“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.