Why Do Schools Fire Losing Coaches But Not Bad Teachers?

Anyone who pays attention to local high schools knows that a coach who has several consecutive losing seasons will likely be fired.  Well, not really.  It is more likely that the losing coach will be sent to teach history or English.

Have you ever heard of a bad history or English teacher who was taken out of the classroom and sent to coach football or basketball?  I doubt it.  At least not because he was doing a bad job of classroom teaching.

Are football and basketball more important than history and English?  If it isn't importance, then what is the difference between coaching football or basketball and teaching history or English?

The critical difference is that everyone knows the teams are losing.  They expect something to be done about it.

Parents who know who the bad teachers are will not stand idly by when their children are assigned to a bad teacher's classroom.  Parents also don't stand by when their children receive poor medical care or a bad haircut, for that matter.  But parents can't refuse to allow their children to be assigned to bad teachers unless they know who the bad teachers are.  If parents know which teachers aren't doing their jobs, principals will be forced to take corrective steps.

Although far from perfect, standardized tests do measure student achievement.  More importantly, they measure teacher performance.  Yes, test scores do have to be used carefully.  Instructors who teach large numbers of learning-disabled students will not see the same student progress as instructors who teach gifted students.  We have to consider individual teacher assignments.  If we don't, we won't be able to get good teachers to accept disabled and disadvantaged students.  It very well could be that a teacher whose gifted students make only average progress will be replaced, while a special education teacher whose students made average progress will be recognized as outstanding.

There are options beyond simply firing all teachers whose students do poorly on exams.  Marginal instructors can be offered additional training.  Teachers can be reassigned -- perhaps to coach football or basketball.

If an English teacher's students perform poorly on achievement exams year after year, should we continue to reappoint the teacher?  I accept the fact that mistakes will be made, but which is worse: removing a few teachers who don't deserve it, or subjecting many students to the same bad teachers year after year?  How many students are we willing to sacrifice to one bad teacher's tenure?

Most teachers and administrators do their jobs well.  But there are many bad ones.  Teachers have to work with disabled and abused students, obsolete materials, large classes, non-English-speaking students, and outright dangerous students, not to mention unsupportive administrators and uncooperative parents.  But they also have far too many poor teachers in their midst.

A restaurant that serves bad-tasting food will lose customers quickly.  The owner of that restaurant cannot make up for bad food by raising prices.  In fact, higher prices mean even fewer customers.

The sad fact is that a failing school will ask for more money and have a good chance of getting it.  If a school cafeteria serves bad-tasting food, everyone just says it is school cafeteria food.  What do you expect?  We shouldn't try to justify the fact that too many students are failing to learn by saying the same thing.  Oh, it's a public school.  What do you expect?

Dale Bandy has taught at four universities and published ten books and forty articles.  He can be reached at bandydd@hotmail.com.
Anyone who pays attention to local high schools knows that a coach who has several consecutive losing seasons will likely be fired.  Well, not really.  It is more likely that the losing coach will be sent to teach history or English.

Have you ever heard of a bad history or English teacher who was taken out of the classroom and sent to coach football or basketball?  I doubt it.  At least not because he was doing a bad job of classroom teaching.

Are football and basketball more important than history and English?  If it isn't importance, then what is the difference between coaching football or basketball and teaching history or English?

The critical difference is that everyone knows the teams are losing.  They expect something to be done about it.

Parents who know who the bad teachers are will not stand idly by when their children are assigned to a bad teacher's classroom.  Parents also don't stand by when their children receive poor medical care or a bad haircut, for that matter.  But parents can't refuse to allow their children to be assigned to bad teachers unless they know who the bad teachers are.  If parents know which teachers aren't doing their jobs, principals will be forced to take corrective steps.

Although far from perfect, standardized tests do measure student achievement.  More importantly, they measure teacher performance.  Yes, test scores do have to be used carefully.  Instructors who teach large numbers of learning-disabled students will not see the same student progress as instructors who teach gifted students.  We have to consider individual teacher assignments.  If we don't, we won't be able to get good teachers to accept disabled and disadvantaged students.  It very well could be that a teacher whose gifted students make only average progress will be replaced, while a special education teacher whose students made average progress will be recognized as outstanding.

There are options beyond simply firing all teachers whose students do poorly on exams.  Marginal instructors can be offered additional training.  Teachers can be reassigned -- perhaps to coach football or basketball.

If an English teacher's students perform poorly on achievement exams year after year, should we continue to reappoint the teacher?  I accept the fact that mistakes will be made, but which is worse: removing a few teachers who don't deserve it, or subjecting many students to the same bad teachers year after year?  How many students are we willing to sacrifice to one bad teacher's tenure?

Most teachers and administrators do their jobs well.  But there are many bad ones.  Teachers have to work with disabled and abused students, obsolete materials, large classes, non-English-speaking students, and outright dangerous students, not to mention unsupportive administrators and uncooperative parents.  But they also have far too many poor teachers in their midst.

A restaurant that serves bad-tasting food will lose customers quickly.  The owner of that restaurant cannot make up for bad food by raising prices.  In fact, higher prices mean even fewer customers.

The sad fact is that a failing school will ask for more money and have a good chance of getting it.  If a school cafeteria serves bad-tasting food, everyone just says it is school cafeteria food.  What do you expect?  We shouldn't try to justify the fact that too many students are failing to learn by saying the same thing.  Oh, it's a public school.  What do you expect?

Dale Bandy has taught at four universities and published ten books and forty articles.  He can be reached at bandydd@hotmail.com.

RECENT VIDEOS