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Volume 13, Number 1
January/February 1997

Developing a Culture of High Expectations for Teaching and Learning

Schools must be redefined as places where all students, not just a lucky few, are expected to succeed


Detracking clearly requires new curriculum, instruction, and extra support for students and teachers. However, successful adoption of innovations in these areas depends a great deal on developing a "culture of detracking" in each school that influences educator's beliefs about students' intelligence and capacity to learn.

Tracking and sorting practices rest on the old belief that "some kids have it and some don't." Schools that are detracking, on the other hand, act out of a different system of beliefs, based on the assumption that all students can "become smarter" and that schools are responsible for providing them with the opportunity to do so. Drawing on new understandings about cognitive development and new assumptions about the multiple dimensions of intelligence, as described by cognitive psychologists such as Daniel Keating and Howard Gardner, schools that are detracking work to ensure that all students have equal access to all the resources the school has to offer, including library and computer resources, field trips, and co-curricular activities. These resources are not treated as "rewards" for the "best" students, but as learning opportunities that all students need and deserve.

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