Blog categories
Mar 26, 2019 |
  No Comments

Author Les Brown once said, “No one rises to low expectations.” This is no secret in the world of education. Most practitioners discover early in their careers that learners rise to high expectations. This is due in part to the fact that holding high expectations for students communicates confidence in their abilities to succeed. Telling students, “You can meet these expectations through hard work,” promotes self-efficacy in the task at hand.

However, maintaining high expectations can be challenging; a number of obstacles stand in the way, including the low confidence many learners bring with them from prior school experiences. The challenge of helping children and adult learners understand their current abilities in order to set expectations adds another layer of complexity. Anyone can see how it would be easy to lower expectations. Still, to truly benefit learners of all ages, it is necessary to rise above these challenges. Practitioners must hold high expectations for their students and help those same students learn to hold high expectations for themselves.

NCFL has found that successful family learning programs are marked by high expectations for both staff and families. This makes sense — practitioners benefit from high expectations in the same ways learners do. When educators know others expect the best from them, they perform to their highest potential. In successful family literacy classrooms, this transfers to families.

In multigenerational learning, maintaining high expectations is essential to promoting self-efficacy in both parents and children. How can we communicate high expectations for families?

  • Use class time wisely. Plan meaningful instruction that fills the entire time slot. When class time is wasted, families may perceive that their learning is not worth investing in.
  • Provide models. Demonstrate your expectations through examples. When families understand what they’re striving for, they are more likely to succeed.
  • Focus on growth. Encourage families to celebrate each small victory along the way. Not all learners move at the same pace, and acknowledging each gain lessens the fear of failure.
  • Plan instruction that is developmentally appropriate. Instruction that is too easy tells learners you do not believe they can handle the next level. Instruction that is too difficult kills motivation to even try. Plan to target goals that are within reach but encourage growth.

Practitioners who hold high expectations for families establish a cycle of increased self-efficacy and success. What are your strategies for maintaining high expectations for staff and families? Do you have a success story to share? We’d love to hear from you!


Leave A Comment

NCFL Partners

NCFL Image
NCFL Image
NCFL Image
NCFL Image
NCFL Image
NCFL Image


Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.

Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, it has invested in our organization’s Sharon Darling Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.

Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to guide potential students and volunteers to literacy services, community education programs, and testing centers in their communities.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994, most recently in Louisville, Kentucky, to support Say & Play with Words, our pre-Kindergarten vocabulary-building initiative.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great

U.S. Department of Education

Initiated through the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program provides 12 grantees and 13 states with five-year, $5 million grants to promote and implement systemic evidenced-based family engagement strategies. NCFL was selected to lead SFECs in two states, Arizona and Nebraska, and is a primary partner for two other SFECs in Kentucky and Maryland/Pennsylvania. 

The SFECs work to support family engagement through state- and local-level agencies while providing both professional development to school districts and direct services to families related to children’s academic outcomes and overall well-being.

Learn more about the U.S. Department of Education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.

Foundation Website