SUN IN­VES­TI­GATES Re­searchers de­tail im­pact of black teach­ers

Black stu­dents are more likely col­lege-bound if role mod­els re­sem­ble them

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Black el­e­men­tary school stu­dents who have black teach­ers are sig­nif­i­cantly more likely to en­roll in col­lege, ac­cord­ing to a re­search pa­per co-au­thored by a Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity pro­fes­sor.

A work­ing pa­per pub­lished this week by the Na­tional Bureau of Eco­nomic Re­search found that black stu­dents who have one black teacher by third grade are 13 per­cent more likely to en­roll in col­lege — and those who have two are 32 per­cent more likely.

The find­ings build on pre­vi­ous re­search that has found black stu­dents are much more likely to grad­u­ate from high school if they see a black per­son at the front of their class­room. Hav­ing at least one black teacher in el­e­men­tary school, the pre­vi­ous re­search showed, re­duced low-in­come black stu­dents’ prob­a­bil­ity of drop­ping out by 29 per­cent — and 39 per­cent for very low-in­come black boys.

Hop­kins eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor and study co-au­thor Ni­cholas Pa­pa­george said this grow­ing body of re­search shows how vi­tal it is for stu­dents to have role mod­els who re­sem­ble them.

Black ed­u­ca­tors also can tap into their lived ex­pe­ri­ences when teach­ing, he said, in some cases al­low­ing them to con­nect more deeply with African-Amer­i­can par­ents and stu­dents through a “hid­den cur­ricu­lum.”

Black teach­ers show black chil­dren that “col­lege is some­thing I can strive for be­cause I’ve seen a col­lege grad who looks like me,” Pa­pa­george said.

Black teach­ers re­main scarce in the United States de­spite the mount­ing ev­i­dence show­ing the ben­e­fits they have on African-Amer­i­can chil­dren. Na­tion­wide, about 7 per­cent of pub­lic school teach­ers are black.

In Bal­ti­more, a dis­trict where AfricanAmer­i­can chil­dren made up roughly 80 per­cent of the stu­dent body last year, only about 40 per­cent of its roughly 4,900 teach­ers were black.

The num­bers are sim­i­larly bleak across Cen­tral Mary­land. In Car­roll County, 1 per­cent of teach­ers are African-Amer­i­can. In Har­ford County, 3.7 per­cent are. About 7 per­cent of Anne Arun­del teach­ers are black, and about 10 per­cent of Howard County teach­ers are. Even in Bal­ti­more County, where the black stu­dent pop­u­la­tion sits at about 40 per­cent, just one in 10 teach­ers is black.

Pa­pa­george said the na­tion must reckon with its black teacher pipeline prob­lem.

“Peo­ple al­ways say, ‘Well, let’s hire more black teach­ers,’” he said. “Where are you go­ing to find all these black teach­ers?”

In Mary­land, just 542 mi­nor­ity can­di­dates grad­u­ated from ap­proved ed­u­ca­tor cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­grams in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the state ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment’s lat­est teach­ing staff re­port. While that num­ber is higher than in pre­vi­ous years, ex­perts say it doesn’t come close to meet­ing the need.

For at least the fore­see­able fu­ture, Pa­pa­george said, school sys­tems must grap­ple with the fact that their teach­ing forces will re­main mostly white and fe­male. Those teach­ers must be ed­u­cated about im­plicit bias, taught to be cul­tur­ally com­pe­tent and shown how not to ex­ac­er­bate achieve­ment gaps.

“We have to think about things we can take to the white teach­ing work­force and lever­age the les­sons we’re learn­ing,” he said. — Talia Rich­man

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