Study: Low Expectations Means Lower Achievement for Hispanics


A new study released by the Center for American Progress discovered that teachers hold Hispanic students to lower expectations.

Diversity in the US is at a record high, with Hispanics holding the title as the largest minority group.  Pew Research Center recently released data stating that there are 52 million Hispanics/Latinos in the nation.

The study, The Power of the Pygmalion Effect, looked at 10 years of data concerning teacher expectations for 10th graders.  Researchers discovered that those high school students for whom teachers held high expectations were more likely to complete a college degree program than those students whose teachers did not.

“Secondary teachers have lower expectations for students of color and students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” the report’s authors write. “Secondary teachers predicted that high-poverty students were 53 percent less likely to earn a college diploma than their more affluent peers.”

The report discovered that many teachers held these low expectations for students of color before they even set foot into the classroom.  Of the teachers studied, the belief was that “African American students were 47% less likely to graduate from college than their white peers.”  The teachers believed Hispanic students were 42% less likely.

Previous research has found a strong correlation between student achievement and teacher expectations, referred to as the Pygmalion Effect.  “It has been demonstrated in study after study, and the results can sometimes be quite significant,” write the authors of the CAP study. “In one research project, for instance, teacher expectations of a pre-schooler’s ability was a robust predictor of the child’s high school GPA.”

And while the nation is witnessing greater diversity among students, the same does not hold true for teachers.  A study from the National Education Association discovered that 82% of the 3.3 million public school teachers across the country are white.  Only 8% are Hispanic, 7% African-American, and 2% are Asian.

Despite all this, the report’s authors strongly caution against labeling participating teachers as racist because of their differing views on student outcomes.

“Educators’ expectations might simply be a mirror of the broader problems of the nation’s education system,” the report’s authors write. But Rafranz Davis, an instructional technology specialist in Dallas, says the issue goes deeper than that.

Davis also discovered that students of color were far less likely to be held to these views when their teachers were of the same color.

“I have found that students in schools with majority teachers of color do not share the same [negative] academic experience, while students in schools with little to no teachers of color certainly do,” she notes. “For example, a white kid in an AP class is no surprise, but a Hispanic or black kid is often met with ‘Wow, I didn’t expect him/her to be so articulate.’ ”

In order to correct these views, CAP suggests that teacher preparation programs do more to instill a sense of high expectations for all students in future teachers, regardless of race.

Jose Lara, a teacher and the vice president of the El Rancho Unified School District just outside Los Angeles, believes more needs to be done.  Lara would like to see schools ensuring “educators come from diverse backgrounds and are knowledgeable about student real-life experiences.”

“Show me a well-funded school that respects students’ culture and history, treats teachers like professionals and parents as partners, and I will show you a high-performing school.”