Education’s Moneyball

The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball and it’s being played as I write this blog.

Remember the movie Moneyball? It’s a movie about baseball and in it are quotes such as “Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins, and in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs” and “There is an epidemic failure in the game to understand what is really happening.”

Take a look at this pivotal scene pivotal scene where Jonah Hill elaborates on baseball’s medieval thinking below.

He contends that major league baseball had traditionally looked at the wrong indicators… the wrong evidence… the wrong variables to produce a winning team.

Related to the Moneyball approach is an article regarding the National Football League:

Get ready to hear more about not just 40-yard-dash times, cone-drill results and vertical leaps, but stresses and loads on joints, body symmetries and other data that sounds like it comes from Star Trek.

Analytic research has been discovering correlations between unlikely variables for years: broad-jump results and pass-rushing ability (the leap represents a defender’s quick-twitch explosiveness), vertical-leap measurements and receiver success (same concept, plus the ability to haul in jump balls) and other indicators. Old tape-measure thresholds like eight-inch quarterback hands or a 4.6-second wide receiver sprint aren’t being replaced; they are being joined by other indicators.

You can read the article by clicking here.

So what does this mean for public education?  What are our “unlikely variables”? My suspicion is that we tend to rely on traditional variables (and the methods to address them) way too much to the exclusion of other contributing factors. Perhaps our traditional indicators should be joined by others.

For example, have bad science scores on the state assessment? The problem must be curriculum, right? I’ve seen all too often where we ask science teachers to re-write the curriculum during the summer, buy new science equipment and test the kids some more on released state exams.

Surely the scores will go up, right? Maybe for some kids they do, but not for kids who may need it most.

What other factors could be at play here? I’ve got my suspicions.  In my August 21st blog Impact On Others, I wrote that:

I wrote that: in nearly 1,200 meta-analyses to find what works best in education, consistently over  time, in the Top 3 of 252 factors is “Your belief the student will succeed” (John Hattie).  As Hattie proclaims …our job as educators is to truly understand our impact.

Can a student tell what our beliefs are?

Yes, private thoughts and beliefs translate into behavior:

You may be standing farther away from someone you have lower expectations for – not   making as much eye contact. We’re not usually aware of how we are conveying our expectations to other people, but it’s there.  Note the micro-behaviors below:

Studies continue to point to the power of teacher-student relationships to boost learning.

In the example of science above, let me clearly say that curricular design and resources are critically important.  Curriculum and resources are like baseball uniforms and baseball bats.  They’re critically important, but they’re not enough.  When we combine social and emotional factors to our understanding and our design, the results are much more robust.  In fact, they’re in the top 3 out of 252 factors.

The solution starts with our belief that each student will succeed and then establishing strong relationships.  It’s the micro-behaviors; without them, rigor hasn’t got a chance.  And it’s rigor that’s tested on state assessments; it is the end result… the final score of the game.

The micro-behaviors are the runs we need for students to win.  To paraphrase Moneyball:  Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be wins, and in order to win, you need runs.

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