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Most existing studies have been conducted in states like North Carolina or Tennessee, which are home to comparatively smaller Latino populations.“It’s a glaring omission for a variety of reasons, especially because that’s the segment of the student population that’s growing the fastest,” Dan Goldhaber, the director of the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), told The 74.Controlling for a variety of student characteristics, researchers found in a 2013 study that white teachers view black students more negatively on the whole than white or Latino students, who are themselves viewed more negatively than Asian students. Another study from Kisida and Egalite found that black students were much more likely to describe themselves as happy in school, feel cared for by their teachers, and highly rate the communication between themselves and their teacher if that teacher was black.
Though the issue of racial and gender representation in the classroom is not a new one, the past decade has seen a wealth of new evidence on how students react to being taught by people who look like them.
Although the magnitude of the effects can differ, numerous research studies into the question of racial matching (the pairing of a given student with a teacher of the same racial or ethnic background) point to the same conclusion: All things being equal, black students do better when they’ve been taught by black teachers.
“And from a theoretical perspective, it makes intuitive sense that children need role models or people in positions of authority that represent them in some way.” Kisida analogized the impact of being assigned black teachers to that of Barack Obama becoming president — the very fact of his election seemed to open the doors of possibility.
Reams of economic research, including the pioneering work of Harvard economist Raj Chetty, point to the importance of black male role models on young black men.
Multiple studies have suggested that white teachers simply have lower expectations of black students than of white students.
That may explain why black students are significantly less likely to be referred to gifted programs in the absence of a black teacher — even when their academic work would merit referral.
The rate of exclusionary discipline — when students are sent away from their classroom or school building for a behavioral infraction — has been found to be significantly higher for black students, and especially black boys, when they are assigned to white teachers.
A 2015 study conducted by Stanford social psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt found that white teachers were more apt to recommend stricter punishments for students with stereotypically “black-sounding” names like Darnell or Deshawn, even when the hypothetical transgressions were no different from white students’.
For the long-term impact of racial matching, there is no research more striking than a study of North Carolina students circulated last year by Seth Gershenson, Cassandra Hart, Constance Lindsay, and Nicholas Papageorge.
In a finding that gained headlines around the country — though it hasn’t yet been validated by peer review — the group reported that exposure to just one black teacher between grades 3 and 5 significantly reduced the high school dropout rate among black male students.