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The Minimum Competency Exam Requirement, Teachers' and Students' Expectations and Academic Performance



This paper analyzes whether the minimum competency exam requirement for high school graduation affects students' academic performance directly or affects the educational process by moderating the effect of teachers' expectations on students' mathematics test score gains, proficiency levels, and high school graduation. Tenth-grade students and their mathematics teachers from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 are analyzed. Contingent, negative associations were found between the minimum competency exam requirement and both mathematics proficiency and performance. The requirement was also not found to be associated with the odds of earning a diploma. In the case of mathematics achievement, teachers' expectations were a more important predictor of learning gains and proficiency than were students' expectations. Students' expectations better predicted who earns a diploma. The minimum competency exam requirement was found to moderate the association between teachers' expectations and mathematics achievement but did not affect the relation between teachers' expectations and high school graduation.
Social Psychology of Education 2: 199–216, 1998.
© 1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands. 199
The Minimum Competency Exam Requirement,
Teachers’ and Students’ Expectations and
Academic Performance?
University of Texas at Austin
Abstract. This paper analyzes whether the minimum competency exam requirement for high school
graduation affects students’ academic performance directly or affects the educational process by
moderating the effect of teachers’ expectations on students’ mathematics test score gains, profi-
ciency levels, and high school graduation. Tenth-grade students and their mathematics teachers from
the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 are analyzed. Contingent, negative associations
were found between the minimum competency exam requirement and both mathematics proficiency
and performance. The requirement was also not found to be associated with the odds of earning
a diploma. In the case of mathematics achievement, teachers’ expectations were a more important
predictor of learning gains and proficiency than were students’ expectations. Students’ expectations
better predicted who earns a diploma. The minimum competency exam requirement was found to
moderate the association between teachers’ expectations and mathematics achievement but did not
affect the relation between teachers’ expectations and high school graduation.
For nearly half a century, teachers’ expectations have been recognized as central
to students’ successes or failures. Even when students are motivated to succeed
they must count on schools to teach the cognitive skills and knowledge to achieve
their aspirations. Yet, teachers with lower expectations may teach and demand less
than is needed to attain those goals. Recently, education reformers have suggested
that external assessments of student progress may provide teachers with impor-
tant motivation to ensure student academic competence in critical subject areas.
Thus, while teachers may not share students’ expectations for future educational
?A previous version of this paper was presented at the 1996 annual meeting of the American
Sociological Association in New York City. The research reported in this paper was supported by a
grant from the American Educational Research Association which receives funds for its “AERA
Grants Program” from the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Education
Statistics (U.S. Department of Education) under NSF Grant #RED-9452861, by a faculty fellow-
ship from the Charles A. Dana Center for Mathematics and Science Education, and by a summer
research fellowship from the University of Texas. Opinions reflect those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect those of the granting agencies. I wish to thank Ronald Angel, Bruce Biddle,
Kathryn Borman, Kathryn Schiller, David Stevenson, and anonymous reviewers for helpful com-
ments. Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Chandra Muller, Department of
Sociology, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712 U.S.A. Tel: 512-471-1122; Fax: 512-471-1748;
attainment, the external assessment would encourage teachers to teach the material
required for progress toward students’ aspirations so long as that material is rep-
resented in the external assessment. This paper analyzes whether one common but
weak form of external assessment, the minimum competency exam requirement
for high school graduation, affects students’ academic performance directly or
affects their educational process by moderating the effects of teachers’ expecta-
tions on students’ mathematics test score gains, proficiency levels, and high school
The minimum competency exam requirement for high school graduation has been
in practice in about half of the U.S. states for at least two decades (Catterall, 1989).
These examinations, that students must pass before high school graduation, are
designed to ensure basic knowledge and skills of all students who obtain a high
school diploma. Initially controversial, the low-level performance standards are
now thought to be a minimal obstacle for almost all students. Individual states
develop their ownexaminations, and students are usually allowed multiple chances
to pass. One concern about the minimum competency exam is that students who
fail the exam early in high school may either drop out or lower their expectations
and that this process has yet to be measured because it takes place earlier than
is focused on in most studies of high school drop outs and graduation. Unlike
minimum competency testing, national standards and assessments have yet to be
implemented. Analyses of the effects of the minimum competency exam are im-
portant in light of the massive effort to implement national standards and reform
and the lack of knowledge about their effects.
Proponents of external assessments argue that they will provide a motivation for
teachers to encourage students to maximize learning measured by the assessment.
If well designed, external assessments would encourage teachers to work with stu-
dents in a coach-like relationship toward a common goal. Coupled with a system of
accountability, external assessments would shift the incentive structure for teachers
to one which rewards gains in student achievement (Porter, 1994). Teachers would
have a greater sense of responsibility for their students’ achievement, effectively
monitor student progress, and change weak pedagogical approaches. Perhaps most
importantly, they would be more likely to use the students’ resources, including
motivation, to help students learn (Coleman, 1995). Furthermore, a system of ex-
ternal assessment would take the burden of evaluation away from the teacher,
encouraging a more cooperative relationship between teacher and student. In short,
external assessments may shift teachers’ goals and in doing so may change the
teaching process.
Controversy surrounds the recent policy initiatives to set national standards
for student performance and accompany them with assessments of progress. Op-
ponents argue that it is impossible to design an exam that adequately measures
learning for all students. Additionally, they argue, it is not possible to measure
higher-order cognitive skills with such tests, encouraging teachers to teach super-
ficially to the test instead of teaching advanced cognitive skills. Some opponents
fear that students will become discouraged because they think there is no chance of
passing the exam (and therefore graduating) (Catterall, 1989). Others insist that the
source of the problem is outside the school in larger economic problems associated
with poverty (Biddle, 1997). Further debate exists overuse of test results and policy
implementation. A key feature of recent initiatives is that compliance be voluntary
on the part of states or in some cases districts or schools (Baker, 1994).
The national standards and assessments debate has been interesting, in part, be-
cause of its history. First supported by conservative Republicans, the initiative has
the full support of many Democrats, including the Clinton Administration (Biddle,
1997). The early motivation for the minimum competency exam was to ensure a
minimum level of skills and knowledge for all students who obtained a high school
diploma. This, proponents reasoned, would provide graduates with a minimum
level of “equal” access to jobs requiring those skills (Cohen & Haney, 1980).
Additionally, employers hiring students with a high school diploma would be as-
sured of their basic knowledge and skill levels. As the initiatives broadened and
were adopted by proponents with other interests, standards and assessments were
also viewed as a check on local control and a means of monitoring whether stu-
dents were taught a curriculum that ensured equal access to advanced coursework
and schooling. This last motivation about equal access is particularly interesting
in light of the early opponents to minimum competency testing, who objected
strongly because they observed especially low passing rates among minority stu-
dents (Fisher, 1980). It is important to keep in mind that the minimum standards of
the competency exam do not target performance above a low level.
These differences aside, most supporters concur that the standards and assess-
ments are a way to remove decisions about who progresses to the next level of
school from those who teach the curriculum. Additionally, regardless of the con-
troversy and divergence of interests among those who support national standards
and assessment, most analysts expect that implementation of the policy will change
teaching and classroom processes. Proponents argue that one change will be in the
relation between expectations and outcomes because of a change in incentives.
Opponents argue that curriculum and pedagogy will change what is learned and
how it is taught.
The recent initiative for national standards and assessment is a much more far
reaching external assessment policy than minimum competency exams for high
school graduation. Although voluntary, national standards and assessment involve
the development of common standards for student proficiency at specified grade
levels and the use of a common instrument to evaluate proficiency and progress.
The proposed national standards and assessments imply broader rewards and sanc-
tions for educational organizations and assessment of students at all levels of pro-
ficiency, while the minimum competency exam measures a relatively low level of
achievement and applies the most serious consequences of failure to the student.
If a student fails the minimum competency exam, the student does not receive a
high school diploma. Nonetheless, the use of an external assessment rather than
teachers’ more subjective assessments may still have consequences for classroom
processes, and in particular, for the effect of expectations and motivation on student
Teachers form their expectations of students based on students’ prior performance
and their perception of student opportunity, using indicators like test scores, track
placement, student behavior, student expectations, student socioeconomic status
(SES), gender, and racial and ethnic characteristics of the student (Delpit, 1995;
Jones, 1990; Oakes, 1985; Rist, 1970; Williams, 1975). Little is understood about
how students’ expectations form and change over the course of school experience.
Wilson and Wilson (1992) found that family factors (like parents’ educational level,
SES, and race) and the students’ perception of the parents’ and teachers’ aspira-
tions were important predictors of the student’s own aspirations. Hanson (1994)
showed that High School and Beyond seniors with high expectations adjusted their
expectations downward or did not realize their goals, and that the process varied
by gender, race or ethnicity, and SES. Student and school characteristics were im-
portant predictors of student expectations. Catterall (1989) suggested that students
may adjust their expectations downward after their first failure on the minimum
competency exam. In many states this occurs during Grade 9 or Grade 10.
Both teachers’ and students’ expectations affect students’ academic achieve-
ment. Drazen (1994), using the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988
(NELS), found that teacher expectations for the class were a strong predictor of
student achievement; in fact, they were the best predictor in her models. Her find-
ings were consistent with those of others about the powerful relationship between
the expectations of teachers and students’ achievement and persistence in school
(Good, 1993; Persell, 1977; Rist, 1970; Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1968). Similarly,
students’ expectations are positively associated with achievement (e.g., Coleman,
Hoffer, & Kilgore, 1982; Spenner & Featherman, 1978) and other forms of aca-
demic behavior such as fewer behavior problems, greater investment in school
(MacLeod, 1987), and less likelihood of dropping out (Ensminger & Slusarcick,
In the early and middle 1980s, schools were encouraged to change the culture
and raise teachers’ expectations. Today, campaigns proclaiming positive attitudes
may be found in many schools despite slim evidence that such practices are effec-
tive or that they represent the attitudes and behavior of school personnel. While
the language changed, those policies do little to address the mechanisms by which
teachers’ low expectations are translated into lower performance of students. (For
a thorough summary of the process see Good and Brophy, 1997.)
Unlike policies of the early 1980s designed to raise teacher expectations for
students, external assessments are targeted at changing the incentives for teachers
and students to work together toward student mastery of curriculum. Coleman
(1995) argued that the system by which teachers are expected to evaluate stu-
dents’ performance is fundamentally flawed if learning is to take place because
it is structured in direct opposition to the way teachers are themselves evaluated
and rewarded. He claimed that it provides incentives for teachers and students to
enter into tacit agreements in which teachers exchange low academic demands for
students’ orderly behavior and compliance. The system of external assessments
would provide common incentives for teachers and students to maximize student
learning gains cooperatively because each would be evaluated on the learning that
takes place. A key aspect of Coleman’s model is that teachers and students are
evaluated on the basis of “value-added” and not simply the performance level of
students. Independent of the teachers’ expectations for students’ futures, propo-
nents of external assessments argue that teachers will do much more to raise the
achievement levels of students because the independent, external evaluation will
reflect directly on teachers’ job performance.
The effect of external assessments as an incentive structure for teachers should
be evident in the way teachers’ expectations are associated with student outcomes.
If external assessments motivate teachers to exploit students’ resources for learn-
ing in ways that are independent of the teachers’ own opinion about the students’
future, there should be a weaker relationship between teachers’ expectations and
outcomes when external assessments are in place. In contrast, in the absence of
external assessments, the relationship between teachers’ expectations and students’
outcomes should be strong.
The minimum competency exam may change the effects of teacher attitudes and
behavior in several ways. It may motivate teachers to teach more material so stu-
dents pass the exam. This might be especially true if the minimum competency
exam is used to assess teacher or school performance because there would be
additional incentives for teachers to have students pass the exam. Alternatively, the
exam may do little to change teacher behavior, but it may circumvent the influence
of the teacher attitudes or behavior on student outcomes because it reduces the
extent to which the teacher must act as gatekeeper in the decision about which
students should graduate.
Tosummarize, Figure 1 shows the expected effects of the minimum competency
exam on the relationships between teachers’ expectations, students’ expectations,
and high school graduation and achievement. The argument is that teachers’ ex-
pectations will have observed effects on students’ expectations and on students’
outcomes when teachers act as gatekeepers, as is the case when there is no external
assessment (shown in the top half of the figure). When teachers are in a position
Figure 1. Models of the relationship between teachers’ expectations, students’ expectations,
and students’ academic outcomes depending on the presence of a minimum competency exam
of coach, as they are more likely to be when there is an external assessment upon
which even they may be evaluated, then there will be no independent effect of
their own expectations on students’ outcomes. Teachers’ expectations may become
irrelevant either because teachers are motivated to behave in ways that do not reflect
their expectations or because they are not in a gatekeeping position. In each case
background, prior achievement and course taking may have an independent effect
on students’ outcomes.1
It is important to evaluate student learning separately from graduation because
the external assessment may affect one outcome without the other. Specifically,
an exam that targets high school graduation may make a difference in graduation
but not learning (because the standards are rudimentary). Similarly, the minimum
competency exam may influence the process by which teachers’ expectations are
associated with students’ expectations and outcomes. This article analyzes the
background determinants of teachers’ and students’ expectations and then eval-
uates the process by which expectations affect high school graduation and math-
ematics test scores. The analyses also evaluate the direct effect of the minimum
competency exam on students’ outcomes.
Data and Method
This study employed data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988
(NELS). NELS used a nationally representative sample of 24,599 eighth-grade
students who were followed up in the tenth and twelfth grades. In each wave,
a sample of teachers were selected to provide information about the student, the
classroom environment, and the teacher. Some students had two teachers (usually
either an English or social studies teacher and a math or science teacher), while
other students had no teachers. Additionally, in each wave, students were admin-
istered a battery of achievement tests in reading, mathematics, social studies, and
science (see Ingels et al., 1994, for a complete description of the data set).
Tenth-grade students paired with a mathematics teacher were selected for the
analysis because the tenth-grade teacher data included information about teachers’
expectations. Analysis of tenth graders also allowed for the estimation of a lagged
effect of teachers’ expectations on twelfth-grade mathematics test performance
and on graduation. Only public school students and teachers were included in the
present study because classroom processes and student-teacher relationships may
be different in private schools (cf. Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993; Coleman & Hoffer,
1987). Additionally, data from Native Americans were excluded because they were
significantly different from other racial and ethnic categories yet did not comprise
a large enough group to allow for meaningful analysis (Schneider & Coleman,
1993). Selection on the basis of these characteristics reduced the original sample of
16,813 public school students to 6,192.2Furthermore, students were only included
if they had non-missing data for all analysis variables described below, reducing
the sample size further to 3,442.3
As mentioned above, it was important to consider learning and attainment sepa-
rately. Mathematics achievement was measured by the Grade 12 proficiency level
of students, and learning was measured by regressing Grade 12 mathematics item
response theory (IRT) scores on the scores in Grade 10. Student attainment was
measured by whether the student obtained a high school diploma as reported in the
NELS third follow-up, two years after most students graduated. Schools reported
whether students were subject to a minimum competency exam requirement to
graduate. Students and teachers each reported their educational expectations for the
student. Students also reported their average mathematics grades for the last two
years. Teachers reported the ability level of the mathematics class. Finally, student
background, including socioeconomic status (SES), race and ethnicity, urbanicity,
and gender were included in all analyses. Table 1 shows variable construction
and descriptive statistics for the combined group of students and, separately, by
whether students were subject to a high school graduation minimum competency
exam requirement.
In this sample, students were split about evenly between those who were subject
to the minimum competency exam and those who were not. The two groups of
students differed in almost every respect measured. It was only in the proportions
of Asians, boys, and students in low- and mixed-ability groups that were not sig-
nificantly different with respect to being required to take a minimum competency
exam. A much larger proportion of African Americans were subject to the re-
quirement. In addition, students who were required to take the exam had higher
educational expectations and lower mathematics achievement test scores.
The minimum competency exam may affect the attitudes of teachers and students,
it may influence classroom processes, and it may influence student outcomes. Thus,
this analysis evaluates the relationships between student background, student and
teacher attitudes, student outcomes, and differences in the associations depending
on the presence of a minimum competency exam. To understand how teachers’ and
students’ expectations are associated with outcomes, one must first consider how
teachers’ and students’ expectations are shaped. The first analyses estimates the
determinants of teachers’ expectations, then of students’ expectations, followed
by predictions of students’ test score gains, mathematics proficiency levels, and
obtaining a high school diploma.
Table 2 includes models that estimate teachers’ expectations and, separately, stu-
dents’ expectations. The basic models control for background and the minimum
competency exam requirement. Academic performance and ability group are added
in the full models. Additionally, to measure whether the relationship between teach-
ers’ and students’ expectations varies depending on the presence of the exam re-
quirements, teachers’ expectations and the interaction between teachers’ expecta-
Table I. Variable Description and Descriptive Statistics for (1) Combined Sample and for Students
(2) Without and (3) With a Minimum Competency Exam Requirement (Weighted).
Variable Description
SESbFor most students, based on parents’ highest education, family income
and parents’ occupation. NCES constructed variable.a(1) M= –.059,
SD = .269, (2) M= –.09, SD = .262, (3) M= –.03, SD = .276
Race/ethnicity NCES constructed variable based on student report (Native Americans
excluded from analysis, European Americans are base category for
(1) Asian = 3.5%; Latino = 6.7%; African American = 11.6%, (2)
Asian = 3.1%, Latino = 2.9%,bAfrican American = 4.8%,b(3) Asian
= 3.9%, Latino = 10.3%, African American = 17.9%
UrbanicitybNCES constructed variable (base category is suburban).
(1) Urban = 24.0%; Rural = 19.4%, (2) Urban = 18.7%; Rural = 29.4%,
(3) Urban = 29.1%, Rural = 9.9%
Gender NCES constructed variable based on student report (base category is
(1) Boys = 49.5%, (2) Boys = 49.9%, (3) Boys = 49.1%
expectationsbTenth graders’ response to “Asthings stand now, how far in school do
you think you will get?” Responses ranged from 1 = less than high
school to 9 = Ph.D., M.D.
(1) M= 6.185, SD = .772, (2) M= 6.028 SD = .773, (3) M= 6.332, SD
= .766
expectationsbGrade 10 mathematics teachers’ responses to “Will this student proba-
bly go to college?” Response categories were recoded as yes = 3, don’t
know = 2, no = 1.
(1) M= 1.24; SD = 0.321, (2) M= 1.194; SD = .32, (3) M= 1.284, SD
= .321
Minimum competency
requirement School reported minimum competency exam requirement for gradua-
tion. Fifty-one percent of students are subject to a requirement.
Ability group Teacher’s response to the question, “Which of the following best
describes the achievement level of the students in this class com-
pared with the average 10th-grade student in this school?” Re-
sponse categories including “lower achievement levels,” “widely dif-
fering achievement levels,” “higher achievement levels,” and “average
achievement levels” were combined in this analysis. (1) Low = 22.4%,
Mixed = 10.4%, (2) Low = 23.4%, Mixed = 10.2%, (3) Low = 21.5%,
Mixed = 10.7%
Students’ gradesbTenth graders’ report of mathematics grades “from the ninth grade
until now.
(1) M= 4.567, SD = .684, (2) M= 4.489, SD = .7, (3) M= 4.639, SD
= .668
Math proficiencybTwelfth-grade mathematics proficiency level. (1) M= 2.683, SD = .49,
(2) M= 2.747, SD = .483, (3) M= 2.621, SD = .496
Table I. continued
Variable Description
Grade 10 math testbItem Response Theory (IRT) score on first follow-up mathematics test.
(1) M= 44.184, SD = 5.002, (2) M= 45.003, SD = 4.949, (3) M=
43.412, SD = 5.036
Grade 12 math testbItem Response Theory (IRT) score on second follow-up mathematics
(1) M= 49.098, SD = 5.074, (2) M= 50.055, SD = 5.004, (3) M=
48.178, SD = 5.122
High school diplomabDerived from a variable constructed by NCES. Students were coded as
having received a diploma if the variable indicated such; students with
a other status (GED, certificate, currently enrolled, currently working
toward equivalency, or drop out) were coded as not having a diploma.
(1) diploma = 90.5%, (2) diploma = 91.7%, (3) diploma = 89.5%
Note: Unweighted n= 3,442 for combined sample, n= 1,680 for students without minimum compe-
tency exam requirement and n= 1,762 for students with a minimum competency exam requirement.
All statistics in this table and those that follow are weighted and adjusted for the design effect as
recommended in Ingels et al. (1994).
aAll NCES constructed variables are described in Ingels et al. (1994).
bDifference in means or proportions of students who are and are not subject to the minimum
competency exam requirement is significant at p<.05.
tions and whether students are subject to a minimum competency exam require-
ment are included in models of students’ expectations.
Table 2 shows that teachers’ expectations for African American students are
significantly lower than for European American students. The difference between
African American and European American students is explained with the addition
of ability group, test scores, and grades. Analyses, not shown, indicate that the
difference between teachers’ expectations for African Americans and European
Americans can be explained by variation in the students’ test scores. Table 2 also
indicates that there is no significant difference in teacher expectations depending
on the minimum competency exam requirement.
When ability group, test scores, and grades are added to the basic model, shown
in Model 2, test scores are the best predictor of teachers’ expectations. Ability
group and grades are also, independently, associated with teachers’ expectations.
Even after prior achievement and ability group are held constant, students’ SES
is strongly associated with teachers’ attitudes. Indeed, college attendance requires
resources that are more readily available to higher SES students, and teachers may
take this into account.
Model 3 indicates that SES is also a powerful predictor of students’ expec-
tations. Race and ethnicity are different in their associations with students’ ex-
pectations compared to teachers’ expectations. African American students have
higher expectations for themselves compared to European American students. This
Table II. Regression Coefficients for Predictions of Teachers’ and Students’ Expectations.
Variable Teachers’ expectations Students’ expectations
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4 Model 5
SES 1.107∗∗∗ .802∗∗∗ 1.1∗∗∗ .633∗∗∗ .548∗∗∗
(.164) (.119) (.384) (.221) (.191)
Gender (Boy = 1) –.437–.455–.483∗∗∗ –.295∗∗∗ –.324∗∗∗
(–.044) (–.046) (–.116) (–.071) (–.078)
Asian .427 .372 .697∗∗∗ .535∗∗∗ .516∗∗∗
(.016) (.014) (.061) (.047) (.046)
Latino –.166 .211 .242 .332∗∗ .465∗∗∗
(–.008) (.011) (.029) (.04) (.056)
African American –.583.174 .402∗∗∗ .7∗∗∗ .927∗∗∗
(–.038) (.011) (.062) (.107) (.142)
Urban .125 .146 .06 .019 .11
(.011) (.013) (.012) (.004) (.002)
Rural –.039 –.139 –.076 –.086 –.072
(–.003) (–.011) (–.014) (–.016) (–.014)
Exam requirement .239 .218 .137.234.22
(.024) (.022) (.033) (.056) (.053)
Low-ability group –1.209∗∗∗ –.802∗∗∗ –.517∗∗∗
(–.103) (–.16) (–.103)
Mixed-ability group –.525 –.568∗∗∗ –.451∗∗∗
(–.033) (–.083) (–.066)
Students’ grades .327∗∗∗ .087∗∗∗
(.123) (.077)
Grade 10 math test score .063∗∗∗ .029∗∗∗
(.175) (.19)
Teachers’ expectations .908∗∗∗ .662∗∗∗
(.378) (.275)
Teachers’ expectations –.157–.124
×exam requirement (–.067) (–.053)
-2 log likelihood 864.08 695.38 .162 .328 .357
or adjusted R2
∗∗∗ p<.001; ∗∗ p<.01; p<.05
Note: Logistic regression is used for models predicting teachers’ expectations, and OLS
regression is used to predict models for students’ expectations.
difference becomes more pronounced when ability group, test scores, and grades
are held constant, as shown in the last model of Table 2.
It is possible that the minimum competency requirement changes how teachers
and students evaluate the students’ future educational opportunities. Model 4 in
Table 2 shows that the minimum competency exam requirement is moderately
associated with students’ higher expectations. Furthermore, teachers’ expectations
are a strong predictor of students’ expectations. That model also indicates that
the association between teachers’ and students’ expectations is moderated slightly
when students are subjected to a minimum competency exam requirement; the
interaction term for teachers’ expectations and the exam requirement is negative
and significant. When mathematics grades and test scores are also included, in the
last model, the interaction effect is negative but nonsignificant. Nonetheless, the
expectations of students continue to be strongly influenced by the expectations of
their teachers.
The minimum competency exam requirement was designed to raise the achieve-
ment levels of students, particularly the lowest performing students, and may also
affect their educational attainment. Table 3shows coefficients from models predict-
ing three student outcomes, twelfth-grade mathematics proficiency levels, mathe-
matics test score gains, and whether the student obtained a high school diploma.
The results in Table 3 indicate that the minimum competency exam requirement
has a negative association with mathematics test score gains and proficiency levels,
which tends to disappear when ability group and prior grades are controlled. It is
not significantly associated with whether students graduate from high school. Per-
haps the last finding is the most surprising because the test is specifically designed
to influence high school graduation. One might argue that it would not affect the
entire sample because it is targeted only at students achieving at the lowest levels.
However, analyses, not shown, of students who performed in the lowest 15% of
their eighth-grade mathematics achievement test indicate similar patterns.
Teachers’ and students’ expectations each appear to make a difference in stu-
dents’ outcomes. In general, teachers’ expectations best predict mathematics achieve-
ment, and students’ expectations best predict high school graduation. The first two
models, in which mathematics proficiency levels are predicted, indicate that teach-
ers’ expectations are a strong predictor of proficiency levels even after ability group
and students’ grades are controlled (shown in Model 2). Teachers’ expectations
also moderately predict test score gains between Grades 10 and 12.
Students’ expectations predict mathematics proficiency well but do not have an
independent association with test score gains. In contrast to the stronger influence
of teachers’ expectations on mathematics achievement, compared to that of the
influence of students’ expectations, students’ expectations are highly associated
with high school graduation. As shown in Model 5 of Table 3, the basic model
Table III. Coefficients from Predictions of Mathematics Test Score Gains, Mathematics Proficiency
Levels, and High School Graduation (Weighted).
Mathematics Grade 12 math High school
Variable proficiency test score diploma
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4 Model 5 Model 6
Grade 10 math .864∗∗∗ .832∗∗∗
test score (.852) (.82)
SES .166∗∗∗ .186∗∗∗ .181 .385.322 .408
(.091) (.102) (.01) (.02) (.048) (.061)
Gender (Boy = 1) .205∗∗∗ .214∗∗∗ .74∗∗∗ .777∗∗∗ –.29 –.254
(.077) (.081) (.027) (.028) (–.03) (–.026)
Asian .145 .138 .577 .566 .925 .95
(.02) (.019) (.008) (.008) (.035) (.036)
Latino –.344∗∗∗ –.281∗∗∗ –.162 –.132 .066 .14
(–.065) (–.053) (–.003) (–.002) (.003) (.007)
African American –.625∗∗∗ –.502∗∗∗ –.224 –.204 –.709 –.561
(–.15) (–.121) (–.005) (–.005) (–.047) (–.037)
Urban .126.146∗∗ .351 .494∗∗∗ –.067 –.038
(.04) (.047) (.011) (.015) (–.006) (–.003)
Rural –.1 –.145∗∗ –.659–.714∗∗ .393 .377
(–.03) (–.043) (–.019) (–.021) (.032) (.03)
Exam requirement –.149∗∗∗ –.053 –.781∗∗∗ .209 –.283 –.159
(–.056) (–.02) (–.028) (.008) (–.029) (–.016)
Students’ .116∗∗∗ .069∗∗∗ .114 .03 .342∗∗∗ .299∗∗∗
expectations (.182) (.109) (.017) (.005) (.146) (.127)
Teachers’ .606∗∗∗ .435∗∗∗ 1.325∗∗∗ 1.374∗∗∗ .67∗∗ .689
expectations (.397) (.284) (.084) (.087) (.119) (1.22)
Low-ability group –.734∗∗∗ –1.02∗∗∗ –.601
(–.231) (–.031) (–.051)
Mixed-ability group –.329∗∗∗ –.859∗∗ –.479
(–.076) (–.019) (–.03)
Students’ grades .139∗∗∗ .593∗∗∗ .203
(.194) (.08) (.077)
Teachers’ expectations –.103–.907∗∗∗ –.401
×exam requirement (–.069) (–.059) (–.073)
–2 log likelihood .361 .434 .844 .85 241.78 233.75
or adjusted R2
p<.001; ∗∗ p<.01; p<.05
Note: OLS regression is used to predict mathematics proficiency and test- score-gains models, and
logistic regression is used to predict high school diploma models. Standardized coefficients in are
predicting high school graduation, both teachers’ and students’ expectations are
significantly associated with graduation. However, the association between teach-
ers’ expectations and graduation is not significant in the full model, Model 6, which
includes students’ grades.
Students’ background, including SES, gender, and whether they live in an urban
area, are associated with mathematics achievement but not with whether they earn
a diploma. Also, African American and Latino students have lower mathematics
proficiency levels compared to European American students. There are no other
observed racial or ethnic differences in outcomes.
Table 3 also shows that teachers’ expectations are associated with test score
gains and mathematics proficiency levels somewhat differently depending on the
presence of an exam requirement. The interaction term for teachers’ expectations
and the minimum competency exam requirement is negative and significant. This
indicates that the effect of teachers’ expectations on students’ test score gains and
proficiency level is moderated by the presence of a minimum competency exam re-
quirement. In other words, the effect of teachers’ expectations on the mathematics
outcomes is less for students who are subject to the exam requirement.
Discussion and Conclusion
Proponents of external standards and assessments generally argue that students will
learn more. These results do not support such an effect; indeed, my results suggest
that the requirement is negatively associated with achievement test scores. Early
critics of the minimum competency exam feared that it would cause more students
to drop out, which is also generally unsupported by evidence (Catterall, 1989).
Catterall (1989) suggested that there may be no measurable effects of the minimum
competency exams on dropping out because the level is rudimentary. Additionally,
political pressures to raise graduation rates have resulted in weak policies such as
those which allow students to retake the exam many times in an effort to pass. The
results I have presented are consistent with Catterall’s suggestions.
Proponents of external standards and assessments argue that the teacher-student
relationship will be more cooperative with teachers acting as coach rather than
gatekeeper. The minimum competency exam requirement may moderate the rela-
tionship between teachers’ expectations and mathematics achievement in that the
associations between expectations and the two measures of achievement are weaker
for students subjected to the requirement. These findings are partially consistent
with the model depicted in Figure 1; however, the relationship between teachers’
expectations and mathematics performance seems to be quite strong in all circum-
stances. One would also expect that the impact of teachers’ expectations on whether
a student earns a diploma would also be moderated by the requirement. This was
not found; however, teachers’ expectations did not generally have a strong effect
on who earns a high school degree.
An important qualification of these results is that only public school students
who are enrolled in mathematics courses were studied(because mathematics teacher
data were used). Moreover, it is impossible with these data to know how the exam
might work as a moderating mechanism. It might cause teachers and students
to work cooperatively toward a common goal, as Coleman (1995) suggested, or
it might also lower students’ expectations around Grades 9 or 10, as Catterall’s
(1989) findings suggest. The positive association I found between the minimum
competency exam and students’ expectations is consistent with Catterall’s conjec-
ture. If students shift to more realistic expectations, then this could also explain
the strong association of expectations with graduation.4On the other hand, one
would also expect their expectations to be more closely associated with test scores
in that circumstance and exploratory analyses, not shown, do not indicate such a
The two groups of students, those who are and are not subject to the require-
ment, differ in ways that were not accounted for in these models. Efforts to control
other factors (not shown), such as other teachers’ and students’ attitudes or school
poverty level, revealed significant associations between the factors and outcomes
but did not change the basic findings described here. Schools are only one part
of a larger social system which supports adolescent development. It is difficult
to measure the pervasive effects of such factors as poverty on achievement and
conception of opportunity in a study such as this. Certainly, further research in the
area is both possible and important.
As a form of external assessment, the minimum competency exam is especially
weak because it targets only low-level proficiency skills and because the negative
consequences fall disproportionately on students. Furthermore, the NELS measure
itself is weak. The actual minimum competency exam requirement varies among
states, thus, students may be subject to different standards and testing procedures
even when they are subject to an exam requirement. Nonetheless, as a policy tool,
the minimum competency exam requirement is widely used, about one-half (51%)
of all NELS public school students are subject to it, and therefore its effects are
important to consider.
The students to whom the minimum competency exam is targeted may be an
especially challenging group to reach. Certainly, some may be graded lower by
teachers for misbehavior, and if they perform well enough on the exam may gradu-
ate despite their teachers’ disapproval. The exam may influence attainment without
affecting learning. It may be a much more complex problem to raise the levels
of mathematics achievement among low-performing students who are about to
graduate from high school. Additionally, the minimum competency exam could
easily affect students, especially those who are low performing, before the tenth
grade when the students in this analysis were first interviewed.
It is unclear whether findings would be similar for other forms of external as-
sessment. Teachers are clearly sensitive to their students’ performance on standard-
ized tests, as revealed in the analysis of the determinants of teachers’ expectations.
Muller, Katz, and Dance (in press), using multiple qualitative studies of teach-
ers and students, found that teachers who were subject to more rigorous forms
of external assessment were overwhelmingly concerned with the testing process
and results. Thus, it is possible that broader standards would produce stronger
results. Importantly, they also found that students who were excluded from the
testing process because of special designations were essentially neglected by many
An especially perplexing problem for policy makers has been how to encourage
teachers to take full advantage of student resources for learning. Especially tragic
is the case of students who, though motivated to learn, are taught by teachers who
have low expectations for them and therefore demand less than is needed for the
students to attain their goals. As a tool to influence teachers, external standards and
assessment in the form of an examination appear to have potential; however, the
nature of the influence is unclear. Importantly, little is known about the structures
that might support effective standards and assessments or what other resources
might be required for schools to meet the needs of students successfully.
1. This process would operate only for students subject to the assessment. For instance, if certain
students are exempted from an external assessment, as students in special classes might be, then
we would not expect the teacher to play a role of coach even if the broader state policy included
external assessments. In this case, the mechanism used to exclude the student from testing might
have an enhanced negative effect on the student’s opportunity to learn. Measuring this type of
exclusion is not possible with the data I used, although students with “linguistic, mental, or
physical obstacles to participation” were excluded from data collection (Ingels et al., 1994, p.
2. The students with mathematics teacher data had slightly higher achievement test scores and
slightly higher SES than the sample as a whole.
3. Most students were excluded because of missing data on either the graduation status or second
follow-up mathematics achievement test.
4. When high school graduation models are run separately depending on the presence of a mini-
mum competency exam requirement (not shown), students’ expectations are a significant pre-
dictor of graduation only when the requirement is in place. In this case, however, the difference
between the coefficient for students’ expectations is not significant when students who are
subject to the requirement are compared with those who are not.
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Biographical Note
Chandra Muller is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her
research interests include parental involvement, external assessments as a form of incentive, mathe-
matics achievement, and the transition into higher education.
... These two school organization factors directly influence group-level teacher expectations that are closely connected to improving student achievement. Finally, group-level teacher expectation (see Agirdag, Van Avermaet, & Van Houttee, 2013;Brault, Janosz, & Archambault, 2014;Rubie-Davies, 2007) plays a key role in changing student attitudes and behaviors, including learning motivation (Woolley & Grogan-Kaylor, 2006), and academic achievement (Mistry, White, Benner, & Huynh, 2009;Muller, 1998;Muller, Katz, & Dance, 1999;Tyler & Boelter, 2008). In this vein, we focused on identifying group-level teacher expectations as a critically mediating role between a high school's three social environmental factors (i.e., principal support, professional learning communities, and collective responsibility) and student math achievement in this study. ...
... Low grouplevel teacher expectations of students' learning abilities may result in teachers using less effective educational practices (Brault et al., 2014;Rubie-Davies, 2007). Conversely, students exposed to high teacher expectations experience greater academic achievement (Muller 1998;Smith, Jussim, & Eccles, 1999;Tyler & Boelter, 2008). ...
... The study also shows that teachers' educational expectations positively influence student achievement. This finding suggests that students experience greater academic achievement in schools when their teachers sustain higher perceived expectations about schooling and student learning (Muller, 1998;Smith et al., 1999). The result replicates established findings (Jussim & Harber, 2005;Mistry et al., 2009;Smith et al., 1999;Tyler & Boelter, 2008). ...
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine how principal support, professional learning communities, collective responsibility, and group-level teacher expectations affect 11th-grade student math achievement. Research Methods: Data for this study were from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. This study used a multilevel structural equation model to examine how principal support, professional learning communities, collective responsibility, and teacher expectations at the group level affect school math achievement. Findings: The study identified a model of school-level factors affecting students: Principal support positively influenced both professional learning communities and collective responsibility, which in turn, affected student math achievement via group-level teacher expectations; on the other hand, the impact of principal support on group-level teacher expectation and the direct associations of both professional learning communities and collective responsibility with student achievement were not statically significant. Implications: Focusing on how a school-level mechanism influences student achievement provides a better understanding of sustaining high school performance through school reform initiatives (e.g., principal leadership training, building professional learning communities, or interventions to improve group-level teachers’ expectations). To improve student achievement, the current study emphasizes why principals should give more attention to exerting supportive and egalitarian leadership that can contribute to a school’s positive climate and lead to changing teachers’ instructional behaviors and attitudes, rather than focusing on directive or restrictive leadership and managing behaviors.
... There were also a smaller number of studies, however, which showed inconsistent evidence from the above-reported findings. In the US context, for instance, some studies found that the relations between student ethnicity and teacher expectations were not statistically significant (e.g., Hinnant, O'Brien, & Ghazarian, 2009;Minor, 2014;Muller, 1997;Paino & Renzulli, 2013). Findings from a few other studies in the European and New Zealand contexts also suggested that students from minority ethnic backgrounds were not underestimated by their teachers (e.g., De Boer, Bosker, & Van der Werf, 2010;Glock & Krolak-Schwerdt, 2014;Kaiser, Südkamp, & Möller, 2017;. ...
... Additional evidence has shown gender bias in teachers' expectations (e.g., Y.-H. Chen, Thompson, Kromrey, & Chang, 2011;De Boer et al., 2010;Hinnant et al., 2009;Holder & Kessels, 2017;Hornstra, Denessen, Bakker, Van den Bergh, & Voeten, 2010;Jussim, 1989;Kelly & Carbonaro, 2012;Lazarides & Watt, 2015;Meissel et al., 2017;Minor, 2014;Mizala, Martínez, & Martínez, 2015;Muller, 1997;Plewis, 1997;Ready & Wright, 2011;Riegle-Crumb & Humphries, 2012;Tiedemann, 2000Tiedemann, , 2002Timmermans, Kuyper, & Van der Werf, 2015; Van Matre, Valentine, & Cooper, 2000; Wood, Kaplan, & McLoyd, 2007). In general, these studies have provided some evidence that teachers tend to have higher expectations for girls in literacy (e.g., Hinnant et al., 2009;Hornstra et al., 2010;Meissel et al., 2017;Ready & Wright, 2011) and for boys in mathematics (e.g., Holder & Kessels, 2017;Lazarides & Watt, 2015;Riegle-Crumb & Humphries, 2012;Tiedemann, 2000Tiedemann, , 2002. ...
... With respect to the effects of student socioeconomic status, most studies have confirmed that teachers tend to hold lower expectations for low-SES students than for middle-or high-SES students (e.g., Auwarter & Aruguete, 2008;Childs & McKay, 1997;De Boer et al., 2010;Fitzpatrick et al., 2016;Kelly & Carbonaro, 2012;Minor, 2014;Muller, 1997;Plewis, 1997;Ready & Chu, 2015;Ready & Wright, 2011;Robinson, 1994;Speybroeck et al., 2012;Timmermans et al., 2015;Tobisch & Dresel, 2017;Van den Bergh et al., 2010;Van Houtte et al., 2013;Van Matre et al., 2000;Wilson & Martinussen, 1999). Only three exceptions were identified which showed a non-significant effect of student SES on teacher expectations (Glock & Krolak-Schwerdt, 2014;Paino & Renzulli, 2013;Wood et al., 2007). ...
This review aimed to illustrate the development in the teacher expectation literature and discuss the major avenues of research in the teacher expectation field from 1989 to 2018. Four analytical themes emerged from a narrative synthesis based on a systematic literature search: (1) influential factors on teacher expectations; (2) mediation mechanism of teacher expectations; (3) moderating factors of teacher expectation effects; (4) teacher expectation effects on student socio-psychological, behavioural, and achievement outcomes. On the whole, most studies confirmed earlier research findings regarding the 4 themes, although there were some studies that found results contradicting earlier work. In addition, new research topics and directions raised in the past 3 decades were identified in this review, especially regarding the mediation of teacher expectations and the socio-psychological and behavioural outcomes of the expectation effects. The review concludes with a set of recommendations for future research directions on teacher expectations.
... Therefore, it is important to understand how to increase teacher expectations of students at various levels. However, most prior research has focused on teacher expectations of a specific student (hereafter individual-level teacher expectations) (e.g., Brophy, 1985;Mistry et al., 2009;Muller, 1997;Muller, Katz, & Dance, 1999;Tyler & Boelter, 2008;Woolley et al., 2010). Less attention has been given to the expectations that teachers have for many students in their class or school (hereafter group-level teacher expectations), with a few exceptions (e.g., Brault, Janosz, & Archambault, 2014;Newmann, Rutter, & Smith, 1989;Park, Lee, & Cooc, 2019;Sebastian et al., 2016Sebastian et al., , 2017. ...
... Our study highlights the importance of principal support and PLC in raising group-level teacher expectations. Although we did not investigate the impact of group-level teacher expectations on students' learning outcomes, numerous studies have documented the positive effect of teacher expectations on student achievement (Mistry et al., 2009;Muller, 1997;Muller et al., 1999;Park et al., 2019;Rubie-Davies, 2010;Tyler & Boelter, 2008;Woolley et al., 2010). Therefore, one policy implication is that school reform initiatives or professional development focusing on either principal leadership or PLC or both can increase group-level teacher expectations. ...
Full-text available
Although much literature highlights the importance of teacher expectations for students’ academic success, a very small number of studies used large-scale data to examine school-level factors associated with group-level teacher expectations ‒ defined as expectations that teachers have for many students in their class or school, rather than for a specific student ‒ in the US context. Using contextual data provided by mathematics and science teachers participating in the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, the current study addressed this issue with paying attention to the roles of principal support and professional learning community in group-level teacher expectations. We found that both principal support and professional learning community were positively associated with group-level teacher expectations, even after controlling for other variables. We also found that much of the relationship between principal support and group-level teacher expectations was explained by professional learning community. Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.
... doesn't change, because I am comfortable with the way I study now." In Chandra Muller's [7] research, It may be a much more complex problem to raise the levels of mathematics achievement among low-performing students who are about to graduate from Senior High School. ...
... Moreover, according to the results of the moderator analysis, teachers' expectations have the highest effect size while parents' expectations have the smallest effect size. Similarly, there are studies (Muller 1998) in the literature supporting the argument that teachers' expectations are more influential on student achievement than other kinds of expectations. Ma (2001) has suggested, however, that parents' expectations about their children have a greater effect on students than the expectations of teachers or peers. ...
The effect of expectation on student achievement was examined in this meta-analysis study. A total of 1641 research studies were collected during the literature review, out of which 67 were included in the meta-analysis. The sixty seven research studies which included 126 correlation coefficients were compiled to obtain a sample size of 104,926 subjects. The results of the random effect model showed that expectation has a medium-level positive effect on student achievement . The moderators identified for the study were the type of publication , sample group (education level), school subject or assessment type, country (culture) , the year of the studies and the source of expectation, out of which publication type , country and source of expectation were found to be the moderator variables .
... In other words, inspiration refers to value and engagement, while ambition refers to future goals and expectancies. Aspirations guide students toward future academic opportunities and therefore influence what they choose to learn in school and whether they will graduate from high school (Muller, 1997;Walberg, 1989;Yeung & McInerney, 2005). They can also guide future career prospects. ...
Full-text available
Student goals and aspirations are an important determinant of success in secondary schools and promote access to post-secondary education. This paper reports on changes in student attitudes, goals, and aspirations that result from the implementation of a universal scholarship program. The Kalamazoo Promise is an innovative reform effort that provides full tuition to any state school for students that graduate from the school district. A federally-funded evaluation is examining the impacts of this program drawing from multiple data sources including student surveys and interviews with students and educators in the school district. Students and professionals in the district report that students’ aspirations have been affected and describe changes in educational ambitions and the intensity with which students pursue their identified objectives. Implications of findings are discussed, as well as the potential of the Kalamazoo Promise as a catalyst for systemic change in the district.
... Introduction some support for the claim that exit exams suppress graduation rates while increasing the number of students seeking a General Educational Development (GED) credential or diploma (Bishop, 2005;Dee & Jacob, 2006;Jacob, 2001;Papay, Murnane, & Willett, 2010;Reardon, 1996;Reardon, Atteberry, Arshan, & Kurlaender, 2009;Warren, Jenkins, & Kulick, 2006). Other studies (Catterall, 1987;Greene & Winters, 2004a;Griffin & Heidorn, 1996;Muller, 1998;Warren & Edwards, 2005;Warren & Jenkins, 2005) have found no relationship between exit exams and school completion. The most recent and definitive review of the literature to date (Holme, Richards, Jimerson, & Cohen, 2010) shows that easier exams do not affect school completion, while more difficult exams are associated with higher drop-out rates. ...
Full-text available
Using the nationally representative, cohort-based data of the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:02), this study employs multiple regression to examine the effects of exit exams on student achievement and school completion. This study finds that exit exams as a whole do not have substantial effects on student achievement in mathematics, twelfth grade GPA, or school completion. Standards-based exams are a positive predictor of dropping out of school but lose their predictive power once GED recipients are coded as completing school. Exit exams do not affect GED seeking and acquisition. When exit exams are disaggregated by type and students are sorted by ninth grade GPA quartiles, end-of-course exams have some negative effects on mathematics test score gains. Students in the bottom two quartiles see reduced test score gains of 28% and 29% of a grade level equivalency (GLE). These effects disappear when students in North Carolina are coded as taking a different type of exam. Standards-based exams had a small positive effect, about 37% of a GLE, on the top quartile of students. Overall, the findings showed no results for school completion and mixed results for test score gains. The article concludes that policymakers looking to boost high school achievement would be better served by working to boost student accomplishments before high school.
Full-text available
Introduction: We review the longitudinal evidence documenting that middle and high school students with school-focused possible future identities subsequently attain better school outcomes. Consistent results across operationalizations of possible identities and academic outcomes imply that results are robust. However, variability in study designs means that the existing literature cannot explain the process from possible identity to academic outcomes. We draw on identity-based motivation theory to address this gap. We predict that imagining a possible school-focused future drives school engagement to the extent that students repeatedly experience their school-focused future identities as apt (relevant) and actionable (linked to strategies they can use now). Methods: We operationalize aptness as having pairs of positive and negative school-focused possible identities (balance) and actionability as having a roadmap of concrete, linked strategies for school-focused possible selves (plausibility). We use machine learning to capture features of possible identities that predict academic outcomes and network analyses to examine these features (training sample USA 47% female, Mage = 14, N1 = 602, N2 = 540. Test sample USA 55% female, Mage = 13, N = 247). Results: We report regression analyses showing that balance, plausibility, and our machine algorithm predict better end-of-school-year grades (grade point average). We use network analysis to show that our machine algorithm is associated with structural features of possible identities and balance and plausibility scores. Conclusions: Our results support the inference that student academic outcomes are improved when students experience their school-focused possible identities as apt and actionable.
This article examines the tensions inherent in the relationship between Latino immigrant youth and their teachers at a desegregated urban middle school in Northern California, exploring these tensions from both the students’ and teachers’ perspectives. It is based upon data from a year-long ethnographic study of the school experiences of eight immigrant students from Central America and Mexico, all of whom had older siblings or close friends involved in neighborhood gangs. It also includes interviews with the students’ teachers regarding their perceptions of the students. Significantly, students named teachers’ discrimination against them as Latinos as the primary cause of their disengagement from school, refusing to invest in learning from these teachers. At the same time, these teachers felt they were trying their best to do a good job, responding to the school administration's mandate to invest in other students who were considered most likely to keep standardized test scores high. Thus this article explores how teachers’ attitudes and practices perceived by students as racist may be actually linked to structural conditions within the school, such as tracking and high teacher turnover, that preclude caring relationships with students.
This paper presents an agent-based model of the standard U.S. k-12th grade classroom using NetLogo. By creating an artificial society, we identify the casual implications of the same-race effect (a moderate sized academic boost to students whose teachers have the same race) on the national educational achievement trends. The model predicts sizeable achievement gaps at the national level, consistent in size with those documented by the US National Report Card (NAEP) stemming from moderate sized same race effects. In addition, matching effects are found to be a source of increased heterogeneity in academic performance for the minority group. These results hold for all teacher-student matching phenomena and have implications for educational policy at the aggregate level. Using artificial societies to disentangle the aggregate effects of hypothesized causes of the achievement gap is a promising strategy that merits further research.
The investigation reported here centers around a postulated reciprocal influence relationship between the educational ambitions of students and the expectations held by teachers for students. A causal model is developed to include this reciprocal influence relationship at three points in time, corresponding to years one, two, and four in high school. The model is quantified separately by sex with panel data on some 6,000 Canadian high-school students. The findings suggest that students socialize teachers in this respect to a far greater extent than teachers influence students. In fact, the overall influence of teachers' expectations in the development of students' educational ambitions appears minimal.
This prospective longitudinal study examined the developmental paths toward high school graduation or dropout for a cohort of 1,242 Black first graders from an urban community who were at a high risk for school dropout. Over half those with school records did not graduate. Dropouts were compared with graduates in their first-grade school performance, family background, family environment, and educational hopes and expectations. Both low grades and aggressive behavior in first grade led to later dropout for males. The impact of maternal education and poverty was through their interaction with individual characteristics. The links between early school performance and later high school graduation were not as strong for those from backgrounds of poverty as for those who were not poor. Having a mother with at least a high school education increased the likelihood that males who performed poorly in first grade or who had low educational expectations as adolescents would graduate. Being from a mother-father family was protective for the girls. Strict rules regarding school reported during adolescence helped the females compensate for early poor performance.
This study used data from High School and Beyond to explore lost talent among U.S. youths in the late high school and post-high school years and the extent to which it varies by gender, race, and class. Lost talent occurs when students who show signs of early talent (1) have educational expectations that fall short of their aspirations, (2) have reduced expectations over time, or (3) are not able to realize their earlier expectations. The study found that the loss of talent through mismatched aspirations and expectations and especially through reduced expectations was considerable: 16 percent of the youths had expectations that were lower than their aspirations, and 27 percent had reduced expectations in the period under question. Of the three characteristics, class had the largest and most consistent effect on lost talent; membership in a lower socioeconomic group sometimes doubled the risk of the loss of talent.
How do we decide what another person is "really like"? How do we influence the impressions others form of us, and how do their reactions affect us in turn? In "Interpersonal Perception" one of the world's leading social psychologists explores these and other intriguing questions about the nature of social interaction. Drawing on nearly 40 years of person perception research, much of it his own, Edward E. Jones provides a unified framework for understanding the thought processes underlying interpersonal relations and illuminates the complex interplay of motive, cognitive inference, and behavior in our encounters with others. Illustrated throughout with examples drawn from daily life and from psychological experiments, and spiced with personal reflections, the book provides a remarkable synthesis of work in the field. Personal, provocative, illuminating, "Interpersonal Perception" should be of great interest to students, professionals, and serious general readers alike. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)(cover)
National education standards are obviously a big step politically, but are they a big step educationally as well? Will schools really become better? Opinions among education's influentials are sharply divided. Empirical evidence is assembled to address the promise of standard setting for school improvement. From the evidence, it is predicted that standards will not lead to a standardization of practice, stifle creativity, or endanger minority students. The benefits from standard setting are less easily predicted; they depend heavily on the quality of implementation. It is probable that some teachers, some schools, and perhaps even some whole school districts would make substantial progress.
This article reports a study of minimum competency testing in American secondary schools. The analysis focuses on tests that students must pass before they receive the high school diploma. The effects of these tests on low-achieving high school students are explored. A particular concern is the possibility that test failure may reduce academic aspirations and thereby contribute to decisions to drop out of school. The study is based on a series of in-depth interviews with educators and school administrators in selected states, and on data collected face-to-face with more than 700 high school students. In one cluster of findings, the reports of test coordinators, school principals, and school counselors provide consistent echoes of a conventional wisdom that has enveloped high school exit exams: the belief that required competency tests are now so rudimentary that they cannot present much of a barrier to school completion. But at the same time, these educators report with uniform consistency that they do no...