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The Pygmalion Effect

Research makes clear the importance of high teacher expectations for all students, the authors explain.

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idea light bulbPeople do better when more is expected of them. In education circles, this is called the Pygmalion Effect. It has been demonstrated in study after study, and the results can sometimes be quite significant. 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.

Raising student expectations has been in the news a lot recently as part of a larger conversation about improving learning outcomes. Most notably, a group of states have developed the Common Core State Standards, which go a long way toward establishing higher standards by setting out what students should know and be able to accomplish in reading and math. More than 40 states have adopted the standards so far. Recently, however, there has been a great deal of political pushback against them; a number of states, including Oklahoma, recently abandoned the reform effort.

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