Coaches Instead of Teachers?


The Education Gadfly, a weekly offering from the Fordham Institute, provides some of the most interesting perspectives on education issues. A current commentary by Michael Petrilli is titled: What to do about mediocre teachers?

The proposal to recruit teachers from the top third of their college classes simply isn’t practical, Petrilli writes. He does offer two alternatives (bear with the four-paragraph length; the thoughts are intriguing):

"I don’t have any surefire answers, but I see two possible solutions. First, provide tools to make these teachers more effective. And second: replace these teachers with something else entirely.

What tools might make a difference? More than anything, mediocre teachers need a solid curriculum. This is hardly a revolutionary idea, and yet it’s striking how little attention curricular frameworks, standards, scopes-and-sequences and materials receive. How can we expect so-so teachers — especially rookies — to make their instruction engaging if we ask each one to invent the instructional wheel themselves?

Beyond giving teachers better tools, the other option is to replace teachers entirely. This isn’t as outlandish as it sounds. The healthcare system figured out long ago that it didn’t need MD’s doing every annual physical or treating every patient with the flu. It developed "nurse practitioners" and "physicians’ assistants" — individuals with plenty of training to provide basic care at a much lower salary. We should consider that model, too.

Think about poor, remote rural communities. While they struggle to attract top-notch teachers to their schools, they are full of caring adults who love kids and need jobs. But lots of these adults don’t have college degrees. Maybe that’s not a problem. What if every classroom had a "coach," instead of a "teacher," a person charged with keeping students on task, looking after their social and emotional needs, and providing instruction in hands-on subjects like art, music, and gym? But core academics get provided via the Internet."

Read the full Petrilli argument.

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