Don’t underestimate effectiveness of teacher-coaches in the classroom

Teacher-coaches may be popular and well-liked but they are often viewed as not as demanding and effective as teachers who devote 100% of their time and energy to teaching and don’t have outside responsibilities to student athletes.

A large study of Florida teachers finds that teacher-coaches aren’t getting a fair shake: In fact, their students perform just as well as students of full-time teachers in standardized math and reading tests.

Researchers compared student math and reading test scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) for teacher-coaches and full-time teachers using a Florida Department of Education database set of 74,000 teachers.  Researchers identified 4,356 teachers who served or had served as athletic coaches and compared student performance over a 7-year period.

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Teacher-coaches may simply know how to balance their two roles, the researchers write, or may have accrued “social capital,” from their interactions with students outside the classroom which offset any negative effects of the dual roles that teacher-coaches play.

Many previous studies have reported on teacher-coaches stress levels and role conflict but this is one of the first studies to examine student performance.

Some schools have moved to hiring off-campus personnel to fill coaching positions in order to avoid any negative impact of teacher-coaches on student academic performance. This study suggests that may not be necessary, according to the researchers.

“Since there does not appear to be a negative academic tradeoff that results from having teachers coach athletics, there may not be significant benefits to this strategy and possibly unintended consequences such as eliminating opportunities for acquiring social capital,” they write.

“Do Teacher_Coaches Make the Cut? The Effectiveness of Athletic Coaches as Math and Reading Teachers,” by Anna Egalite et al., Education Policy Analysis Archives, Vol. 23, No. 54.

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