Sunday, September 11, 2011

High expectations...

A conversation that has come up recently in several different places has really caused me to reflect. At my school, on Twitter, and in my Google Reader, it appears the discussion of "high expectations" is not quite as simple as it may seem...
I think most Educators have high expectations for themselves and for their students, but what I have really struggled with of late is if or whether we should personalize our expectations for our students. Should we "standardize" high expectations and expect all students to follow the same set of expectations, or should we "personalize" the expectations to meet our students at their own individual levels and abilities...?

Jeff Delp (@azjd) wrote a great post titled, "Achieving the impossible," where Jeff describes how some schools in economically depressed areas are still able to overcome their shortfalls and ultimately succeed. The first way to accomplish this feat is to have high expectations for all students. Perhaps I need to read the book that Jeff is referring to, but I really began to think about the impact on our students when we hold them to a high standardized set of expectations.

Imagine these two students:

Student A comes from a stable home with two educated parents who are able to provide 3 healthy meals a day, a nurturing academic environment to complete out of school assignments, and are vocal advocates for their child.

Student B comes from a broken home with one uneducated parent who is not able to provide 3 healthy meals a day, requires the child to babysit siblings while the parent works the night shift, and does not have the ability or knowledge to be a vocal advocate for their child.

- Is it fair to hold both these students to the same level of standardized high expectations, or should we personalize the expectations to meet the needs of each individual student at their current levels?

*If we personalize the expectations for each student, student B will get additional resources and leniencies that student A will not.

- If we do personalize the expectations, are we adding to and encouraging the achievement gap that exists while simultaneously performing an act of "soft bigotry?" Soft bigotry is defined as not holding disadvantaged children to the rigorous standards that other non-disadvantaged students are expected to do.

What are your thoughts...?