Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Foregone opportunities: unveiling teacher expectancy effects in kindergarten using counterfactual predictions


Drawing on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class 1998–1999 of the United States, this article evaluates teacher expectancy effects on achievement growth in kindergarten. We attempt to disentangle teacher expectancy effects from omitted variable bias or predictive validity by exploiting counterfactual predictions in the summer months. If the estimates of academic achievement during the academic session (fall and spring) are corrupted by omitted variable bias or predictive validity, similar estimates predicting achievement growth during the summer break should be positive precisely because the interactions between teachers and students are absent but omitted variables still work during the summer months. The results for math test scores as well as reading test scores support the existence of remarkable teacher expectancy effects during the academic session, which do not appear to be contaminated by unobserved confounding variables or predictive validity.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    There is also a concern about accuracy. Accuracy is related to whether a teacher accurately evaluates a student’s current achievement, while predictive validity is associated with whether a teacher accurately predicts a student’s future achievement. Because more recent analyses tend to use directly assessed test scores, accuracy no longer seems problematic.

  2. 2.

    Because the sample consists of kindergartners, referencing past records seems less persuasive.

  3. 3.

    Although we portray teacher perceptions quite neutrally by emphasizing uncertainty, this does not necessarily preclude the possibility that prior perceptions override or disturb the formation of accurate perceptions of actual achievement, as is widely accepted through the concepts of representativeness in the heuristics and bias program (Tversky and Kahneman 1974) and stereotypes in social psychology (Fiske and Taylor 1991).

  4. 4.

    It seems somewhat misleading to assume that teacher expectations always dominate teacher-student interactions because interactions cannot be a one-way path no matter how young kindergartners may be (Babad 1990; Kenny 1994). Therefore, it would be helpful to more thoroughly investigate how students perceive and react to differential treatment on the part of their teachers (Madon et al. 1997). However we do not pursue this line of research in the current study partly because of lack of measurement items.


  1. Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Thompson, M. S. (1987). School performance, status relations, and the structure of sentiment: Bringing the teacher back in. American Sociological Review, 52, 665–682.

  2. Alison, P. D. (1990). Change scores as dependent variables in regression analysis. Sociological Methodology, 20, 93–114.

  3. Babad, E. (1990). Measuring and changing teachers’ differential behavior as perceived by students and teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 683–90.

  4. Baron, R. M., Tom, D. Y. H., & Cooper, H. M. (1985). Social class, race and teacher expectations. In J. B. Dusek (Ed.), Teacher expectancies (pp. 251–270). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

  5. Barr, R., & Dreeben, R. (1983). How schools work. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

  6. Bodovski, K., & Farkas, G. (2008). Concerted cultivation and unequal achievement in elementary school. Social Science Research, 37, 903–919.

  7. Bring, J. (1994). How to standardize regression coefficients. American Statistician, 48, 209–213.

  8. Brophy, J. E., & Good, T. L. (1970). Teachers’ communication of differential expectations for children’s classroom performance: Some behavioral data. Journal of Educational Psychology, 61, 365–374.

  9. Claessens, A., Duncan, G., & Engel, M. (2009). Kindergarten skills and fifth-grade achievement: Evidence from the ECLS-K. Economics of Education Review, 28, 415–427.

  10. Coleman, J. S., Campbell, E. Q., Hobson, C. J., McPartland, J., Mood, A. M., Weinfeld, F. D., et al. (1966). Equality of educational opportunity. Washington, DC: US Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

  11. Cooper, H. M. (1985). Models of teacher expectation communication. In J. B. Dusek (Ed.), Teacher expectancies (pp. 135–158). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

  12. Cooper, H., Findley, M., & Good, T. (1982). Relations between student achievement and various indexes of teacher expectations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 577–579.

  13. Dusek, J. B., & Joseph, G. (1985). The bases of teacher expectancies. In J. B. Dusek (Ed.), Teacher expectancies (pp. 229–250). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

  14. Downey, D. B., von Hippel, P. T., & Broh, B. A. (2004). Are schools the great equalizer? Cognitive inequality during the summer months and the school year. American Sociological Review, 69, 613–635.

  15. Ferguson, R. F. (2003). Teachers’ perceptions and expectations and the Black-White test score gap. Urban Education, 38, 460–507.

  16. Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (1991). Social cognition (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Inc.

  17. Friedrich, R. J. (1982). In defense of multiplicative terms in multiple regression equations. American Journal of Political Science, 26, 797–833.

  18. Gamoran, A. (2001). American schooling and educational inequality: A forecast for the 21st century. Sociology of Education, 74, 135–153.

  19. Good, T. L., & Brophy, J. E. (1990). Educational psychology: A realistic approach (4th ed.). New York: Longman.

  20. Hardre, P. L., Davis, K. A., & Sullivan, D. W. (2008). Measuring teacher perceptions of the “how” and “why” of student motivation. Educational Research and Evaluation, 14, 155–179.

  21. Harris, M. J., & Rosenthal, R. (1985). Mediation of interpersonal expectancy effects: 31 meta-analyses. Psychological Bulletin, 97, 363–386.

  22. Hinnant, J. B., O’Brien, M., & Ghazarian, S. R. (2009). The longitudinal relations of teacher expectations to achievement in the early school years. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 662–670.

  23. Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., & Sandler, H. M. (1997). Why do parents become involved in their children’s education? Review of Educational Research, 67, 3–42.

  24. Jussim, L. (1989). Teacher expectations: Self-fulfilling prophecies, perceptual biases, and accuracy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 469–480.

  25. Jussim, L., & Harber, K. D. (2005). Teacher expectations and self-fulfilling prophecies: Knowns and unknowns, resolved and unresolved controversies. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 9, 135–155.

  26. Kenny, D. A. (1994). Interpersonal perception: A social relations analysis. New York: Guilford Press.

  27. Kuklinski, M. R., & Weinstein, R. S. (2001). Classroom and developmental differences in a path model of teacher expectancy effects. Child Development, 72, 1554–1578.

  28. Madon, S., Jussim, L., & Eccles, J. (1997). In search of the powerful self-fulfilling prophecy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 791–809.

  29. McKown, C., & Weinstein, R. S. (2002). Modeling the role of child ethnicity and gender in children’s differential response to teacher expectations. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32, 159–184.

  30. Merton, R. K. (1948). The self-fulfilling prophecy. Antioch Review, 8, 193–210.

  31. Mitman, A. L., & Snow, R. E. (1985). Logical and methodological problems in teacher expectancy research. In J. B. Dusek (Ed.), Teacher expectancies (pp. 93–131). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

  32. Morgan, S. L. (2001). Counterfactuals, causal effect heterogeneity, and the catholic school effect on learning. Sociology of Education, 74, 341–374.

  33. National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). Digest of education statistics table 42. Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by race/ethnicity and state: Fall 1986 and fall 1999. Accessed February 6, 2014.

  34. National Center for Education Statistics. (2001). User’s manual for the ECLS-K base year public-use data files and electronic codebook. NCES 2001–029 (Revised).

  35. Raudenbush, S. W. (1984). Magnitude of teacher expectancy effects on pupil IQ as a function of the credibility of expectancy induction: A synthesis of findings from 18 experiments. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 85–97.

  36. Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

  37. Ready, D. D., & Wright, D. L. (2011). Accuracy and inaccuracy in teachers’ perceptions of young children’s cognitive abilities: The role of child background and classroom context. American Educational Research Journal, 48, 335–360.

  38. Rosenbaum, P. R. (2002). Observational studies (2nd ed.). New York: Springer.

  39. Rosenthal, R., & Rubin, D. B. (1978). Interpersonal expectancy effects: The first 345 studies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1, 377–386.

  40. Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom: Teacher expectation and pupil’s intellectual development. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

  41. Seaver, W. B. (1973). Effects of naturally induced teacher expectancies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 28, 333–342.

  42. Smith, M. L. (1980). Teacher expectations. Evaluation in Education, 4, 53–56.

  43. Snow, R. E. (1995). Pygmalion and intelligence? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4, 169–171.

  44. Suarez-Orozco, C., Suarez-Orozco, M. M., & Todorova, I. (2008). Learning in a new land: Immigrant students in American society. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

  45. Tourangeau, K., Nord, C., Lê, T., Pollack, J. M., & Atkins-Burnett, S. (2006). Early childhood longitudinal study, kindergarten class of 1998–99 (ECLS-K), combined user’s manual for the ECLS-K fifth-grade data files and electronic codebooks (NCES 2006-032). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

  46. Tourangeau, K., Nord, C., Lê, T., Sorongon, A. G., Najarian, M., & Hausken, E. G. (2009). Early childhood longitudinal study, kindergarten class of 1998–99 (ECLS-K), combined user’s manual for the ECLS-K eighth-grade and K-8 full sample data files and electronic codebooks (NCES 2000-004). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

  47. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124–1131.

  48. West, C. K., & Anderson, T. H. (1976). The question of preponderant causation in teacher expectancy research. Review of Educational Research, 46, 613–630.

  49. Wooldridge, J. M. (2002). Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Download references


This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2011-330-B00111).

Author information

Correspondence to Hyun Sik Kim.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kim, H.S. Foregone opportunities: unveiling teacher expectancy effects in kindergarten using counterfactual predictions. Soc Psychol Educ 18, 273–296 (2015).

Download citation


  • Teacher expectancy effects
  • Cognitive skills
  • Summer months