacher I know I am at my best when those qualities are at the fore. I am at my worst as a teacher when they are absent. Most teachers I know want to be good teachers. Given a supportive learning/teaching environment they become good teachers. The focus needs to be on the environment we put our teachers and students into. Isn't that one of the points Outliers makes?

edgewise

Cassel's success is a high-profile example of the effectiveness of the learning culture led by Bill Belichick which pervades the entire organization. Replacing key players has been a hallmark of the team's success, following the idea that the bar can be lowered to a point where someone who is 'good enough' can be transformed into a key member of the team.

The coach seems to understand the idea that we need not find the absolute best, but merely players that have adequate skills (physical, emotional and cognitive) to fit into the system. What comes after this selection of players is the preparation, the inculcation into Belichick's system, to make the team so very good, and fascinating to watch.

David Irwin, Denver Public Schools

The highest correlators to student achievement are the level of education and socioeconomic status of their parents. Understanding students' demographics is essential to predicting their success in school.

Is there anyplace in the world where performance pay has been linked to student success? Good teachers deserve all the money they can get, but they are not motivated by money. They thrive on autonomy, latitude, and respect from administrators and the public.

john thompson

As always, a great piece. I'd quarrel with your view of the union. The AFT has been using the same arguments since 1980 seeking support for the Toledo Plan which allows us to efficiently get rid of the 8% at the bottom each year, as well provide peer assistance and stimulate colaborative discussion. As Al Shanker said, next to the students it's the union that is most damaged by ineffective teachers. In my experience, the sticking point is control. Administrators have so much difficulty giving it up.

Ironically, I blogged on this today at: thisweekineducation.com. I frequently talk peoples' ears off saying that you can't understand why high poverty neighborhood secondary schools are different unless you understand "the Tipping Point," and "degrees of separation." At any rate, different teaching situations require different forms of "withitness," and here's mine, coming from a hardcore high school:

"The New Stupid"

A decade ago, Frederick Hess foresaw "the New Stupid" where data "stand in for careful thought, serve as dressed-up rationales for the same old fads ... to justify incoherent proposals" when he witnessed aspiring superintendents "energetically misuse data." After a presentation on teacher-added effects and inequitable distributions of teachers, it was agreed, "Day one we’re going to start identifying those high value-added teachers and moving them to schools that aren’t making AYP."

A generation ago, such a room would have been full of people who understood why it would be foolhardy to try to move teachers around like chess pieces. Last week, Malcolm Gladwell correctly celebrated the unquantifiable "withitness" required to teach reading to seven pre-school children or trigonometry. It is very unlikely, however, that those wonderful teachers would also have the withitness to teach in a hardcore neighborhood secondary school. Even if they had the personality to make the transfer, most great teachers in low-poverty schools would move to the suburbs before enduring the undignified treatment envisioned by superintendents with a "Masters of the Universe" mentality.

Gladwell explained that it is far easier to predict whether college receivers and defensive backs can make it in the NFL than to anticipate whether quarterbacks will make the leap. Pro quarterbacks (like teachers in troubled schools) face so many more rapidly unfolding crises. Finn’s administrators were essentially saying that they can’t find enough quarterback prospects, so they would mandate that their top linemen, linebackers, and secondary be transferred into the hardest-to-fill positions.

Ordinarily I explain the value of practical experience with jokes that are too dirty even for A-Russ’ blog, but last week provided a poignant example of the differing skills required in high-poverty secondary schools. Discovering the board covered with, "RIP CamKilla 105," I took the time for a short eulogy, recounting basketball experiences I had shared with the deceased. I offered my feelings about the increasing body count, asked the gang-bangers how they felt about the tragedy, and I worked around the graffiti. Only experience can predict the amount of respect that must be paid before erasing words that obviously can not remain on display.

But speaking of respect, how could any adults show the insensitivity and narcissism displayed by the aspiring superintendents in Hess’ anecdote? Even if they know nothing of education, of contracts, and of the politics of give and take, didn’t their mothers teach them anything about respecting fellow human beings?

Speaker

To me, your most provocative statement is “…we shouldn't be raising standards[for teacher content knowledge]. We should be lowering them, because there is no point in raising standards if standards don't track with what we care about. Teaching should be open to anyone with a pulse and a college degree—and teachers should be judged after they have started their jobs, not before.” Page 42.

My first comment is to quote the old joke “Q: what do you have to know to be able to teach a dog? A: More than the dog.” Content knowledge is important. If you are attempting to evaluate a students’ understanding and diagnose problems hindering that understanding, then a deep understanding of the topic is necessary. Second the idea that “anyone with a pulse and a college degree” is qualified to be a teacher is ludicrous prima fascia. Does anyone really want “anyone with a pulse and a college degree” to perform open heart surgery? More importantly, teacher education is all about conveying the knowledge and understandings of learning and educational theory and cognitive development to education students. Somehow this message always seems to be overlooked or ignored.

If you want to see how selective admissions and rigorous apprenticeship create exceptional teachers, (+95% retention after 5 years in the classroom) come visit us at the John H Lounsbury School of Education at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville Georgia.

J.J Hayden

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  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

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