Educational Expectations

May 31, 2000

Often you get what you expect. That's especially true in the field of education. Christina Hoff Sommers in a recent article in The American Enterprise documents a famous story that illustrates that only so well.

A 6th-grade public school teacher in Chicago one year found her class impossible to control and began to worry that many of them had serious learning disabilities. When the principal was away, she did something teachers weren't supposed to do: she looked in a special file where student IQs were recorded. To her amazement, she found that the majority of her students had above average IQs. Most were in the 120s and 130s. One of the worse classroom culprits had an IQ of 145!

She was angry at herself. She had been feeling sorry for the students, giving them remedial work, and expecting little from them. She immediately began giving them challenging work, increased homework, and draconian punishments for misbehavior. Slowly the students' performance began to improve. By the year's end, the class of ne'er-do-wells was one of the best behaved and highest performing in the sixth grade.

The principal was delighted with the turnaround. At the end of the year, he asked the teacher what she had done. She told him the truth about looking in the file. He forgave her and congratulated her. Then he shocked her. He told her that the numbers next to the children's names were not their IQ numbers, they were their locker numbers!

The students performed according to her expectations. When she expected very little of them, they performed poorly. When she began to expect more of them, they performed at a superior level. Demanding excellence and demanding good conduct make a difference, as this famous story from Chicago demonstrates only so well.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.