Raising expectations in the classroom could be the key to raising the academic performance of at-risk students, a U.S. Department of Education study finds.
Researchers at Duke University studied 10,000 elementary students in North Carolina from 2004 to 2009. Half of their teachers received training in gifted instructional strategies that treat students as young scholars, while the control group teachers received no such training. Within three years, about 15 to 20 percent of students taught with the techniques usually reserved for gifted classrooms were identified as intellectually gifted by their districts, compared to only 10 percent of similar students in the control group.
Dr. Roni Ellington, a professor from Morgan State University who was not associated with the study, saw the difference in the education she received when she went from the second to lowest section of her 7th grade class to a program for the intellectually gifted in middle school.
“My teacher said to me, ‘Ellington, you’re a genius,'”she said during a 2013 TEDxBaltimore talk. “Now, I don’t know if I really was a genius, but something about what she said and something about what I had access to [in the gifted program] changed the game for me.”
She went on to become a high school valedictorian and eventually receive a doctoral degree in mathematics education. She now studies the factors that impact marginalized students to persist and succeed in STEM careers. She identified four factors as key to students engaging in STEM, including student identity and agency; innovative school-based practices; teacher professional development and empowerment; and utilizing community capital. Student identity and agency specifically addresses how students view themselves and their abilities to succeed in a STEM career.
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