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Reaching Higher

Reaching Higher

The Power of Expectations in Schooling

Rhona S. Weinstein

ISBN 9780674016194

Publication date: 09/15/2004

“She has a funny way of looking at you,” a fourth-grader told Rhona Weinstein about his teacher. “She gets that look and says ‘I am very disappointed in you.’ I hate it when she does that. It makes me feel like I’m stupid. Just crazy, stupid, dumb.” Even young children know what adults think of them. All too often, they live down to expectations, as well as up to them. This book is about the context in which expectations play themselves out.

Drawing upon a generation of research on self-fulfilling prophecies in education, including the author’s own extensive fieldwork in schools, Reaching Higher argues that our expectations of children are often too low. With compelling case studies, Weinstein shows that children typed early as “not very smart” can go on to accomplish far more than is expected of them by an educational system with too narrow a definition of ability and the way abilities should be nurtured. Weinstein faults the system, pointing out that teachers themselves are harnessed by policies that do not enable them to reach higher for all children.

Her analysis takes us beyond current reforms that focus on accountability for test results. With rich descriptions of effective classrooms and schools, Weinstein makes a case for a changed system that will make the most of every child and enable students and teachers to engage more meaningfully in learning.


  • This book could not be more timely. The inadequacies of our schools have become a source of national concern as never before. At the core are two questions: What should we expect of students? And why do schools so clearly fail to help students meet those expectations? Rhona Weinstein has taken the study of self-fulfilling prophecies far beyond the earlier focus on how individuals think and interact, to show how self-fulfilling prophecies suffuse the culture of all educational institutions -- and how fateful they can be for society as a whole. Reading this book should make us all reexamine how we look at what goes on in schools. If only I had it when I took my first job as a psychologist over half a century ago!

    —Seymour B. Sarason, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Yale University


  • Rhona S. Weinstein is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Book Details

  • 366 pages
  • 0-15/16 x 5-3/4 x 8-7/8 inches
  • Harvard University Press