A new study from the Center for American Progress concludes that teachers’ expectations for their students are strongly correlated with students’ graduation rates.
Conversely, the study also says that teachers don’t necessarily have high expectations for all their students, especially poorer students and those of color.
The study focuses on the Pygmalion effect, the theory holding that higher expectations of a person leads to higher performance. The opposite can also be true: If low expectations are placed on someone, they’re more likely to perform poorly.
Drawing on the results of a long-term study by the National Center for Education Statistics, the CAP analysis finds that students whose high school teachers had high expectations of them graduated from college at three times the rate of those whose teachers had low expectations.
Teacher expectations, according to the study, turned out to be more predictive of students’ futures than student motivation or effort. Teachers, the study found, were also able to predict a student’s college success with greater accuracy than parents or even the students themselves.
However, the study also reports that secondary teachers viewed high-poverty students as 53 percent less likely to graduate from college than their classmates from wealthier backgrounds. Black and Hispanic students were also deemed 47 percent and 42 percent less likely, respectively, to graduate than white students.
A version of this article appeared in the October 15, 2014 edition of Education Week as Teacher Expectations