If you care at all about hiring, education or even football, don’t miss Malcolm Gladwell’s riveting article in The New Yorker.  “Most Likely to Succeed – How do we hire when we can’t tell who is right for the job?”  

Seriously.   The article is long, but worth every word.   Here are a few key points:  The students of a good teacher will, on average, learn a year and a half’s worth of material, while the students of a bad teacher will learn just half a year’s material.   That’s a difference of a year’s worth of material in a single year.  Since a good teacher costs about the same as a bad one, one of the biggest improvements school systems could make would be to hire great teachers to replace poor teachers – except for one detail –  it’s devilishly hard to determine who would make a great teacher in advance.

In predicting teacher performance, none of the “resume” credentials seems to matter, not teaching certification, not a master’s degree, not even test scores.   Great teachers exhibit qualities like “with-it-ness” (translation: “eyes in the back of your head) and “regard for student perspective” and giving direct individualized feedback to students.

Good luck finding “with-it-ness” in a job description, or a resume, or even in an interview sequence.  Hmmm, why oh why do I think this conundrum does not just apply to teachers?