We live in an era of awesome measurability. We can measure almost anything with great precision, so we do. What never occurs to us is whether in some cases there is any correlation to measuring and predicting.
Top college quarterbacks, more so than most athletes, are scrutinized in the extreme. And yet it turns out that there is almost no correlation between the supposedly key measurements and later success in the NFL. Malcom Gladwell calls this insidious disconnect between measurement and prediction 'the quarterback problem.' Apparently, this problem also manifests itself in trying to assess who will be a good teacher.
The sad truth is that we don't really have a good system for predicting teaching ability. In fact, some of the best teachers seem to defy conventional approaches to teaching. The key is to engage students and make them interested in the material. How do you measure that kind of skill before the person goes into the classroom and starts teaching?
Instead of using a 'gatekeeping approach' that attempts to weed out 'less qualified candidates,' we should consider widening the gate, says Gladwell. "We shouldn't be raising [teaching] standards," he suggests. "We should be lowering them, because there is no point in raising standards if standards don't track 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."
Gladwell's argument is, of course, heresy. The educational system is encrusted with people who only know how to solve problems that are presented in the multiple choice format. The reason we can't measure teaching skills is that great teachers are creative and creativity is hard to measure. At least in the form of a standardized test.
But enough of this intellectual grandiosity; let's all get out our Number 2 pencils and carefully fill in the proper circles, shall we?