Holding on to great expectations

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One thing many parents hope for in a teacher is an open mind. It's not hard to understand why. If a kid's having a hard time in September, parents don't want him tagged as a problem right through June.

But as a teacher, it can be hard to anticipate a B after a series of C's - or to detach a certain kind of work from a kid's name.

John Taylor Gatto, an educator interviewed in last week's section, says a savvy teacher can size up a child in a class period. That's a definite negative if it ships the student to the back of the class in a teacher's mind. But it can play out well, if it leads to pondering ways to help a child succeed.

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Much of the past decade's education reform has turned on this key issue: higher expectations (see related story, page 18). A new survey on the attitudes of high school students and their parents and teachers shows just how wide a gap can occur between kids' hopes for the future and what teachers anticipate for them. (The survey can be found at www.metlife.com.)

Take college. Four years of college was on the list of 71 percent of students. But their teachers thought only 32 percent would get that far. Sixty percent said they would achieve future goals; 19 percent of their teachers agreed.

Maybe it's just realism. Only about a third of students do, in fact, complete a four-year degree. Parents, too, were less sanguine than their kids, though more optimistic than many teachers.

But what may be a struggle to maintain high expectations is worth it. They can propel a kid to try harder. And they can better engage parents - especially, as the survey found, when an open mind is combined with an open door.

E-mail newcomba@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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