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Jody Grandier, Stephanie Flores-Koulish, Ph.D.

“My teacher thought I was smarter than I was--so I was!”: Exploring Strategies for Enhancing Expectations for Black and Brown Students

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In The Power of Teacher Expectations: How racial bias hinders student attainment Gershenson and Papageorge (2181) noted that “college completion rates are systematically higher for students whose teachers had higher expectations for them. More troubling, we also find that white teachers, who comprise most American educators, have far lower expectations for black students than they do for similarly situated white students” (p. 65). Gershenson and Papageorge (2018) observed the presence of racial biases in teacher expectations and the impact it had on the self-efficacy of their students.

Working in a school that is predominantly filled with black and brown students and white teachers, I find this alarming and distressing. According to Reimagine Teaching (2018), most students but especially students of color, those from low-income families, and English language learners- spend the majority of their school day missing out on crucial resources: grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and teachers with high expectations In fact students spend 500 hours per instructional year or six months on work that is not appropriate for their grade and instruction that does not ask enough of them. This is one example of not having high expectations for black and brown students. Another example, Quinn (2021) found that educators gave white students better grades more often than black students with one exception - when teachers used a grading rubric with specific criteria, the racial bias disappeared.It is crucial that all teachers and leaders, including myself, understand the importance of placing high expectations on everyone, regardless of their race, gender, economic level, or even ability. Grading student work fairly and objectively is one strategy that’s vital for creating a community of successful students. Grading student work objectively and consistently is necessary knowing that teacher expectations influence not only student achievement but also student behavior that’s aspirational for their self-efficacy.

As a teacher and future leader, I want to ensure I always have an equitable grading practice which is accurate, resistant to biases, and meaningful to my students and myself. The expectations and grades we give our students play a lasting role in how successful our students are in the classroom and in the future. Grading fairly is not the only thing that equates to high expectations and as a teacher I must expect high grades and ensure my students understand the meaning and purpose of obtaining high grades. I must convey confidence in my students and let them know that I believe in them and know they can and will earn high grades. Grading alone is a static process and just informs a student of how they performed but by allowing them the opportunity to redo work with feedback from the educator, it can promote high expectations and a deep understanding of the material. By allowing or even demanding that students work to their highest potential and not just hand in the first thing they do, I am encouraging high expectations for all students who enter my classroom.

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