Re­search says race of a child’s teacher mat­ters

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS -

Peo­ple of color make up 18 per­cent of the na­tion’s teach­ers. But new, un­pub­lished re­search sug­gests they have an out­sized ef­fect on mi­nor­ity stu­dents.

Black stu­dents who haveat least one black teacher in ele­men­tary school are more likely to grad­u­ate from high school and con­sider col­lege, ac­cord­ing to the study by re­searchers in­clud­ing Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity econ­o­mist Ni­cholas Pa­pa­george.

The re­searchers looked at the ex­pe­ri­ences of 100,000 black stu­dents who en­tered third grade in North Carolina be­tween 2001 and 2005.

They found that hav­ing one black teacher be­tween third and fifth grade re­duced a black stu­dent’s prob­a­bil­ity of drop­ping out of school by 29 per­cent.

For very-low-in­come black boys, the prob­a­bil­ity dropped by 39 per­cent.

Pa­pa­george said the re­searchers went to Ten­nessee to see if the ef­fect could be ob­served out­side North Carolina. They got sim­i­lar re­sults.

Pa­pa­george said re­searchers do not know why black teach­ers help pre­vent black stu­dents from drop­ping out. They are plan­ning to test some of their the­o­ries be­fore they pub­lish their pa­per.

It might be the case, he said, that teach­ers of color have higher ex­pec­ta­tions for their black stu­dents than white teach­ers do.

The re­searchers be­lieve they might also find that black stu­dents re­spond well to role mod­els who look like them. If stu­dents never see a black teacher, Pa­pa­george said, they might con­clude that work­ing hard in school won’t change their fu­tures.

Emory Young, pres­i­dent of the Bal­ti­more County Par­ent Teacher As­so­ci­a­tion, said stu­dents need black teach­ers through­out their school ca­reers, not just dur­ing the for­ma­tive years in ele­men­tary school. Stu­dents don’t al­ways want to lis­ten to their par­ents, he said, but a good teacher can of­fer im­por­tant sup­port.

The re­search, Pa­pa­george said, sug­gests that schools should re­as­sign teach­ers and stu­dents as much as pos­si­ble to make sure that black stu­dents have a teacher who looks like them at some point dur­ing their ele­men­tary school years.

That might be dif­fi­cult in Mary­land, where more than half of the pub­lic school pop­u­la­tion is stu­dents of color.

Hav­ing a teacher of the same race is just one of many fac­tors that could be used to im­prove ed­u­ca­tion for black stu­dents, Pa­pa­george said.

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