The standards movement is grounded in the idea that children benefit from clear and high expectations. But this research suggests that, even when students are exposed to the same content and given the same assignments, the expectations we have for study work may be very, very different. So how can we ensure we hold the bar equally high for all students? Yes, we need to adopt and implement rigorous standards and/or curricula. But, what if teachers are systematically adjusting their feedback to praise children of color for meeting a lower bar?

We actually are all too familiar with how this plays out in the real world, and these findings would be unsurprising to the many minority students who graduated from high school at the top of their class, but who’ve had culture shock when they matriculated to elite colleges and universities. One such student, Darryl Robinson, recently penned a piece for the Washington Post detailing how far behind he was when he started at Georgetown… Interestingly, it wasn’t until Robinson pushed his way into Advanced Placement courses that he felt like he was being really pushed. “Suddenly,” Robinson explained, “I was expected to think about concepts, such as public policy’s cause and effect, and apply these ideas to real-life situations.”

But, what was the difference? Robinson was seen as an exceptional student. He clearly had the aptitude and the drive necessary to achieve at high levels. So why did it take until late high school to ask of Robinson what teachers had no doubt been asking of his white, middle class and affluent peers for years?

There are no doubt multiple explanations, but it’s hard for me to ignore that, in AP classes, there are not only rigorous standards and quality curricular materials, but there are also assessments to which all students will be held, regardless of their background, prior knowledge, or experience. And these assessments set a clear bar for where all students should be. Such clarity makes it more difficult to allow personal biases—whether deliberate or subconscious—to subtly lower standards for students from whom you don’t expect quite as much.

It’s become popular in many education circles to decry “teaching to the test,” but this latest research provides one more reason why these independent checks on what students have actually learned are a critical element of an effort to close America’s achievement gap.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Kathleen Porter Magee, explaining how testing, along with strong, college-preparatory curricula and underlying standards, helps set high expectations for all children and ensures they get the challenge they need for success.

In order to have high expectations of students, educators must first have high expectations for themselves

The organization Success for Black Boys, pointing out that teachers and school leaders must become accountable for success and failure (and subject each other to scrutiny)  in order to help all children succeed.

Yes, folks…our children are in fact those “Come in Behind-Stay Behind” children. Yours, mine, our neighbors’, our friends’, our church members’…they are our kids. Who knows, maybe now, we, communities and concerned citizens, will rally together and do something to prevent this from happening since it’s so close to home?  We certainly fail miserably at doing even the most basic things when it comes to empowering the poor (insert more sighs please). What pains me most about children not having the necessary skills to emerge as readers by kindergarten is how easy and accessible these skills are.  Parents and caregivers need a little guidance, that’s all.  More knowledge, less products, a few songs, poems, and key guiding principles are needed.  The children do the rest.  They are built for it.

This is much of what I do.  I build parental skills so that parents know how to build their children’s skill, in a timely manner, before school.  Low income…middle income…parents and children are the same and we need to get to them with the same intensity and urgency. With patience, love, and a lot of singing, clapping, and exposure to print children can have the skills they need to develop an interest in reading and the confidence needed to get there.. the idea that they can’t build skills one-on-one at home, with a loving caregiver or parent, is just plain…silly for a lack of a better, but less appropriate word.

Parent Power activist Nikolai Pizzaro, on how families, with just some tools, can help their kids succeed in school and in life. Dropout Nation offers families advice through its continuing series, the Five Questions all families should ask. You can listen to the first, second, and third podcasts here or at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page.