High Expectations? Whose? Yours?

Posted on January 1, 2014


I was having a debate over the weekend with some friends about the idea of having high expectations for students.

It’s an idea I’ve come across frequently in education. In fact it’s the first “pillar” of KIPP’s Five Pillars:


KIPP schools have clearly defined and measurable high expectations for academic achievement and conduct that make no excuses based on the students’ backgrounds. Students, parents, teachers, and staff create and reinforce a culture of achievement and support through a range of formal and informal rewards and consequences for academic performance and behavior.

But whose expectations are we talking about? Where did these expectations come from?

Can you imagine if someone walked up to you tomorrow and told you that your weren’t meeting their expectations with regard to your life? Frankly I think you’d be so confused by the audacity of the person that you wouldn’t know what to say. What gives you the right to set any expectations for my life?

There’s a big difference between supporting someone as they strive to achieve their own goals and meet their own expectations and setting their expectations for them.

I realize it’s not as black and white as this in most schools, but I still find it hard to believe that we as adults have come to feel so comfortable imposing our expectations on the lives of the young people around us when we would be so offended if someone (even someone much older than us) ever felt that they had any authority to set expectations about our life.