Teacher hope: defying the odds of poverty in public schools
Poverty is a significant factor of student learning and one of the many challenges that public schools face today. In the age of accountability in public schools, the effects of poverty are evident, but schools exist that are defying the odds of poverty and achieving academic success. This study explores two dimensions: the relationship between teacher's hope levels and academic achievement, as well as the characteristics of high hope teachers and HPHP schools. Using C.R. Snyder's (1995) Hope Theory and Wilson & Peterson's (2006) Conceptual Benchmarks for Learning and Teaching, the characteristic profile of a high hope teacher's beliefs and instructional practices is described. Defining hope as the perceived capacity to produce clear goals, along with the routes to reach these goals (pathways thinking) and the motivation to use those routes (agency thinking), the author identified five key elements of high hopes instruction: 1) the shared belief that all students can learn at a high level, 2) the critical function that student goal-setting and shared responsibility plays in developing students' ownership of the learning process, 3) the significance that conversation, discussion, joint work, problem-solving and debate play in critical thinking and learning due to students' varied interpretations of information and ideas, 4) the importance of expanding students' "pathways" to learning by teacher responsiveness and adaptability, and 5) the value of increasing students' agency through motivation, interaction, and praise. This study also examines the characteristics and school-wide efforts of high performing, high poverty (HPHP) schools as related to Alabama's Torchbearer School Program, as well as the HPHP Readiness Model (Mass Insight, 2007). HPHP schools have unique characteristics that enable them to overcome the effects of poverty on student learning. By identifying the characteristics of high hopes teachers, as well as HPHP schools, valuable implications for all schools exist to learn beliefs, instructional practices, and school-wide efforts to diminish the effect of poverty.