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Coaches in the classroom

January 05, 1999

The best teachers would become coaches and mentors for rookie educators and veterans who need help with their technique, under a program now being considered for Montgomery County, Md. But in the midst of all the praise the idea is receiving, no one seems to be asking this question: Is it a good idea to pull the best teachers out of the classroom?

School board managers and teachers association leaders seem to think so, telling The Washington Post that the program is "cutting edge" and that it could be "the most important thing that happens to the Montgomery County public schools in the next year or two."

The program would work in this way: Teachers judged as "exemplary" would be trained to evaluate and mentor an estimated 800 to 1,000 new teachers hired in Montgomery County each year, as well as long-time teachers found to be in need of help. They would even have the power to recommend dismissals, though the final power to terminate would stay with the superintendent.

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There's been some concern expressed that putting some teachers in the role of evaluating others would hurt the camaraderie and team spirit of the faculty. We wonder, as well, what legal liability the evaluating teacher would assume for his or her assessments of colleagues.

County school officials say team spirit wouldn't be a problem because those teachers probably wouldn't be going back into the classroom after beginning their new duties as coaches and evaluators. Does anyone else perceive the flaw in turning a member of a team into a new mid-level supervisor?

We're commenting on this Montgomery County matter because teachers here in Washington County have told us that new teachers need more help than they get, and the idea that good, veteran teachers can help them makes sense.

But what would make more sense is giving those veteran, exemplary teachers temporary, one-year assignments as coaches with no responsibility to decide who gets hired and fired. In that way, the concept of the faculty "team" would be remain strong, and the best and brightest educators wouldn't be lost to the classroom forever.

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