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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  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.

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Acknowledgments

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

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Correspondence to Hyun Sik Kim.

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Kim, H.S. Foregone opportunities: unveiling teacher expectancy effects in kindergarten using counterfactual predictions. Soc Psychol Educ 18, 273–296 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-014-9284-4

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Keywords

  • Teacher expectancy effects
  • Cognitive skills
  • Summer months