What a time to be a New York Football Giants fan! My long-struggling team has shocked fans and critics alike by blowing way past “rebuilding year” into a likely playoff spot. Talent appears thin on this roster, but a 6-1 record speaks volumes about preparation, coaching, and commitment.
What does this have to do with tutoring? Besides the fact that I’ve never met a sports analogy that I couldn’t slide into a conversation about test prep, the current success of the Giants reminds me of a celebrated quote from a celebrated sports figure, former Giants coach Bill Parcells.
Parcells famously asserted, “You are what your record says you are.” This observation, if you believe it, brushes aside all the pregame prognostication and excuses. You are judged not by your talent, potential, or promises but your results. Those who win are the winners, and those who do not must, as they say, git gud.
In academics, the box score is tallied in grades and test scores. In that light, what are we to make of these two separate but surely connected findings in US academic achievement:
1. In 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) examined student achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Average scores for age 9 students in 2022 declined 5 points in reading and 7 points in mathematics compared to 2020–the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics.
2. ACT announced that the national average ACT Composite score for the high school class of 2022 was 19.8, the lowest average score in more than three decades.
Are we not, as a society, what our record says we are: collectively worse in standardized measures of reading and math than we’ve been for decades? Parcells’s sentiment certainly lacks nuance or compassion, but you may find yourself agreeing with him when you hear that one of your new students “isn’t a good test taker” or “doesn’t apply himself” for whatever reason. Doesn’t that C in Geometry or 900 PSAT score speak for itself?
If records reflect reality, tutors should be respected as some of society’s most powerful change agents. Students come to us as underdogs, saddled with low expectations and a litany of failure. What do we do? We harness those same fundamental forces the Giants’ have wielded to overcome adversity: preparation, coaching, and commitment. Slowly but surely, our students begin turning those academic losses into precious victories. Before you know it, at least in the context of the great game of school, they are winners!
The deficits both big and small in COVID learning loss and declining academic standards look daunting. What a terrific opportunity for a turnaround! Are you an educator with a history of happy students who earned better outcomes under your tutelage? Are you the kind of coach who has consistently shown the ability to rebuild a player’s core skills and instill the will to prepare to win that drives sustained excellence? Then get in the game–the world needs tutors like you.
You are what your record says you are.
— Mike Bergin
Tutor Tips, Tools, and Thoughts
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