The liberal think tank’s report analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Education Longitudinal Study, which asked tenth-grade teachers to predict which students would graduate from college and tracked the results from 2002 to 2012. The tenth-grade group was nationally representative of U.S. student populations.
Teachers thought that African American students were 47 percent, and Hispanic students were 42 percent, less likely to graduate college than white students, the report said.
The report was careful to note that teachers’ low expectations for minority students could result from their awareness of the pitfalls of an educational system that makes it more difficult for these students to succeed. In other words, “educators’ expectations might simply be a mirror of the broader problems of the nation’s education system,” the report said.
At the same time, teachers’ expectations were more predictive of student success than other factors such as student motivation. Tenth-grade students in the NCES study whose teachers had high expectations were three times more likely to graduate college than students whose teachers had poorer expectations.
Teacher expectations can perpetuate self-fulfilling prophecies that make students more likely to either succeed or fail, according to Rutgers University psychologists who the report cited. But teachers often expect the least from students who could benefit the most from higher expectations.
Students that participate in academically rigorous activities, such as college-preparation programs, are more likely to graduate college than students that do not. These programs support high expectations for student success, the report said.
The report concluded that education policy should focus on raising expectations for students and suggested that implementing Common Core standards in all schools could help this goal.
Those standards have sparked nationwide debate about their merits and have received pushback from some states such as Indiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma, who dropped the Common Core standards from state curricula.