The title for this post came from a quote I heard in a professional development workshop a few years ago in regard to raising the achievement expectations for all students, especially students with special needs or learning challenges.  The basic premise of the presentation was that artificial ceilings should not be accepted for specific students depending on their perceived “learning potential”.  Talk about a major paradigm shift!  To say the presentation made a lasting impact on me personally and professionally would be an understatement.  The following were some of the implications I gleaned from the presentation that day:

1 – Encourage your high-performing students to perform even higher!   Challenge them to go above and beyond the grade-level expectations and benchmarks.

2 – Do not presume that students with disabilities cannot perform as well as their non-disabled peers. As a school psychologist, I have seen students with disabilities surpass many peers and grade-level expectations with the appropriate interventions.

3 – Rely on data to drive instruction and intervention.  Hunches and “gut-feelings” can often lead to stereotypes and artificial ceilings.

4 – Everyone enjoys to be challenged! We are intrinsically motivated by meeting new and challenging goals.

5 – As we set the bar higher for our students, we also set the bar higher for ourselves as educators.

We know that merely raising the expectations isn’t enough to raise student performance; rather it takes a strong community of support from fellow educators along with progress monitoring and intervention tools to meet the specific needs of each student.  All of this underscores the importance of Professional Learning Communities, research-based interventions (academic and behavioral) within each tier of provision, and reliable and valid Curriculum-Based Assessments to frequently measure progress.

Raising the bar shouldn’t mean raising the time and energy requirements of educators if the appropriate tools and resources are being used efficiently.

We’re ready to set the bar high.  How about you?

~Jason Cochran

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