[Excerpt] Educational reformers and most of the American public believe that most teachers ask too little of their pupils. These low expectations, they believe, result in watered down curricula and a tolerance of mediocre teaching and inappropriate student behavior. The result is that the prophecy of low achievement becomes self-fulfilling.
Although research has shown that learning gains are substantially larger when students take more demanding courses2, only a minority of students enroll in these courses. There are several reasons for this. Guidance counselors in many schools allow only a select few into the most challenging courses. While most schools give students and parents the authority to overturn counselor recommendations, many families are unaware they have that power or are intimidated by the counselor’s prediction of failure in the tougher class. As one student put it: “African-American parents, they settle for less, not knowing they can get more for their students.”