Published Online: March 17, 2010

Not So Great Expectations

While most teachers believe in the importance of holding high expectations for students, many appear to fall short of doing so in practice, according to new nationwide survey of educators.

The survey, published by MetLife Inc., found that nearly nine in 10 teachers and principals (86 percent and 89 percent, respectively) believe that setting high expectations for students can have a major impact on student achievement. Eighty-four percent of teachers also said they have confidence in their ability to help all of their students succeed academically.

Somewhat paradoxically, though, only 36 percent of teachers and 51 percent of principals responded that they believe all of their students have the ability to succeed academically, according to the survey. Only about half of the students surveyed, in turn, strongly agreed that all of the teachers in their school want them to succeed.

In another indicator of expectation levels, teachers on average said they believed only about half of their students would attend a two or four-year college after high school. Students’ expectations for higher education are much greater, with nearly eight in 10 saying they plan to attend college (85 percent of girls and 73 percent of boys).

The findings on teachers’ seemingly mixed messages on expectations for students have generated some heated reactions from educators. “If fully 64% of us think at least some (maybe quite a few) of the students for whom we are responsible don't even have the ability to succeed, then we have just excused ourselves from anything close to our best efforts on their behalf,” former Mississippi Teacher of the Year Renee Moore exhorted on her blog, Teach Moore.

The survey is the second in a three-part series that MetLife is publishing this year on the topic of “Collaborating for Student Success.” The first part, released in February, looked at the role of educator teamwork within schools. The final part, to examine at teachers’ career paths and development, is slated for release later this month. The MetLife Foundation provides funding to Teacher to support interactive professional community among classroom educators.

—Anthony Rebora

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