Student Achievement

Gap Exists Over Educators’ Expectations for Minorities

By Michelle Galley — October 10, 2001 3 min read
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Minority students have high expectations for their future, but many of their teachers and principals don’t share that view, concludes a report released last week.

Read the complete MetLife report, “The American Teacher 2001: Key Elements of Quality Schools,” from the Committee for Economic Development. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

“The Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher 2001: Key Elements of Quality Schools” polled 763 public school 7th through 12th graders, 1,273 teachers from kindergarten to grade 12, and 1,004 K-12 principals.

Pollsters for Harris Interactive, a Rochester, N.Y.-based market research firm, conducted the survey between March and May of this year. Of the 291 African-American and Hispanic students questioned, nearly three-fourths reported that they had high expectations for their futures.

In schools with a large population of minority students, however, only 40 percent of the teachers and just over half the principals polled agreed with the students.

Last year’s MetLife survey asked students, teachers, and parents about their expectations for students’ futures. That report found a large gap between the number of students who expected to go on to college and have professional careers, and the number of teachers and parents who expected the children to achieve at that level. Students expected themselves to reach a higher level than the adults did.

This year’s report says that one-fourth of the secondary school students polled believe their teachers have high expectations for all students. In contrast, 56 percent of the principals and 39 percent of the teachers strongly agree with that statement.

The division between the high expectations students said they had for themselves in last year’s report and the lower ones they believe their teachers have of them is significant, said Sibyl Jacobson, a senior vice president of the New York City-based Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., the survey’s sponsor.

“Students really see what is going on in the classroom,” Ms. Jacobson said.

Quality of Curricula

Differences also arose in how teachers, principals, and students view the curricula in secondary schools. Nearly two-thirds of the secondary school principals and almost half the teachers said they believe their school “provides curricula that is challenging to students,” the report says. But fewer than one-fourth of the secondary school students described their classes as challenging.

“These results are quite disturbing,” said Christopher T. Cross, the president of the Council for Basic Education, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that advocates a strong core curriculum. “The principal must create a learning environment with a rigorous curriculum in which all students can learn,” he said.

Learning environments were also a concern for the teachers, students, and principals. Principals and teachers in schools in which two-thirds or more of the student population lived in low-income households were less likely to report that their schools were safe, clean, and quiet enough for students to concentrate.

The income level of the students’ families was determined by students describing the ease with which their families could buy anything they wanted. The percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches was also taken into consideration.

Poorer secondary school students “believe that their school is not helping at all to prepare them for a successful future,” according to the report. More than half those students said they had a difficult time paying attention in class because they were worried about problems at home. Only 17 percent of students from more affluent families expressed the same concern.

“The students very much want teachers who care— who empathize sometimes with the predicaments they are in,” Ms. Jacobson said.

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