Potential. It's a buzzword in education. Students have potential, we just need to find great teachers to inspire them! These are the potential leaders of our country! He has so much potential, if he'd just apply himself!
Despite the potential you may see in students, you still have to keep your expectations standard for all of your students. One way that schools help make up for this is to have different track levels. In my district for English, students have the possibility to enter a program called Ramp-Up for struggling readers, Comprehensive for students at the "normal" level, and then Honors or AP classes for more advanced students. By allowing students to enter these different tracks, teachers can be fair when assigning grades based on performance.
The problem is that Comprehensive can be anyone from just above Ramp-Up level to just below the advanced level, which is a huge range. So how do teachers keep their expectations in check without damaging student confidence? It's a difficult road to walk.
One of the things that I make clear to all of my students is that I don't expect more or less from any student. Instead, I expect different things from different students. Even if some students have a lower IQ, they are still expected to learn the same skills as every other student. Maybe expecting them to write a several page essay analyzing a book won't work. However, they might do better by creating a PowerPoint side show, a board game based on their book or a diary for their main character. The trick with any assessment is to be flexible based on the students' needs.
Potential isn't the only thing governing who does what type of assessment. Students have different learning styles, different advantages and different skills that help mold what kind of student they are. Potential does play a role in what I expect from my students, but I would never pass a child through that did not display the same skills as their peers. The trick is to look for the potential that they may be hiding and play to their strengths. Sometimes this means getting creative. If it helps a kid learn and feel good about themselves, I'm willing to put in the effort.
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