Posted by: Rachel Baker | April 13, 2015

Can positive expectations bolster education?

Working in education can be like navigating a land mine-littered field. Everyone has their own opinions and own beliefs about what the education system should and should not involve. Countless studies have focused on students and education. Some recent studies include a British study comparing expectations placed on students and their achievement outcomes (, the role parental expectations play in early childhood development (, negative racial discriminatory experiences in schools and their impact on students’ view of themselves (, and student empowerment outcomes (

In an effort to extend on this research, I want to examine how actively communicating positivity to students can bolster student achievement. The idea of creating community around student achievement – and a shared goal of helping students reach their goals through education – first came to me last year when I began a new job with the focus of doing exactly that. Through various outlets, including social media and traditional news media, I have been working to highlight the dreams of students. So, for this study, I am interested in examining the following research question: When communities positively communicate about students, what is the affect on student achievement rates?

This photo, featuring a student from Portland Public Schools, is an example of how Oregon students have great ambitions for the future. A video of this same student was also released by “The Promise of Oregon” campaign, which aims to highlight Oregon’s K-12 and community college students in a positive manner.

Currently, Oregon ranks close to last out of all the states for its high school graduation rates (

Yet, Gallop indicates that approximately 94% of Americans view K-12 education as extremely or very important.

So, what is the disconnect? Perhaps it has to do with the value placed on education in indirect ways. What would happen to graduation rates if community members proactively and vocally supported education and students’ ambitions?

This study is important for a couple different reasons.

First, it would be interesting to see if community support for students and pro-education communication does indeed have a positive impact on their ability to graduate, achieve success and value education.

Additionally, I think that a possible practical implication from this study would be that education is not just the job of teachers or parents, but it is the job of the community to come around and support our future generations by showing that education is valuable. When positive expectations for students are emphasized, then that is what students will strive to achieve.

(This is post 2, based on Exercise 11.2 of the book Qualitative Research Methods: Collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact by Sarah Tracy.)

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