Having diversity among school teachers is just as important as having diversity throughout the student body. If all goes well, it’s reasonable to say that the interactions will help all involved parties. But a recent study shows that things don’t often go that smoothly.
The Economics of Education Review included a study from Johns Hopkins and American University researchers, according to the Huffington Post. This study found that white teachers had overall lower expectations of their black students than black teachers. In some cases, the difference is quite significant.
“What we find is that white teachers and black teachers systematically disagree about the exact same student,” said Nicholas Papageorge, an economist in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences that conducted the study. “One of them has to be wrong.”
The data used came from a study that started in 2002 and followed over 8,000 10th grade students. As a part of the research, reading and math teachers were surveyed on what they imagined to be the student’s long-term potential. Their answers were then separated by race and gender.
Based on the data, non-black teachers felt that there was a higher likelihood their black students wouldn’t finish high school compared to black teachers. The numbers were similar for college.
To go even further, non-black teachers also had much lower explanations for black male students in relation to black female students. They reportedly found black boys to be 5 percent less likely to even graduate high school compared to their female counterparts. Black teachers viewed all of their students on a relatively even basis.
The study also showed that black boys were far less likely to be interested in taking on a career in a field where they didn’t have a black teacher. [This falls perfectly in line with the nation-wide call for black male educators.] Lastly, black female teachers appear to be the most optimistic about the futures of all of their students, but the black ones by far.
You may be asking yourself what effects this could potentially have. Well, having teachers that expect less from a student could directly lead to them investing less time and effort into said student’s academic success. If they’re convinced that they won’t even last two more years, better yet get a college degree, why would they take time they could spend on another student with this “lost cause?” That’s a very harsh reality and it’s not a mentality we’d like to think many teachers hold. Unfortunately, this study proves that many do just that.
The study couldn’t directly draw any connections between these teachers’ outlooks and the long-term effects on the students’ actual success. But it’s safe to think about the possibility of one existing.
“If I’m a teacher and decide that a student isn’t any good, I may be communicating that to the student,” Papageorge said in a press release. “A teacher telling a student they’re not smart will weigh heavily on how that student feels about their future and perhaps the effort they put into doing well in school.”
Again, for the sake of a better society, it’s important that students have teachers that both reflect them and don’t. But if doing so has long-term effects on their success, we’re clearly missing an important part of the equation.
Photo Courtesy: Wiki Commons