High expectations. Boy, do we love that phrase these days.
It's hard-wired into the Common Core. CCSS will use higher expectations to bring about great student achievement. I could link to hundreds of articles using some version of that phrase. The Core will save us all through the power of higher expectations.
As a flip side of this, every instance of a student coming up short is blamed on low expectations. The oft-repeated mantra that we have lied to students, telling them they're on track for college when they aren't. The claim that students with special needs only come up short on school achievement because their teachers have not expected enough of them. Here's the thought as clearly expressed by Washington State:
The evidence is clear that disabilities do not cause disparate outcomes,
but that the system itself perpetuates limitations in expectations and
false belief systems about who children with disabilities can be and how
much they can achieve in their lifetime.
So, high expectations are the key to success and greater achievement. Higher expectations are the key to every thing!
Well, not everything.
For instance, we often offer proof that students aren't ready for college because so many of them take remedial courses. But why? Haven't colleges heard of the magical power of expectations?
I mean, why have the student take a remedial course when you could just have all professors raise their expectations? Come on, Professor McWeisenheimer! Just expect those freshmen to do better! Raise your expectations and surely, face with higher expectations, those college freshmen will be awesome!
And what about employers. We've heard that Common Core is needed to get students ready for careers, but couldn't employers do that just by raising expectations? If new employees are doing poorly, that disparate outcome must be the result of a corporate system that perpetuates limitations in expectations. If we could just train employers to have higher expectations, then all new employees would rise to those expectations! Paradise! Unicorn farms!
Look, I have great respect for the power of high expectations, and I think my students would back me up on this. But if reformsters are going to insist that high expectations are the secret to fixing everything about schools, they need to explain why the power of high expectations ONLY applies to K-12 education and not to either college or the workplace. Until then, the phrase is just an empty soundbite, and really, I expect much better of them.