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Unfulfilled Expectations examines the home and family characteristics, school teaching practices, and family–school relationships that affect the literacy development of low-income children. Eschewing comparisons across social class, the authors focus exclusively on an ethnically diverse group of low-income children in grades 2, 4, and 6, the 32 subjects of an intensive two-year study and a follow-up study five years later.
Catherine Snow and her colleagues pinpoint the diverse home factors that can explain differential achievement by youngsters from the same socioeconomic background. These include the family’s own uses of literacy, their attitudes toward and communication with the schools, their social networks, their rules and schedules, and their susceptibility to economic and psychological stress. This book also examines influences on literacy progress within the classroom, including the nature of the curriculum, the teachers’ instructional emphases, the availability of varied literacy materials, and the teachers’ expectations for children’s achievement.
Unfulfilled Expectations challenges assumptions about low-income families’ commitment to and interest in their children’s schooling. The authors’ original two-year study generated a relatively optimistic picture of the children and their progress in elementary school. The findings of their follow-up study are more disturbing; it documents declining achievement and lowered expectations for the children as they continue through secondary school. This book offers valuable recommendations for parents, teachers, and administrators to ensure that low-income children fulfill their early promise.