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Number Crunching the Value of a Teacher

A recent quote on Twitter from an article by education reporter Alan J. Borsuk caught the attention of Core Knowledge blogger Robert Pondiscio: "Schools can learn from baseball. [Milwaukee] Brewers wouldn't start [pitcher Trevor] Hoffman just because he's been pitching longer."

In his article, Borsuk argues that teachers should not be summarily judged based on the number of years they've been in the classroom. "It doesn't begin to tell the full story of their ability to teach."

In his blog post, Pondiscio takes that idea and runs with it. Thanks to the sophistication of baseball's number crunching, he explains, the sport is better equipped to predict the success of a player on the field than we are to determine the success of a teacher in the classroom.

Pondiscio explains that baseball has undergone a revolution in the past 25 years in which the statistical analysis of players or a team—better known by baseball fans as "sabermetrics"— is endlessly mined to determine the potential for winning.

The sabermetricians have developed individualized statistics for pitchers—known as fielding independent pitching or "FIP." These stats analyze how well a pitcher performed, regardless of his teammates' efforts. The field of education could benefit from individualized statistics like FIP, Pondiscio points out.

We are in the test scores, bromides and intangibles era of measuring teacher quality. If you're a principal, wouldn't you love to know the 'school effects' of teacher performance when it came time to make hiring decisions? Would it change your perception of merit pay if there was a classroom equivalent of FIP—the factors directly under a teacher's control? What if we could compensate teachers based on their replacement value compared to an average first year teacher?

If you're into this whole baseball-education mash-up, be sure to check out a recent story from the Teacher Leaders Network on this very subject: What Educators Can Learn From Baseball.

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