Expectations and Experiences
A study of 1100 students from selective high schools was conducted to explore students’ expectations (prior to starting at the school) and, later, to measure the extent to which these expectations had been met (Adams, 1992). Students’ expected that in the selective schools:
- the work would be set at a more advanced level
- the work would be more challenging
- they would be able to keep up with that accelerated level of work
- they would make lots of new friends
The study found that for a significant majority of the students who participated in the study, their expectations at the selective high schools were fulfilled or exceeded.
Miraca Gross, in an article titled “To Group or Not to Group: Is THAT the Question?” outlined some of the advantages for students who attend selective high schools. High ability students learn quickly and need fewer repetitions of coursework. The level and pace of work in selective high schools can be matched much more closely to the students’ ability and academic needs.
Students at selective high schools enjoyed a significant amount of academic and social support from other students. They valued the opportunity to be with students who shared similar abilities and interests, including the enjoyment of challenge and a love of learning. Some students had experienced social isolation in previous settings and rejoiced in a selective school climate where they did not feel different.
Gross found that students in selective high schools were much less likely to underachieve in order to gain peer acceptance, noting that “they feel much less pressure to moderate their vocabularies, conceal interests that their classmates would not understand, and make deliberate errors in school work, than they were in previous years.” Students have described similar experiences and indicated it is a relief not having to ‘dumb down’ language. Students are excited when other students understand their jokes.
Students in selective high schools found they developed more friendships and closer relationships than experienced previously. Gross noted students developed more positive perceptions of their own social acceptability as a result. Students have mentioned that they have made real friends for the first time; that these were friends who accepted them for who they really are, not for who they have previously pretended to be.
Student experiences support the findings of these studies; however it can depend upon an individual’s expectations and experiences. At the midpoint of the academic year, it may be time for students and parents to reflect upon whether initial expectations about coming to the Academy have been met through recent experiences.
© Michele Juratowitch