“…teachers … also dislike having their success evaluated on how well their students perform on government-required exams. But when it gets right down to it, how else can one judge a teacher’s performance? Athletic coaches understand that completely. If their teams lose, their job security also fails.”
I can just imagine the sound of fists pounding tables as people read this and shout out, “That’s right by golly – you tell ‘em Dan!” Well I’m sorry Dan, but you are way off the mark. There are many good analogies between coaching and teaching but this one doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Coaches don’t have to coach and play all of the students. Athletic participation is voluntary. Teachers don’t have that luxury.
If students don’t want to be in athletics they are not forced to participate. I wonder how many students take math classes voluntarily? Most math teachers sell a product no one wants but they are forced by law to buy – different rules entirely.
Athletes are subject to drug testing and can be dismissed for substance abuse – not so in academics.
Coaches can remove a player from the program for behavior or attitude issues – teachers don’t have that option.
Coaches get the players that “are good at” the sport they coach. Players choose between football, basketball, track, volleyball, baseball, softball, etc. Teachers have to prepare students regardless of their abilities or aptitudes.
Athletes participate because they feel they have talent and are self motivated. Most students take classes because they must have them to graduate.
Coaches have a “winning season” if their success rate is above 50%. Teachers would gladly accept that standard of success.
Coaches are allowed to segregate players into “A” and “B” teams- meaning we recognize that athletes may differ in their skills and abilities at particular points in time. Teachers are expected to have all of their students perform as if they have “A” team skills when they take their tests.
Districting allows coaches to compete with schools having equitable talent, size, and resources. Standardized tests make no distinctions between schools with varying socioeconomic and ethnic diversities. You might teach a recently emigrated ESL student to make a scoop block, but it will be far more difficult to teach him/ her about quadratic equations or common polyatomic ions.
Lastly, coaches generally play by the same rules every year. Teachers are constantly given more rigorous tests while at the same time raising expectations. It is not uncommon for this to occur while changing our content standards. This is while the state delays adopting new textbooks and teaching resources.
As I mentioned at the start, I have no issue with coaches or athletics. Our athletic director supports academics and requires athletes to receive ninety minutes of tutorials every week. He monitors and supports the academic success of his athletes. I think our athletic program does a fine job of molding athletes and addressing the development of students in ways that classroom teachers cannot. I respect and admire the contribution of all dedicated coaches. The simple reality is that the challenges faced by coaches and teachers are different.
As a teacher I am not afraid of scrutiny or accountability. Administrators are always welcome in my classroom. They will not see a dog-and-pony show meant to impress them; they will see the way I teach each and every day. I simply want to be held accountable for how much I improve a child while I have responsibility for their education. NCLB did indeed cause positive change in the beginning. Now, it has expectations that are impossible to achieve. If you want to stick with the sports analogy, it’s like asking every coach to win all of their games – it can’t happen.
Of course we need to assess student learning and teacher effectiveness. I support that completely. The truth is that if we are not careful some students fall through the cracks. Another truth is that there are some coaches and teachers that need to seek other career opportunities. School districts and administrators need to be able to make hard decisions and take appropriate action. I just don’t think those decisions should be based entirely on a one-time performance on a multiple choice test.
Student learning and teacher effectiveness are not necessarily easy to assess. Athletic success isn’t that easy to assess for that matter either. Oh yes, we know the win loss record – but what about those qualities of character, perseverance, teamwork, and dedication that athletics is supposed to instill in an athlete? They are not measured by a scoreboard either. Education deserves more attention and respect than being subjected to “old truisms” and armchair athletic analogies.