Five

1. Luck and RG3 Molly sent me an email about this Malcolm Gladwell New Yorker article. It's about predicting who will be successful NFL quarterbacks and teachers.

Molly -- I blogged it 2 years ago, so I thought I'd re-link to my views. It's an oldie-but-goodie.

2. More NFL

That reminds me. Fun event at Harvard's Ed School recently. Minnesota Vikings coach Brendan Daly described talent evaluation.

Athleticism is certainly a factor in evaluating talent, but what sets a player apart is his ability to study and learn the game, said Brendan Daly, who is also a former teacher.

We ask ourselves “what is his ability to learn, what is his demeanor toward learning … how is he going to learn, absorb, and understand the game,” he said. “That, in my personal opinion, is the difference between the guys who make it and the guys who don’t.”

The main “nuts and bolts” of teaching is very similar, agreed his brother. “It’s how you prepare for class; it’s how you respond to things when they go wrong. It’s how you learn from your mistakes, and how capable you are of changing.”

After the event, I chatted with Coach Daly. He mentioned an unknown D-lineman on the Patriots practice squad that he coveted.

As a loyal fan, I meant to call up Jonathan Kraft -- protect this guy. I forgot. Turns out Belichick had picked up the scent on their own, and paid the guy to stay.

Carter has put on 10 pounds since the end of the season, and about 25 since his last game with Central Arkansas. He’s up to 275 now, and said he hasn’t lost any of his speed and has gained explosiveness through all of his work in the weight room.

Do teachers have any equivalent of the weight room?

But there’s something else he’s gained: His younger sister, Keyarrie Hudson, has moved in with him. Hudson suffers from lupus, a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder that can affect the joints, kidneys, and other organs.

Even though she’ll be spending a few months with her brother in Massachusetts and then a couple of months back home in Oklahoma to take college courses, having Hudson here even part-time means that she can get better medical care. She is now seeing the third-ranked lupus specialist in the country, Carter said, and her kidney specialist is better than the one in Oklahoma as well.

Some doctors are better than other doctors. Who'd have thunk?

3. Doctorate?

Had a fun visit on Friday from Harvard's Ed School dean. Reminded me: if you read this blog and have toyed with the idea of a doctorate in education of some sort, check out Harvard's EdLD degree in leadership. Three years. Decent stipend. A capstone but no traditional thesis.

I guest taught a class there a few weeks for Greg Gunn. It's an impressive cohort, good camaraderie. Evidently in Year 1 of the program, each got $500 to blow on something educational. And they all somehow managed to travel roundtrip to Singapore or Finland, cold-calling grad students in those nations to ask if they could crash on their couches, etc.

4. MTR Critique

This is our first year of having elementary teachers in our teacher residency. We had a great teacher visiting us from DC also on Friday. After watching some of our student teachers in action, she gave us some pointers. For example:

Our early elementary teacher trainees don't use nearly enough visuals in their lessons. They say stuff, and expect kids to learn it just from hearing it. That is: Teacher says or explains X, poses a "Check For Understanding" question, kid can't answer. Teacher repeats X or explains a different way, asks again, kid still can't answer. Those kids need to see the idea. See printed words, see pictures.

A bunch of MTR alums had drinks together on Saturday. Some even had traveled from New York just to hang out. One alum, teaching at KIPP Lynn, said her principal's critique was that our residents needed to learn more Joy Factor moves.

5. EPIC award

On my to-do list is to write with Harvard doctoral student Matt Kraft an easy-to-follow explanation of various studies of charters, teacher prep, and the achievement gap. One day.

Meanwhile, we just got a stats-heavy report from Mathematica. They crunched all the numbers for this EPIC grant. They calculated the Value-Added of a ton of charter schools.

For example, our high school had a VAM of 0.11 standard deviations in English. So in this particular analysis, our school was 8th out of 26 charters measured.

A question for the stats-minded among you. Given those gains, what would you predict a kid at the 50th percentile would rise to after one year? 51st? 60th? 70th?

Answer: 54th.

In other words, you can have a pretty good team working hard, making reasonably good decisions about curriculum and such -- so that you're a pretty good charter school relative to other high-performers -- and the 1-year result for each kid is useful but not huge.

That's why so many charter networks now serve either 7 grades (6 to 12) or all the grades (K-12).

KIPP started as middle schools, but now does K-12. Excel started as a middle school, will now be 5-12. Match started as high school, now is 6-12. And our new school (Match Community Day) is preK-12.

That is, if you keep nudging kids up by 4 percentile points in a year, you need a lot of years to get where you want to go.