Teachers and Principals Differ on Opinions about Student Achievement

According to a study recently released and discussed in the current issue of Education Week, teachers have quite different perspectives about their students compared with school administrators. The study of 4,700 teachers and 267 principals and assistant principals in 12 school districts was conducted by the Council of Urban Boards of Education.

The most interesting finding of the study was that teachers are less likely than administrators to say their students can excel academically. Nearly all the administrators agreed that “students at this school are capable of high achievement on standardized exams,” but only three-quarters of the teachers agreed. Far more teachers than administrators said that students were not motivated to learn.

Eighty-five percent of administrators agreed with the statement that most students at their schools would be successful at community college or a university whereas only 58 percent of teachers agreed. Those differences surprised Brian K. Perkins, the principal researcher on the study and the chairman of the council’s steering committee.

“This wasn’t anticipated, but it is certainly real,” he said. “Now the question is, what do teachers know to give them a perspective administrators don’t have, and how can that be shared?”

Antonia Cortese, the executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, one of several education groups that collaborated on the study, said teachers’ feedback on students was less rosy than administrators’ because of their daily classroom experience.

“It’s not a question of expectations,” she said. “It’s a question of the reality of the way things are. Teachers have a realistic picture of what it would take to get [students] over the hurdles.”

Unfortunately, administrators and most politicians tend to suffer from the Lake Wobegon Effect where all the children are above average and all it takes for high achievement are high expectations.


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