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Diane Ravitch Headshot

Why Do We Treat Schools Like Sports Teams?

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I have been wondering lately why we are so obsessed with giving every student, every teacher, and every school a ranking, rating, and/or grade.

It seems to me that we are thinking about children, teachers, and schools the same way we think about sports teams. In every league, there are winners and losers.

But if we think about education as a culture that is very different from that of a competitive sports league, then the picture and the questions change.

What if we thought of schools as if they were akin to families?

Then we would work to develop school cultures that are collaborative and supportive. We would make sure that those with the greatest needs got the resources they need. We would stop thinking of winners and losers (and "racing to the top") and think instead about the full development of each human's potential.

It is a paradigm shift, to be sure. But the present paradigm and ranking, rating, and grading ends up demoralizing children, teachers, and schools.

We must think and act differently. If we do, we will not only have better schools, but a better society, where people help one another instead of finding a way to beat out their competitors.

Save the competition for the sports field; save it for the arenas where it is appropriate.

Think of each child as a precious human being, one of a kind. Think of teachers as professionals, who should be well prepared, supported, and given the autonomy to decide what works best in their classrooms. And treasure each community's school as an invaluable and irreplaceable institution, one that is central to the community and essential to our democracy.