Giving Voice: Special Populations Series

By Dixon Deutsch, Vice President of Special Populations

Accountability: College Football vs. Public Schools

While enjoying the holidays in my home state of Texas, I received an email from my alma mater – the University of Texas at Austin. The email caught my eye because it referenced a new head coach for the university football team. For those that don’t know, college football is big in Texas. So big in fact, that when a relatively new head coach didn’t perform after three years, the university let him go. This isn’t surprising, considering that the football program is a multi-million dollar endeavor. What is surprising is the very public nature and the reasons that the university gave for firing the head coach.

“The decision to part ways with Charlie Strong after three seasons was a very difficult one. Coach Strong is an outstanding role model who worked hard and served with great integrity to move Longhorn football in the right direction. We share the pride, admiration and respect that many in Longhorn Nation and beyond feel for Coach Strong. Ultimately, however, the results over three seasons were not at the levels expected of Longhorn football.”

Essentially, Coach Strong was held accountable for lackluster results.

When I read this I immediately thought of our public schools in New York City. If a university can fire a head coach after three years of abysmal performance, why does it take us so long to close poor performing schools?

New York City encompasses well over 1 million students and spends over $26 billion annually on education – including nearly $2 billion on special education – yet our results across the city are mediocre at best, both in district and charter schools.

While I’m not advocating for the outright closure of schools after three years of non-performance, we do, as professionals charged with the development of our students, need to self-examine our outcomes for all children. We can start by asking: Are we truly doing everything possible to ensure the greatest impact for our students and are we holding schools, districts, states and national leaders accountable for student achievement?

Surely, NYC children are more valuable and have a lot more at stake than a college football program (though I wouldn’t utter this in Texas).