It was not an easy decision.

Both players came to the 1998 draft with impressive college numbers, high expectations and tons of buzz among NFL scouts. Both were All-Americans and finalists for the Heisman Trophy. In fact, both were seen by many NFL experts to be equal in ability and potential. One NFL general manager said

you really can’t go wrong with either one of them.

A year later, after a full season as a starting quarterback in the NFL, one had thrown for 3,739 yards with 26 touchdowns, set five different NFL rookie records, including most touchdown passes in a season, and was named to the NFL All-Rookie First Team.

The other?

Skipped a series of mandatory meetings required of all drafted players, was benched after nine games, threw just two touchdown passes and fifteen interceptions, passed for 1,289 yards with a terrible quarterback rating of 39.

The first? Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning continues to start, has been selected as an All-Pro ten times, was Super Bowl MVP in 2007 and named Player of the Decade in 2009.

The other?

Ryan Leaf appeared in just 25 games over four years at San Diego, Tampa Bay and Dallas. He completed 317 of 655 passes for 3,666 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.

So . . . we get it. Manning good, Leaf bad. The point?

It’s incredibly hard figuring out which great college quarterbacks will develop into great NFL quarterbacks. Everything seemed to suggest that both Manning and Leaf would be successful. One was. One wasn’t.

It’s the quarterback problem. Who do you draft?

In his short essay Most Likely to Succeed, Malcolm Gladwell of Blink, Outliers and The Tipping Point fame uses the quarterback problem to illustrate a similar problem in K-12 education.

How do we know which college kids will become great teachers?


should we care?

The research seems pretty clear, Gladwell claims. With enough data, it becomes easy to identify both poor and great teachers. Eric Hanushek of Stanford University says that students of great teachers learn the equivalent of 1.5 years of content every year. Students of poor teachers learn 0.5 years of content in the same amount of time.

For the mathematically challenged, that’s a difference of a year. A year.

Teacher effects impact learning much more than school effects. A great teacher in a bad school is better for kids than a bad teacher in an excellent school. Robert Marzano’s research makes this clear:

Eric Hanushek says that simply replacing the bottom 10% of poor teachers with average ones could close any achievement gap that exists between the US and other countries.

And after years of worrying about standards, funding levels, class size and curriculum design, many are beginning to say that nothing matters more than putting great teachers in US classrooms.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it?

What do potential great teachers look like?

Tomorrow? Great teachers, how to find them and how to get them into the classroom.

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