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The Griffin

Classism creates gap in education


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The Griffin spoke with teachers and students from all levels to adequately consider perspectives and experiences.
Consider a ladder. Students begin at the bottom, climbing higher as their academic challenges and work ethic rise. Teachers are the steps, motivating the students to reach closer to success and personal maturation. Why is it then that students are falling back steps or tumbling from broken ones, unmotivated to do well in class and grasp their potential?
In 1965, psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson conducted an experiment in which they told elementary school teachers that select students were more likely to succeed because of their results on a special test. In actuality, the test wasn’t special at all and the “bloomers” were chosen arbitrarily.
The experiment resulted in a clear correlation between teacher expectations and student success: in classrooms with “bloomers,” teachers would give more positive feedback and learning opportunities. The “bloomers” succeeded in ways the other students weren’t given the opportunity to, even though there hadn’t been any difference between the students’ abilities at the beginning of the experiment.
It’s a vicious cycle: When teachers aren’t actively positive towards their classes, students lose motivation to thrive. As masses of “unmotivated” students enter classrooms year after year, their teachers struggle to reduce the growing frustration and apathy in both themselves and their students. And as these students repeatedly perceive that their abilities are weaker than those in higher-level classes, they’re less likely to develop long-term goals, acquiring a “learned helplessness.”
We can keep throwing psychology terms at you, but the fact is this: according to the Center for American Progress, high school students whose teachers have higher expectations of their academic success are more likely to graduate from high school and then college (self-fulfilling prophecies, by the way).
So what do we do about this? A common thread throughout conversations with teachers was that the administration seems to be out of touch with what is happening in classrooms. If administrators come into classrooms to interact with students on a personal level, even for a few minutes, the teaching and learning environment may be improved, benefitting all.


Teacher and administrator expectations are pivotal in student performance. But parental involvement, intrinsic motivation and goal-setting are also elements that contribute to success in a student’s education. Academic and personal development must be nurtured and enriched both at home and in school to promote growth.
By instilling a growth mindset, students would toss out discouragement, learn from failure and climb the ladder to graduation and beyond.

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