Friday, April 14, 2017

The NFL Draft is Right Around the Corner...

My wife is a wonderful person who tolerates most all of my idiosyncrasies. One thing she doesn’t tolerate well is my penchant for watching the NFL Draft in all its 30 hours of glory.Its got drama, its got action, its got intrigue. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, that whole deal. Tune in April 27 at 8:00 Eastern, 7:00 Central! What's not to love?

As a Chief’s fan, it is always about next year, and the combine and the draft feed my false hope beginning in February. Part of the drama is the NFL Combine. An event that brings in all of the great college players and runs them through a series of tests to determine if they will be successful in the NFL. They run, lift, jump, drill, interview, and take intelligence tests. Players are poked and prodded by doctors and trainers, leaving nothing to chance. Except of course, there is still a lot left to chance.

Who can forget Matt Jones? Wait, Matt who? Star of the 2005 combine, Jones was fast, strong, and could jump over the goalpost. He earned the nickname “Freak” for his scores. Picked 21st because of his test results, he washed out of the league after three years.

Then there is this guy who was almost laughed out of the draft in 2000. In fact, check out this video and draw your own conclusions: The Patriots wasted the 199th pick on him and what has he done since?

What can we learn from this little football lesson? Well, one thing is that test scores are inputs. Inputs can predict outcomes, but usually not with 100% certainty. Football fans have learned that combine scores are not the best measures of success in the NFL. The best measure of success in the NFL is, well, performance in the NFL.

This week, the Kansas Commissioner (of education, not football) shared preliminary results of a method for measuring student success that is not based upon test scores. The commissioner and state board want school districts to look at what students are doing one and two years after leaving high school. Are they performing in college or technical schools? Have they earned licenses or certificates that qualify them for entry to the workforce?

Another way of saying this could be, do they have the social/emotional skills, a plan for moving forward, a quality K-12 experience (starting with Kindergarten readiness and ending with high school graduation) that enables them to attend and complete a post-secondary experience?

This is a leap for some. How can we influence what students do after they leave our systems? Back to sports for an example- have you ever heard a college coach tout the success of the program’s players in the big leagues? For that matter, who hasn’t bragged about the percentage of their students that go on to post-secondary institutions after graduation. If we want to take credit for success, we need to take responsibility as well.

For football players, the measure of success is a mustard-colored hall of fame jacket. For our students, the measure of success is whether they have lived a good life. Neither of those outcomes is measurable in advance, but the state board is taking a step in the right direction by asking us to look out two years after our students leave us, instead of relying on a test.

1 comment:

  1. John,

    This is an interesting analogy. One major flaw that I see, however, is that once a player is drafted, he is given all the resources he needs to succeed. That is not true for a high school graduate, or even a college freshman.

    Currently, we have a broken system for financially supporting students enrolled in higher education. (For more information, see Paying the Price by Sara Goldrick Rab.) If a student takes time to raise money for school or drops out for financial reasons, why should this reflect badly on the high school?

    And while I agree with you that no school should be judged on a single test score, I do believe that they should factor into a school rating. A school's first job is to increase the academic knowledge of the student. Yes, we'd like them to help with the soft skills like persistence and motivation, but many learn that from sports, religion, and other outside activities. And we cannot forget that many schools today are tasked with meeting students' basic needs like food, shelter, clothing and giving them a safe environment.

    And, for those students who are able to afford higher education and persist in that first year, what do you think those grades are based on? In most subjects, grades are based on a midterm and final exam. Yes, test scores determine whether the student has the ability to succeed in their chosen field. In many freshman classes, it's the sole criterion.

    Evaluating schools is hard work, as we must consider a myriad of factors. But looking two years down the road provides one piece of interesting information that should not be used as a sole evaluating factor either. There are too many other intervening factors that have nothing to do with the quality of education provided by that school.

    Marianne Perie


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