If you want to change student performance, change teacher expectations.
This isn't news to a teacher. As a former psychology teacher I am more than familiar with Rosenthal's 1964 study in which he told teachers that some of their students were very bright. The catch was that the kids were randomly selected. The results were that kids identified as bright improved their I.Q. scores more than their unselected peers. This was incredible work, now routinely called the Pygmalion Effect.
A recent story at NPR and a blog post and from Mind/Shift at KQED looks at how a newer study by Robert Pianta took Rosenthal's work to the next level. The study examines what can be done to get teachers to expect more from kids. Two plans were attempted, talking and doing. Some teachers were taught to mentally have higher expectations through discussion. Others were taught behaviors that indicated that they had higher expectations, regardless of their thoughts.
The outcome, unsurprisingly, was that behaviors worked better. Teachers that acted like they had high expectations got better results. Doing trumps saying.
So the real question is, what are the behaviors that teachers can DO to show kids they have high expectations? What do you think?