The pobrecitos phenomenon dooms low-income Hispanic students to school failure, writes Tina Griego in the Rocky Mountain News.
Pobrecito means “poor thing.” And the phenomenon, explains Stephanie Robinson, a principal partner at the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.- based nonprofit, goes something like this:
A student comes into the school. He is poor, a minority, his family struggles. Maybe the teacher feels sorry for him. This is human. Maybe he feels sorry for himself. Expectations are not high. (If the student happens to be a she, maybe mom and dad are telling her she doesn’t need more education, a husband and children await.) He is given low-level assignments. He is tested. He tests below grade-level. He is given more below-grade-level work. He believes or is led to believe he is doing what he can, is, in fact, incapable of doing better. He never progresses. A cycle begins.
Low expectations lead to lower achievement, Robinson says.
“Kids can go to the very same school and get totally unequal educations because of the expectation, because of the level of work given. You can’t learn what you are not given to learn.”
I’ve never heard the term, but I’ve seen the results of low expectations. I once interviewed a Mexican-American father who told me his three sons had “done well in high school,” though none had graduated. I asked what subjects they’d done well in. He said “basketball.” The father was proud his sons hadn’t joined a gang or been arrested, and were working to support themselves and their children. He saw them as successes.