Student Success Depends on Hope

The 2011 Student Gallup Poll revealed a shocking reality about American kids. Only 54% of students have hope that their future will be better than the present.

The poll surveyed approximately 1 million children from grades 5 through 12 from 2009 to 2011. The poll defines student “hope” as the belief that “the future will be better than the present, and that they have the power to make it so.”

According to Gallup, hope is a better predictor of student success in college than a high school GPA or even ACT and SAT scores.

Yesterday’s Education Week article takes a closer look at Gallup’s measurement of student hope and engagement and their effect on academic achievement.

To measure engagement the poll asked kids to what extent “they feel safe, important, and acknowledged in their classrooms.” According to the article, overall engagement was high.

However, a significant dip in engagement takes place in middle school. Shane Lopez, senior scientist at Gallup, said students feel less valued and recognized in middle school than in the younger grades.

Perhaps most notable from the article is that according to Lopez, student hope has almost no correlation to family income. Regardless of socioeconomic status, only half of American students believe that they have what it takes to be successful in the future. What happened to hope? Where are the dreamers?

Hope is vital to a student in middle school, which is arguably the most critical time for kids to be engaged and excited about learning. Poor kids might not even realize what they are up against. As middle and upper class kids experience sports, camps and enrichment programs they have a chance to build up their hopes and dreams for the future. But for poor kids who don’t have the same opportunities, what will become of them?

Kids need mentors. Kids need more time to learn in an active, hands-on environment. Kids need to get their hands dirty. They can’t hope or dream something if they can’t see it. By providing all students with more access to caring, successful adults and changing the look and feel of the school day, American kids can find the hope they’ve been missing. Hope, after all, is what this country was founded on. We can’t give up on it.