'Expectations Gap' May Be Contributing Factor in Dropout Crisis, Report Finds

In contrast to most students who drop out, many educators do not believe that students at risk of dropping out would work harder if more were demanded of them, revealing an "expectations gap" that may be a significant barrier to closing the achievement gap, a new study conducted for America's Promise Alliance and the AT&T Foundation finds.

Conducted by Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates, the report, On the Front Lines of Schools (60 pages, PDF), focuses on the educator perspective and follows two other seminal studies: The Silent Epidemic (44 pages, PDF), which focused on the dropout perspective; and One Dream Two Realities (23 pages, PDF) which focused on the parent perspective. Among other things, the new study found that 75 percent of teachers and 66 percent of principals said they did not believe students at risk of dropping out would have worked harder if more were demanded of them in the classroom — a striking contrast to The Silent Epidemic's finding that two-thirds of dropouts said they would have performed better if the bar had been set higher for them.

The new report also found that the views of many teachers are shaped by what they experience first-hand in the classroom. While educators believe that they and their students are not receiving the necessary support and resources to achieve success, many are skeptical that all students can be successfully educated for college. Indeed, fewer than one-third of teachers believe that schools "should expect all students to meet high academic standards, graduate with the skills to do college level work, and provide extra support to struggling students to help them meet those standards."

"This 'expectations gap' between students and teachers...is very real," said Civic Enterprises president and CEO John Bridgeland, who co-authored the report. "[In fact, it] may be one of the most important barriers to closing the achievement gap."