Per today’s TIME column about the NFL and schools that is  linked and described below a lot of great stuff in the Brendan Daly – Tim Daly interview that couldn’t make it into the column because of space.  As you watch the game on Sunday, here’s one thing to ponder:  What’s education’s equivalent of the playoffs or the Super Bowl in terms of a high-prestige event?  A lot of NFL players, especially the marquee players, make less for playing in the postseason than they do for each game 1-16 during the regular season.  Yet as Brendan Daly put it, “The playoffs are the ultimate goal.  If you talk to the great players and great coaches in this league they’re not motivated by the money they can earn, they’re motivated by being the best they can as an individual and a team.   The whole regular and postseason is set up to win a Super Bowl.”

In education  we do very little to recognize the best or even differentiate by performance.  The measures we have end up being pretty weak soup.  Proponents of National Board certification, for example, have gone from touting it as a way to recognize and reward the best to saying it’s more like the CPA exam – a measure that everyone should pass – as the results have show that it’s a relatively weak measure to differentiate excellence.

Here’s Tim Daly:

In the NFL lasting fame and prestige are related to reaching the playoffs and succeeding there. In education there are not the same parallels of gaining esteem for having been part of an outstanding faculty. In many cases prestige is conferred by teaching kids who have high absolute test scores, regardless of whether you’re creating gains. And in the NFL some of the greatest fame is reserved for players who turned around franchises. That’s not the case in education. Instead, we tend to compensate each incremental increase in work in a micro-way. Each incremental unit of time rather than prestige being a value.

A few years ago we were involved in a pilot to reward outstanding teachers. The reaction of the teachers we contacted was not about the money they would get but about the recognition of it. They were more touched by someone taking note of what they were doing than the specific opportunity to participate in this program.

That’s a technical and cultural issue worth thinking about and addressing.

Update: I’m a Redskins guy (though ownership makes it hard these days) but in addition to being grateful to the Rams’ media people for making Brendan Daly available for an interview, I also think Tim Daly is right-on about their improvement in his comment below. But, worth noting, the things Brendan was talking about are not unique to the Rams, these are strategies and methods used across the league.

6 Replies to “Overtime”

  1. This is a good article, and the comparisons generally work, but there is this one pesky detail: the St. Louis Rams’ defense is terrible!

    If they were a school (or I from St. Louis), I’d have demanded a turnaround strategy by now…

  2. Harry-

    Thanks for the comment, and fair to point out the Rams’ struggles. But this is actually something we looked at when we were working on Andy’s piece – we wanted to know if the approach the Rams have been taking is showing results on the field. We think the answer is yes. In 2009, they were 31st in the NFL in points allowed, at 27.3 per game, and 30th in sacks with 25. Their record was 1-15. But in 2010, without changing a substantial number of starting players on defense, they improved to 12th in points allowed, at 20.7 per game, and 7th in sacks with 43. They went 7-9, an improvement of six wins over the previous year.

    Individual players also increased their productivity. DE James Hall went from 4.5 sacks to 10.5, nearly a career high at age 33.

  3. Update: I’m a Redskins guy
    There’s hope!!!(though ownership makes it hard these days) Why? Snyder is like Rhee.

  4. The Hawthorn Effect in that if you give someone that extra
    bit of attention than they will do a superior job, seems consistent
    with the playoffs and teaher recognition. I work as a substitute and
    day in day out, I think they are far tougher than any of the NFL lineman.

  5. I have been an educator for approximately ten years, and a Cowboys fan for twelve. (Sorry) However, I thoroughly enjoyed this post. It made me think of what is my ultimate goal as a teacher. In graduate school, we wrote mission statements based on what we want to accomplish with our students. There is no data to show whether I have reached that goal. My worth is based solely on my test scores. It’s similar to the football player always being reliable and blocking the opponent from the quarterback, but there is not a stat for that. Any recognition, especially by students, for my efforts; is greatly received.

  6. Andy,

    I enjoyed your piece/interview very much. It brought up a lot of ideas that have been issues for me as an educator. I would like to give you a stream of thought about various points made in the article:

    • You hit a valid point by relating sports to education. It’s an idea that I pointed out to you in my various emails about teachers instructing kids on the fundamental prerequisite skills they had to know in order to learn or learn how to learn, especially in low-performing schools. This concept, in my opinion, should be incorporated in college education programs. In basketball, you learn basic skills in practice and put them together in a game. If your players learn these basics, they will execute them in a game situation. The same thing is true for teaching: learning how to learn puts the responsibility of learning on the kids’ shoulders, and off their teachers’ and parents’. Put the kids in the driver’s seat and they’ll take off.

    • Yes, teachers need feedback about what they do in the classroom. Videotaping lessons helps mirror back to teachers how they’re coming across to their kids as well as their approaches/techniques in teaching. I’m not sure how practical a video approach is in many schools. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give a student a flip and let him/her videotape a given lesson and let the teacher review it. Once, as part of the application process in NYC, prospective teachers had to include a videotape of a lesson they taught. I’m not sure this is used anymore.

    • Videotape and photographs definitely work in football: e.g., how did the Jets beat the Pats after getting destroyed in their first meeting? Go to the videotapes and make changes, or really, find out what mistakes you made in the first game. Deconstruct what happened previously. I think macro-analysis would benefit teachers. Micro-analysis is needed in sports, but too much of that can hurt teachers, to the point where they’re overly self-conscious of every movement they make in a lesson and the classroom. In tennis, video-analysis is used quite often and effectively to show a player exactly what he/she is doing on the court. In terms of improving their strokes, it’s a great mirror for the player. You see what you’re doing. Also, to watch the stroke production of top pros on video (in slow-motion, for example) can be helpful to players of all skill levels.

    • Micro-managing in football and grading players in their various practice sessions, even giving them two grades for double practices might be stretching it in education. Again, you’re overanalyzing the situation and I believe that would lead to more entanglements than un-entanglements for educators. We once used a “prescriptive approach” for teaching: that is, each child had a laundry list of all the skills he/she needed to know. As the child showed proficiency in a particular skill, it was checked off by the teacher, who then moved on to work on the skills the student did not know, understand, or needed improvement in. Each kid in your class had a “list” he/she had to learn. It became like an extended report card, only to eventually fade away. I believe they’re trying to bring back that strategy.

    • What was said about the lack of teacher observations is true. Again, there’s very little feedback about what you’re doing in the classroom. In low-performing schools, administrators have their hands full with problems throughout the day and are not running to do observations. At the same time, you have might have administrators who have trouble evaluating lessons. For example, an administrator once came into my room during a collaborative word-storming session (free-association of a given word, e.g., “fire”: What words come to mind when you think of “fire”?) and wanted to know why the words weren’t put into sentences (there were more than 50 words on the board). A valid point, however, the lesson wasn’t about writing sentences so much as it was about showing kids that they are made up of words, that there are words living inside them, that they are connected to words, that words have meaning for them, and that they can be motivated to read and write because words are important to their everyday and academic lives.

    • Yes, assessment for teachers as well as students is a key to education. But teaching is also about experimentation, making things up, and the imagination of teachers and students. If you want to see what works in your classrooms, what works with a particular group of students, you have to try things out through trial-and-error and see what the best strategies are. Teaching kids or teachers is not all about “grading.”

    • Football/sports and education are about inner or self- motivation: getting the best of your players/students, showing them what they have inside, their skills, talents, abilities. Yes, when you give your players/students this, they will respect you for your knowledge and where you can take them, and in the process learn new tricks themselves as you, the teacher, will learn new tricks.

    • Beyond assessment and the new “teacher schools,” mentoring is an excellent way to teach teachers (similar to what was described in the article where the coach learned from other coaches about defensive line coaching). To learn from a master or an expert in the field, and also, one who has strong teaching skills, is a practical and successful way to learn. I experienced this when learning how to coach basketball from my basketball coach. He worked with me in practice sessions with my players, showing me the various fundamentals and drills, how to teach them, and what they’re supposed to produce. He showed me the “right” and “wrong” ways of doing things. As I gained more experience and confidence in my coaching skills, I expanded on what was learned during the mentoring sessions. Wouldn’t it nice if mentors could show neophyte and young teachers the fundamentals of learning how to learn? Wouldn’t those same fundamentals make the kids’ computer screens more meaningful?

    • Besides mentoring, professional development is a strong concept for improving teachers’ skills: unfortunately it has not been implemented well in the schools. This is an area where you can use master teachers and their expertise to show people how to get it done. I remember seeing a videotape of a psychologist treating a schizophrenic patient by getting into his world. It was an amazing experience to observe and learn from (albeit a scary one for most psychology students). Professional development can progress with a series of videos from master teachers in all subject areas from the elementary level through college and graduate school. Why don’t college teachers have video feedback about their teaching skills? How are they beyond assessment and grading?

    • In my classroom teaching I constantly made up new projects in reading, writing, thinking, poetry, emotional intelligence, and communication skills. My only feedback/assessment: the kids. I saw the results in their writing, reading, thinking, creativity, poetry, and imagination, and yes, even in their test scores. I consider myself a teacher-researcher-developer-experimenter-artist in the classroom.

    Andy, I was happy to catch your fine piece and wanted to get back to you about it. I hope I’ve said something that makes sense to you and provides feedback to your audience, and also, about your work as a policy maker in education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.