Why It Is Unfair to Compare Teachers to CEOs

I realized something that I’m sure many other smarter people have figured out the other day.  It was one of those things that once I thought of it, it made me wonder how it had never occurred to me before.

In the current climate, schools are often compared to businesses and teachers to other types of leader such as CEOs and coaches.  The argument is made that a boss is held accountable based on how much money the company makes and a coach based on how many games the team wins.  When the business stops making money, or the coach stops winning, they get fired and this is how things should be.  People argue that the same should go for schools – if a teacher’s students are not getting results, that teacher should be held responsible.  And to an extent, I agree.

However, there is a very key and important difference that many people seem to forget about.  In the business and coaching worlds, a big part of leadership is making personnel decisions.  It doesn’t matter how good an NFL coach is; if his team consists of one great running back and a bunch of high school kids, he will not win any games.  If an employee of a company refuses to show up for work and doesn’t do anything when he is there, the boss fires him.  It would be a waste of company resources for the boss not to fire him.

On the other hand, teachers do not get to make personnel decisions.  When I find myself in a classroom where one student is reading on grade level and everyone else is two years or more behind, there’s nothing I can do.  There is no rebuilding through the draft and there is no cutting the roster.  I have what I have.

When I have a student who comes to school once every two weeks (or less), I cannot fire him.  I cannot say, “Well, he didn’t come to class, so his test scores don’t count.”  In fact, if a student is absent on the day of the End of Course test and again on the one make up day provided, their score is recorded as a zero, even if they are actually the most gifted student in the school.

No Child Left Behind and other initiatives want to set an absolute bar that teachers are supposed to reach, with very little consideration to the personnel we have at our disposal.  Yes, the law only requires that we be making progress, but still, who determines what exactly “adequate yearly progress” is?  I’m pretty sure it’s not anyone who has ever actually been in charge of a classroom.

If you want to treat me like a CEO and a school like a business, then we should be given the ability to make personnel decisions.  Do we really want a system where kids are “hired” by a school based on their resume and achievements?  Obviously, that would result in even greater inequality and absolutely should not happen.

Teachers are teachers, not CEOs or coaches.  And many of us are doing the best we can with the students we’ve been given.

Leave a comment


  1. Dad

     /  May 23, 2011

    I’d have to agree with you on your analogy. To take it one step further, if they want teachers to act like CEOs and coaches, then pay them at the same level!

    Your only flaw is at the end. We do indeed have a system where schools hire students based on resume and achievement. Only we call them elite private academies or boarding schools. Schools where if you don’t have the grades and rich parents, you don’t get in.

    Fortunately, there are relatively few of those schools or people who can afford them. Unfortunately, they produce most of the leadership in our country. How many of our policymakers actually went to public schools, I wonder?

  2. Jenny Speal

     /  May 23, 2011

    Hi Rachel,
    I know you through your dad. He was my boss at Apple in CA many moons ago! He hired me against his better judgement (!). We reconnected via FB a year or so ago. I remember when you were in elementary school! I know he is proud of both you and your sister! BTW, he was the best boss I have ever had! We had many a good laugh poking fun of CA. ( I am originally from North Carolina).

    Anyhow, I totally agree with your point. You have to work with what you are given and if you don’t have student as well as parent involvement, it is what it is! I have said many times, our teachers, police, firemen and military should get the highest wages and let the pro-athletes receive peanuts. Unfortunately, we do not live a perfect world. One day, maybe this will change! In the meantime, we appreciate dedicated teachers like you!! Thank you!

  3. Jenny Speal

     /  May 25, 2011

    Rachel, one more note of clarification in case someone takes offense to my remark about poking fun of CA. We were all relatively new to CA from NC. Our poking fun was always lighthearted and not mean spirited. It was more of a comparison between the two states!


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  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

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