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Teacher Expectations, Ethnicity and the Achievement Gap

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The aim of this mixed methods study was to explore the relationship between teacher expectations and student ethnicity. Factors that contributed to the achievement gap were also investigated. The study involved 15 mathematics teachers and 361 students from five urban secondary schools in Auckland. Fifteen teachers completed questionnaires and 10 teachers also participated in semi-structured interviews. Findings revealed that teachers’ expectations differed depending on the ethnicity of the student, even when controlling for achievement. Expectations were highest for Asian and Pākehā students, and lowest for Pasifika and Māori. Interviews with teachers confirmed lower expectations for Māori. Eight out of 10 teachers interviewed believed there were deficits in Māori and Pasifika students’ home backgrounds and that they lacked goals, motivation and aspirations. When asked about the achievement gap, all 10 teachers again referred to perceived deficits in Māori and Pasifika home backgrounds, and students’ attitudes as contributing factors.

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Correspondence to Hana Turner.

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Turner, H., Rubie-Davies, C.M. & Webber, M. Teacher Expectations, Ethnicity and the Achievement Gap. NZ J Educ Stud 50, 55–69 (2015).

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