High Expectations

I have high expectations for this column. Hopefully, you'll understand why once you're finished reading.

Lately, there has been increased attention — even numerous scientific studies — focused on the power of expectation. From scientists to coaches to teachers, the common finding is that expectation often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The reasoning is that when someone is led to expect a certain response, more often than not they get it. In effect, the power of expectation actually alters the outcome.

In the case of teacher expectations, for example, a recent Science Journal article describes a typical experiment where elementary-school teachers are told a particular group of students had done extremely well on tests that gauge intelligence. After a few months, these “exceptional” students posted significantly superior gains over other students.

In reality, not only were there no prior tests given to identify these “exceptional” students, but also children in this group actually consisted of a random mix from every ability level. It was the teachers' expectations that influenced results and affected how they treated their students.

Researchers say the results of this “expectation effect” vary, but always are statistically significant. For example, when teachers have high expectations, student performance can increase by as much as 30 percent.

If this is true, then why not put the power of expectation to work by applying it to other areas as well? Education management, construction, maintenance, security, business operations, fund raising — the list of where expectation can be applied to elicit a desired result can be endless. In effect, by believing in better performance, or better security, or better conditions, etc., we should get it.

I plan on putting the power of expectation to work, starting with this column, and carrying through the New Year. And I expect your 2004 will be prosperous, too.

P.S. Speaking of expectations, the Scorecard (right) lists some of the elementary- and secondary-school enrollment figures we can expect over the next decade.



Percentage increase in public elementary school enrollment (grades kindergarten to 8) projected through 2013.


Percentage increase in public high school enrollment (grades 9 to 12) projected through 2013.


Percentage increase in degree-granting higher-education institutions projected through 2013.


Percentage increase in elementary and secondary school enrollment projected through 2013 in the West. The South will increase 4 percent, the Midwest less than 1 percent; the Northeast will decrease 2 percent.


Percentage increase in public elementary and secondary school enrollment projected through 2013 in Alaska, the state expected to have the largest percentage increase over this time. California and Hawaii follow with 16 percent increases.


Percentage decrease in public elementary and secondary school enrollment projected through 2013 in West Virginia and Kentucky, the two states expected to have the largest percentage decrease over this time.

Source: NCES, “Projections of Education Statistics to 2013.”

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