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Thompson: The Expectations Gap

Collereready"When asked to identify the most important mission of high school, only nine percent of teachers surveyed chose preparing students for college and only 10 percent said that ensuring students graduate high school is a primary mission. ... In stark contrast, the survey found that low-income parents and students rank preparing students for college the most important purpose of high school—42 percent and 48 percent, respectively."  The Deloitte poll"also uncovered a gap between student aspiration and actual preparedness. Encouragingly, 70 percent of students indicated that they "definitely" plan to attend college ... (but) only about a quarter feel "very prepared" to handle college courses."

The report concluded "we must re-evaluate the way we measure our teachers and schools and the way we view success. We must move away from focusing solely on state tests and other immediate metrics and apply a longer term view that aims at providing our high schools students with real learning that is applicable to college courses and even further down the line in the workforce."

Claus Von Zastrow expands on these issues here and here.


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On that point, Mary Anne Schmitt Carey of Say Yes to Education argues that college completion is a better long-term metric of success than test scores are. By giving low-income urban students wrap-around services and college scholarships, Say Yes has been able to close--almost--the college graduation gap separating those students from their suburban peers. Quite an accomplishment.

Deloitte's description of its poll results is highly misleading. The question posed to teachers was: "How would you rank each of these activities in terms of what you consider your primary role as a teacher?" NOT "What is the most important mission of high school?" In response to the question they were actually asked, 38% said their primary mission as a teacher was to insure students master the course material, and 30% said that their primary mission as a teacher was to teach students basic life skills. Deloitte spins this to make seem like teachers view preparing students to graduate high school and attend college is unimportant. Clearly, this conclusion doesn't hold water when virtually all (96%) of polled teacher said is was somewhat or very important to them that their students attend college.

Both of you (or should I say all three since "Say Yes to Education" sounds excellent) are right.


As we've gptten iced in for the holidays I've been catching up on excellent discussions of health reform in the NYT Magazine, Atlantic and New Yorker and your point seems verry consistent with their best analyses. If our goal in healthy petients or educated students, let's focus on those outcomes not the sideshows that have failed by measuring bits and pieces of the complex situations.

Melody, you are absolutely right as well. I tell my students, "real world" that my main goal in teaching World History is for them to be sitting in a US History class next year with the confidence to master that step and be on track for college and a successful life. Of course, I have goals for them that are equally true, some are shorter and some on longer term. That's my soundbite for class situations; other soundbites are equally true.

I see continuity between all four groups. Deloitte said we need to change the conversations that have been formed by today's metrics. We all seem to be saying that.

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