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Editors note: The views expressed here within are solely those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of TBS Magazine, its writers, or its editorial staff.

By Alex Thomas

In the quest for excellence in education, all parties want the same results: high-achieving, well-rounded students who rise to their full potential, ready for college and primed to take on whatever the world can throw at them. Parents, politicians, educators, administrators, and the talking heads on Cable TV all agree on these worthy objectives.

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Alas, they agree on very little beyond that. Each group has its own unique formula for success. Regarding the question of how to achieve these objectives, the various groups circle their wagons and vigorously defend their divergent points of view.

One group champions public education and sees charter schools as an ill-advised drain on scarce resources. Another claims charter schools are the answer. One side favors uniforms while another celebrates the torn jeans and green hair of self-expression. Single-sex education has its defenders as well as its critics. Schools definitely should test more, except when they should absolutely test less. Entire industries are dedicated to the ongoing debate, leading to legislative battles, lawsuits, and other unpleasantness in the effort to promote one method over another. The vast amounts of time and money spent duking it out among these warring factions are diverted away from genuine educational needs.

Yet regardless of their political alignment, economic status, or any other variables, every individual and institution with a stake in American education today should be asking the same simple question:

What do we know about school experience that brings out the best in students, whether public or private, wealthy or low-income, single-sex or coed, in strict environments or lax? What is the common denominator underlying every high-performing school, teacher, and educational approach in America?

The answer: High expectations. Academic and behavioral. No excuses, no exceptions.

From the barrios of East L.A. to military schools, from the tough streets of Harlem to prep academies for the wealthy elite, the schools that set the bar high and hold everyone to the same level are the schools that get results.

Elite schools are expected to insist on high expectations and produce top-level graduates. Unfortunately for millions of American students, expectations are lower in low-income school districts. More than anything else, low expectations are a result of attitudes taken by parents, teachers, and administrators toward low-income students. According to the American Psychological Association , teachers in economically-embattled neighborhoods tend to encourage less, demand less, and accept less from their students than teachers elsewhere because they assume that’s the best the students can do.

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VA provides grants to Servicemembers and Veterans with certain permanent and total service-connected disabilities to help purchase or construct an adapted home, or modify an existing home to accommodate a disability. Two grant programs exist: the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant and the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant.

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