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Crouch: Low expectations obstacle to success

As the education community faces continual challenges with state funding, new evaluation processes, cuts to transportation and so on, we here at the Kishwaukee Education Consortium would rather focus on what we CAN control rather than things we cannot control.

We have been taking a look at student expectations. As all teachers and administrators enter adulthood, it is easy to be nostalgic of how great things were when we were teenagers. More often than not, we hear adults say, “Wow, kids today with the drugs, promiscuity, cell phones and video games. …When I was in high school, we weren’t this bad.”

Fortunately, adults who express that opinion are misinformed.

Today’s adolescents, known as Generation Y, are a group that makes better decisions than its predecessors. The reason KEC feels this is important is because the expectations we set for our students, based on our distorted perceptions as teachers and administrators, ultimately will affect the success of our students.

In October, we held a workshop that focused on teacher expectations of students and the misconceptions of Generation Y. People were amazed at the following research on teenagers in 2012:

• Teenage tobacco use is down 25 percent from just five years ago.

• Teen pregnancies down 33 percent from the 1960s and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that teen births are at the lowest recorded number in history.

• Teen abortions are down 30 percent from the mid-1970s.

• Teens are less promiscuous than they were in the early 1990s.

• Teen violence is lower than it was in 1985 .

• Marijuana and alcohol use by teenagers is roughly the same as it was in the late 1970s.

So perhaps nostalgia is to blame for many of our perceptions of teenagers to be skewed a bit. How does this affect education?

In a study performed by Harvard professor Robert Rosenthal, he found that teachers’ expectations of students did have an affect on student’s success and could impact student IQ and learning.

“It was a standardized IQ test, Flanagan’s Test of General Ability,” he said. “But the cover we put on it, we had printed on every test booklet, said ‘Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition.’”

After Rosenthal picked students, Rosenthal told the teachers that this special test from Harvard had the special ability to predict which kids were about to be special – that is, which kids were about to experience a dramatic growth in their IQ.

After the kids took the test, he then chose from every class several children totally at random.

There was nothing at all to distinguish these kids from the other kids, but he told their teachers that the test predicted the kids were on the verge of an intense intellectual bloom.
As he followed the children over the next two years, Rosenthal discovered the teachers’ expectations of these kids really did affect the students.

“If teachers had been led to expect greater gains in IQ, then increasingly, those kids gained more IQ,” he said.

At KEC, we feel our students’ success is greatly affected by the teachers’ expectation level of his/her students. If teachers come into our programs with a belief that teenagers today are a group for which we should not have high expectations based on pre-conceived misconceptions, then we are setting our bar for success lower than it should be.

In knowing the facts, based on data and research gathered, teachers can be educated on the generation they are teaching and can then set the bar high. That is the first step in building student success.

• Tom Crouch is the executive director at Kishwaukee Education Consortium. He can be reached at or 815-825-2000.

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