High Expectations for ALL

At the Transition Conference two summers ago I saw Larry Gloeckler, Executive Director of the Special Education Institute at the International Center for Leadership in Education. He indicated that it was not enough for schools to say they had high expectations for ALL students. Rather, schools need specific strategies for helping teachers, parents, and students institutionalize high expectations. Words are easy, but do people really believe it? Do they really believe ALL students can learn at high levels?

In my experience, it is difficult for most educators to make this transition. It's easy to see the flaws, the deficits that students bring which convince us it can't be done. I wonder how far we could push achievement if instead of the unimaginative, typical response of "it can't be done," we instead gave consideration to how it could. Carol Ann Tomlinson, guru for differentiated instruction refers to this as Teaching Up. How could we teach Algebra to special ed student? How could we ensure ALL students learn how to read?

  • Does your school have specific strategies to promote attitudes, behaviors, & processes for helping all students reaching high levels or just words?
  • Do you or your faculty spend more time brainstorming and strategizing on how all students can succeed or complaining about the unfairness of the mandates requiring ALL students succeed?


dbittner said…
I have to be honest that as a classroom teacher, I would have been numbered among those that did NOT feel ALL children could attain high levels of achievement. I suppose that really depends on your definition of what "high" achievement is. I have always believed that ALL children can learn.....but do I feel ALL children can achieve at the level that they would be admitted to an Ivy League school such as Harvard, Princeton, MIT????? Hmmmmm, perhaps not. That would be highly dependent on what type of disabilities or, better yet, abilities they were blessed with upon birth and/or from environmental factors within or beyond their control. BUT, I do believe ALL children can learn and that as educators, we have to first have the mindset that a child CAN achieve rather than CANNOT achieve. Presently, as a trainer and consultant, I have the luxury of attending, on a regular basis, professional development opportunities that MOST teachers could only dream of to further their learning. Those experiences, as well as reading and research that I do on my own (something I,unfortunately never had much time to do as a classroom teacher), has further developed a more positive belief that ALL students can learn AND has caused me to reconsider my former belief system that not necessarily all students could achieve at the highest standards. Who am I, as an educator, to assume anything when it comes to the education of any child? I now prefer the idea of starting with high achievement expectations for all students, providing them with supports along the way when needed, fading those supports to make them more independent learners, and facilitating their learning journeys so that students have every opportunity to be the best that they can be.....no matter what goals they have set for themselves.
kemeigh said…
"Facilitating the students' learning journeys..." I really like that phrase from dbittner's comments. As educators we must have the mind set that we want to teach up for all students. And, we have to believe that all students can learn. I wonder, how many students go through our "system" as curriculum casualities? Is it because we educators have preconceived notions of the successful learner? Could it be because we don't look inward, and ask ourselves hard questions?.... questions like, What could I have done to help facilitate this student's learning? Who are these students before me? How do they learn? Rather than making statements like, "this student is lazy, or unmotivated, or a behavior problem.... or have we stopped being life long learners of our students???

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