In a word, yes

Is it fair to put the total blame on a student’s academic performance on his or her coach?

That’s one of the questions with which Valerie Strauss (it must be a Strauss sort of day; my last post was spurred by her as well… so many thanks to Ms. Strauss) ends this blog post, which discusses some comments from our nation’s Secretary of Education.

The larger question at issue is whether college coaches — particularly public university coaches — should be fined for athletes’ failure to graduate.

I say that the answer is obviously yes. And the reason is this: it’s not that the coach has control of the student’s academics… but the coach does have a surprising amount of control over who gets admitted to the school on the basis of athletics. If coaches know that they’ll be held responsible, there will be an incentive not to recruit students who don’t have a realistic chance at graduating.

That’s where you’ll see the effect of this sort of policy.

The trick is that you need to make it so that the penalty for having non-graduating students is bigger than the payoff for having a winning team. Otherwise, the behavior will still persist, because it’s just a smaller incentive pointing in the same direction.

Now, maybe that means that you end up “pricing out” all the best coaches from public universities, so that only private schools like Notre Dame (football) and Duke (basketball) can afford the best coaches. Eh… so what if that happened?* That doesn’t seem like such a bad outcome to me. I’m all for college sports. But they’re called college sports and not just “the minor leagues” for a reason.

I don’t begrudge coaches their millions; I’m a fan of free markets. But a coach is a university employee, and that means that one of their jobs is (or should be) upholding the mission and reputation of the university. And that mission should — and I say “should” in the most skeptical sense — be about turning out educated minds, not about hanging championship banners.

Coaches are also hired to do that, but that job should be tempered by their broader institutional commitments. The job of a university isn’t to make money. That’s simply something universities have to do in order to accomplish their mission.

* (I’d note that neither Notre Dame nor Duke really has the same sort of problem with sports and academics that many big public universities seem to have.)

High school coach shoots armed teens

A Detroit high school coach shot two teens who attacked him as he was walking two female basketball players to their cars after dark, reports WXYZ. He killed one and wounded the other.

One attacker pulled a gun and grabbed the 70-year-old man by his chain necklace, the coach told police. He pulled his gun and shot both. A reserve police officer, the coach has a concealed pistol license.

Both attackers had attended the high school; one had been expelled recently, reports WXYZ.

High school coach in trouble for sex book

self-published book of sex advice and opinions has meant trouble for a high school girls basketball coach in suburban Chicago.  Bryan Craig,  also a counselor at Rich Central High School, resigned as the varsity coach and is on administrative leave while the district reviews the issue.

In the forward to the book, titled “It’s Her Fault,” Craig says his intention is to give women a guide to gaining the “upper hand in a relationship” because he is tired of hearing them complain. The book contains graphic details on his observations of the female anatomy, including what he describes as physical differences between ethnicities that lead him to conclude that “Latin women have more children.”

Among the assertions in the book is that all men and women should be promiscuous before getting married.

He also writes, “The easiest kill for a man is through the young lady with low self-esteem. Of course some will feel this is taking advantage, and yes it is.

Can he be fired for expressing his opinions? Should he be?

No, writes Darre.  Firing a teacher for something like this is a “heckler’s veto” on employment. 

A lesson in respect

After the Gunderson High basketball coach suspended five starters for tardiness, back talking and disrespect in late December, the whole team walked out. The San Jose school’s coach, Mike Allen, called up freshmen and sophomores from the JV squad. The team is losing every game by large margins, reports the San Jose Mercury News. That’s not important, says the coach.

Allen said he had given his players “two, three, four chances” to turn around their attitudes and prove their commitment to the team before suspending the five for what was supposed to be the winter break.

Instead, he said, they continued to talk back, disregard his instruction and showboat on the court.

“These kids nowadays feel they are privileged and have a right,” Allen said. “But they fail to realize what being part of a team is about.”

The mutineers blame a “power-hungry” coach.

“We weren’t being that disrespectful,” said Eddie Perez, a senior who walked out with the suspended players. “He wants to run the team his way and doesn’t listen to our own opinions.”

Lesson not learned, apparently.  Good luck in your first job, Eddie. And your second job. And, if you continue to be a slow learner, your third job.

Blended learning: How does it work?

“Blended learning” — a mix of virtual and face-to-face instruction — is all the rage, endorsed by a 2009 Education Department meta-analysis. Education Week looks at how it works.

“Everybody’s talking about blended, but you talk to ten different people, and there are ten definitions of what it is,” said Steven Guttentag, the executive vice president and chief education officer of the Baltimore-based Connections Academy, which operates online schools in 21 states.

At the Chicago Virtual Charter School, a partnership with K12 Inc., an e-learning company, “each student spends two hours and 15 minutes in a classroom one day a week and spends the rest of the school week working virtually from home.” Students, who are in kindergarten through 12th grade, meet with the same teacher online and in the classroom.

The Florida Virtual School (FLVS) uses several models. In one, students meet in a classroom or computer lab to learn from an online instructor. A site facilitator monitors students, solves technical problems and answers basic questions.

In another model, a site facilitator works with students who are all taking the same online class to set up experiments, for instance, or help with collaborative, in-person activities.

In yet another approach, online instructors can team up with face-to-face teachers to co-teach a course, said Ms. Young.

Although that model is more expensive for schools, “it’s a really awesome opportunity for teachers who are new to the profession or new to the subject area,” she said.

While students receive the benefit of being taught by an experienced online instructor, the in-person teacher simultaneously receives training in how to teach the course.

Louisiana Virtual School pairs an uncertified, in-class math teacher with an online certified Algebra 1 instructor. The two teachers meet face to face during the summer, then communicate daily through e-mail during the school year.

The online instructor provides the initial lesson, and the classroom teacher works with students to complete activities that reinforce the concepts.

The in-class teacher also monitors the classroom activity labs with students; they break into groups of three or four and work together to complete a lab. The results of the lab are then sent to the online instructor for review.

Iowa Learning Online, which is run by the state, requires a school district employee, usually a teacher, to serve as a learning coach for each online student.

In another story, Ed Week looks at state efforts to certify virtual educators, even though “research shows that the true test of how well teachers will do in an online environment is still largely their effectiveness in a traditional classroom.”

Coach is ‘snake-bitten’

After their baseball coach said the team was “snake-bitten,” the Palm Harbor University High players took action, reports the St. Petersburg Times:

They decided to ward off the losing streak with the purchase, killing and burial of a snake in the team’s field last week during spring break, according to second baseman Zach Sobel.

. . . Sobel, a senior, said the players fed the snake a rat to make it more docile, killed the snake with a shovel and buried it on the pitcher’s mound, and that (coach Jeremy) Albrecht was not present.

However, the coach has been suspended pending an investigation of the incident.

Education Gadfly is happy the coach didn’t call his overly literal players “kittens.” And what if he’d called them “crybabies.”