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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Black American students’ success rate higher when taught by teacher of same race, study finds


UC Davis professor helps to publish “The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers”

Cassandra M.D. Hart, an education policy professor at UC Davis, along with Constance A. Lindsay and Seth Gershenson of American University and Nicholas Papageorge of Johns Hopkins University, published “The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers” in March. This groundbreaking study highlights the importance of having Black teachers in the school system. The study, which looked at data collected from the records of 100,000 Black students in North Carolina, found that the academic progress of Black children heavily hinged on having teachers of the same race. The study showed that having at least one Black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade decreased the probability of Black students dropping out of high school by 39 percent. The paper emphasized that teachers are more than just educators — they are role models as well.

“Teachers are some of the most influential adults that children encounter,” Gershenson said in an email interview. “They directly impart knowledge and academic skills, but also teach social skills, judgement and a sense of fairness, civic values, and so on. Students often confide in teachers and share things that they might be uncomfortable sharing with the adults in their households.”

For the Black community, which has been historically, and continues to be oppressed by educational institutions, having an authoritative adult that they cannot only confide in, but also relate, to is absolutely crucial in their development, according to the study.

“Economically disadvantaged black boys may lack role models and might thus conclude that high educational attainment is somehow not meant for them,” Papageorge said via email.  “Spending a year with an educated black professional might provide them crucial evidence that such outcomes are indeed for them.”

The presence of just one Black teacher in the lives of Black children proved to have an all-around beneficial effect academically. A second study conducted in Tennessee school systems showed that Black children who had teachers of the same race were not only more likely to graduate high school, but also were more likely to take college entrance exams and had stronger expectations to go to college. Racial stereotypes and the presence of negative adult figures often negatively influence Black children and skew their perceptions of what they can accomplish. Having Black teachers helps to counteract the effect.

Seeing race-congruent teachers may help alleviate things like stereotype threat, and may help shape students’ goals for educational attainment,” Hart said in an email interview.

Giving Black children the initiative and confidence to succeed bodes well not only for their academic futures, but possibly for their professional futures as well.

“This study provides novel evidence that access to same-race teachers impacts Black students’ outcomes not just in the same year that they are in that teacher’s class, but down the line as well,” Hart said. “We’re definitely curious to see whether these benefits in the educational trajectory extend past high school; looking to see whether this extends to improving college outcomes or earnings in adulthood would be very interesting.”

Ultimately, the study conducted by Hart, Papageorge, Gershenson and Lindsay revealed that having Black teachers present and active in schools is absolutely vital.

“The pipeline for African American teachers is leaky at a number of spots: African American students are less likely than their white peers to go into teaching, less likely to pass licensure exams, and more likely to leave teaching than their white counterpart,” Hart said.

The researchers hope that their study can launch long term changes in school systems and spark important conversations regarding race and education in the United States.

“I think [our study] has already started some important discussions about how to better serve students of color, particularly those from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds,” Gershenson said. “In particular, it raises the question of how to strategically assign students to teachers. It has also shone a spotlight on retention problems among teachers of color, and the longer-run importance of getting more black students into, and through, college.”  
Written by: Edward Zhu — campus@theaggie.org


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