Can #edpolicy nation learn from Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts?

While I can’t find an article to support the assertion, I heard an interesting statistic on ESPN’s  Mike and Mike Show this week:  Of the 18 quarterbacks taken with the first pick in the NFL draft, NONE — including legends like Terry Bradshaw and Peyton Manning — have led their new teams to a winning season in year one.

In fact, the BEST performance turned in by a quarterback taken with the first pick was a seven-win season.

That doesn’t bode well for Andrew Luck, does it?

The Colts won TWO games last year, y’all.  Then, they lost — or cut, or waived away — a TON of the name-brand talent to free-agency. To make matters worse, Indianapolis enters this season with a first-time General Manager AND a first-time head coach calling the shots.

While excitement in Indy may be higher than ever, expectations — of fans, of the organization, of the national sports media — are justifiably tempered.

No one is going to be screaming for Luck to get canned when the Colts finish yet another disappointing season this year.  Instead, we’ll recognize the situation for what it is:  Luck — like most football players taken with the first pick — is a talented player on a REALLY crappy team.

What’s more, EVERYONE who cares about the Colts will hold Indianapolis management accountable for making things BETTER for Luck in the next few years.

The expectation will be that Colt’s owner Jim Irsay will pony up serious cash to build Luck’s offensive line and to surround him with a set of stars at talent positions like running back and wide receiver.  Investments will be made in the starting defense in an effort to keep games close and to give Luck more chances with the football.

Long story short: People will expect great things from Luck, but they’ll also understand that great things don’t happen in a vacuum.

If Luck struggles in an underfunded, dysfunctional system that needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up, it’ll be the system — not the star who is struggling alone against impossible circumstances — that bears the brunt of the blame.

That’s a lesson that I wish #edpolicy wonks would learn when whipping up new plans to hold teachers accountable for their performance.

The uncomfortable truth for education’s most vocal critics is that teachers struggle in the same kinds of underfunded, dysfunctional systems that Andrew Luck will face this year all of the time — and in the face of a sluggish economy, those systems are MORE underfunded and dysfunctional than ever.

We face ever-growing class sizes as districts freeze hiring in response to budget cuts.  Those classes have more students with special learning needs than at any point in the history of the public school system, yet there are fewer special programs teachers to provide ongoing support to students in the regular education classroom.

Professional development dollars are limited at best, leaving few opportunities for teachers to acquire the kinds of new skills necessary to adapt to ever-changing school populations.  Supplies that we once took for granted — simple things like computers, copy paper, and colored pencils — are few and far between.

Heck, the budget is so tight in my district that janitorial services have been cut to the quick — which means that if I want the tile floor in my science lab to be cleaned, I’ve got to go find a mop and a bucket and do it myself.

Can you even IMAGINE the Colts cutting their custodial services and instead asking Andrew Luck to pick up a mop a few times a week?


I guess what I’m trying to say is that teachers are FINE with being held accountable for our performance when we know that we are working in systems that give us a fighting chance to succeed.

But it’s unrealistic — not to mention unhealthy and unfair — to point the finger at classroom teachers for the struggles of the system while simultaneously refusing to surround them with the tools that they need in order to succeed.


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