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High expectations

This section draws together research, digital resources, and examples to support leaders and teachers as they consider the high expectations principle.

Resources and inspiration

Key resource

NZC Update 22 – The principle of high expectations
This Update supports schools to embed the high expectations curriculum principle. It explores the basis for teacher expectations, discusses the need for teachers to have high expectations for all students, and has a special feature on high expectations for gifted and talented students.

Research and readings


Raising achievement in secondary schools (June 2014)
This report documents the findings of ERO’s 2013 evaluation of how well 40 secondary schools analysed and responded to their NCEA data.

Principal sabbatical report: Engagment and academic success of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds (September 2014)
This report by Salvatore Gargiulo investigates programmes, strategies and outcomes in dealing with the specific needs of students from lower socio-economic families, with a focus on Maurewa High School. Accessed from Educational Leaders.

The New Zealand Curriculum principles: Foundations for curriculum decision-making (July 2012)
This is ERO’s second national evaluation report looking at the extent to which the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum are enacted in schools. The report describes how the high expectations principle is evident in schools.

Evaluation at a glance: Priority learners in New Zealand schools (August 2012)
This report is a synthesis of findings from a range of evaluations carried out over recent years by the Education Review Office (ERO). ERO has identified three key issues which evidence indicates are acting as impediments to New Zealand schools lifting their practice and raising the achievement levels of priority learners.

Improving education outcomes for pacific learners (May 2012)
This is ERO’s third national evaluation report focusing on how schools engage with Pacific learners and act to improve their achievement outcomes. The report is based on information gathered from 302 schools from a range of deciles, roll sizes, and locations across the country.

Directions for learning: The New Zealand Curriculum principles, and teaching as inquiry (May 2011)
This report describes how the high expectations principle is evident in schools. These descriptors can be used to help you reflect on your practice.

Promoting success for Māori students: Schools’ progress (June 2010)
This 2010 ERO report evaluates how schools have promoted success for Māori students. It identifies system-wide issues and recommended steps to be taken by schools and by the Ministry of Education to promote success for Māori in education.

Quality teaching for diverse students in schooling: Best evidence synthesis iteration (BES) (June 2003)
This report highlights the importance of having high expectations supported by quality teaching. Quality teaching is identified as a key influence on high quality outcomes for diverse students. 


Teacher expectation project
This article from Te Kuaka, a magazine published by Auckland University, explores the Teacher Expectation Project. The Teacher Expectation Project measures the effects of raised expectations on student academic and social outcomes.

Education Review offers more information about the Teacher Expectation Project. 

The more teachers expect, the bigger the gains
This article by Professor Rubie Davies highlights three things that teachers can do to create a high expectation classroom – use flexible forms of grouping instead of ability groups, foster a positive classroom climate, and set clear learning goals. 

Watch what's working: Carol Dweck talks growth mindset
This blog from Edutopia introduces the work of Carol Dweck, Stanford University's growth mindset guru and researcher.

How can teachers develop students' motivation and success?
In this article from Education World, Carol Dweck shares her thoughts about motivating students and offers ideas on how to build a growth mindset.

Educational Leaders sabbatical reports: Maree Flannery – growth mindsets
Teaching students about mindsets in a way that has a positive impact on them and the culture of the school.

The pygmalion effect: Communicating high expectations
In this blog, Ben Solomon discusses the Pygmalion Effect – where positive expectations influence student performance positively, and negative expectations influence performance negatively. Ben offers practical ideas for teachers on how to communicate high expectations to all students.

High expectations for all learners

Success for boys
This site looks at teaching-learning relationships with boys in classrooms, create supportive learning environments for boys, and access approaches and tools to address the diverse learning needs of boys so they achieve to their full potential.

Assessment in the classroom
This section of Assessment Online explores assessment for learning practices. At the heart of assessment for learning is the concept that students who truly understand and are involved in their learning will seek and attain accelerated rates of achievement.

Inclusive Education – Guides for schools
This site provides New Zealand educators with practical strategies, suggestions, and resources to support learners with diverse needs. High expectations are encouraged for all students with examples of successful approaches.

Gifted and talented online
This website supports schools, teachers, students, and parents in assisting gifted and talented students to reach their full potential academically, emotionally, and socially.

Multiple intelligences inspired education

Multiple intelligences and assessment
Branton Shearer talks about the importance of focusing on students' strengths to maximise achievement. He emphasises the need to teach strategies and provide tools to support success. Rather than saying, "Do better!" You have to say, "Here's something that you can do."

Through different eyes: Assessment for learners with special education needs
The New Zealand Curriculum provides students, parents, whānau and teachers with a clear framework for assessment and monitoring students’ progress. This project demonstrates a practical way to set goals and expectations for all the learners at your school.

Rangiātea: Case studies and exemplars
These case studies and exemplars examine five secondary schools, each of which is on a journey towards realising Māori potential. Strategies and key factors are shared.

Ka Hikitia – Accelerating success 2013–2017 
This updated Māori education strategy sets the direction for improving how the education system performs for Māori students. Ka Hikitia calls for everyone involved in education to share high expectations for Māori students to achieve.

A closer look at Ka Hikitia – Accelerating success 2013-2017 (Part two)
This blog post explores the Māori potential approach, a guiding principle of Ka Hikitia. It provides questions for leaders and kaiako to consider, includes inspirational school stories, and offers links to resources that promote high expectations and strong educational pathways for Māori students.

Pasifika education plan 2013–2017
Promotes high expectations for all Pasifika students. PEP is aimed at raising Pasifika learners’ participation, engagement, and achievement from early learning through to tertiary education.


This post from Marginal Learning Gains explores how teachers and students can build expectant mindsets and learn within an aspirational classroom culture.

Every kid needs a champion
In this TED talk, Rita Pierson makes a rousing call to educators to believe in their students, focus on lifting achievement, and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

The power of believing that you can improve
Carol Dweck researches “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and to solve problems. In this TED talk, she describes two ways to think about a problem that’s slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet?

Brown brother: Joshua Iosefo at TEDxEQChCh
In this TED talk, Joshua Iosefo talks about his experiences growing up as a "brown brother" in South Auckland. Speaking from one brown brother to another, he challenges his listeners to see beyond racial stereotypes, to break down barriers, and strive for excellence. 

The average child by Mike Buscemi
This poem, which was first presented at the 1979 National PTA Convention in the US, offers the perspective of an average student "who spends his life unnoticed in an average kind of hell." The poem has inspired educators across the world to communicate high expectations to all learners.  

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” 

Albert Einstein

Published on: 27 Mar 2012