The phrase “soft bigotry of low expectations” is inevitably associated with George W. Bush, who used it frequently. But whatever your politics, the idea has undeniable merit: If schools don’t expect much from their students, the students are not likely to accomplish much.
A new international study, set to be released Tuesday, argues that the United States has an expectation problem.
"This much is clear: American students from low-income backgrounds are more likely to struggle in school than low-income students in many other countries (as Table II.A in this report makes clear). And American principals are much more likely to describe their students as disadvantaged than principals in many other countries — including some countries that are significantly poorer than the United States. Neither fact qualifies as good news."
I disagree with the assumption that principals who perceive their students as poor have lower expectations of them. At least in my school, we are working on finding ways to make projects and just participation in school more equitable for our low income students, but we don’t have different expectations for them. We just want to make it easier for them to participate in a system that isn’t built for them. We do this by providing materials for everyday use as well as project materials if needed, or we just don’t assign projects that require a lot of extra materials. Our lunch distributors are lenient with the fruits and veggies and many kids get extra. And if a kid is hungry, many teachers have granola bars or something else in their room for those kids. But kids who are perceived as low income are not given different academic expectations.
What if those principals are instead claiming students are disadvantaged because compared to their peers they are coming in with fewer opportunities? And what if those principals as a result are motivated to find ways to provide those opportunities? Our principal bases her perception on free and reduced lunch qualifications, and on what she knows of our community.
Here’s another paragraph from the article:
The usual caveats about correlation and causation apply, though. It’s also possible that an outside factor is driving the results of the survey question. The United States, for example, has an extensive and high-profile program of subsidizing lunches for lower-income children. If that program were driving principals’ definition of socioeconomic disadvantage, and other countries did not have similar programs, it could explain why this country is an outlier in the survey. In that case, American principals may or may not have lower academic expectations of their students.
I guess I just think this article is misleading, and it has no information from any US principals commenting on their perspective.
Articles like this make me wish I had taken Statistics more seriously, and make me grateful that majoring in Anthro at a lefty liberal arts school makes me skeptical of how data is gathered and analyzed.