We've known from previous research that Black students benefit academically and psychologically, from having Black teachers. Well, a new study takes it one step further.
Johns Hopkins University reports researchers found that low-income Black students who have at least one Black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate high school and to consider attending college.
"Black students matched to Black teachers have been shown to have higher test scores, but we wanted to know if these student-teacher racial matches had longer-lasting benefits. We found the answer is a resounding yes," said co-author Nicholas Papageorge, a Johns Hopkins economist.
He said low-income Black boys, one of the most academically challenged groups, benefitted long term from having just one Black teacher.
Papageorge said this finding "not only moves the dial, it moves the dial in a powerful way."
The likelihood of Black students dropping out of high school decreased by 29 percent when they had at least one Black teacher in the third through fifth grades, the study found.
Having one Black teacher also had an amazing impact on Black boys from low-income families. Their chances of dropping out fell 39 percent.
The graduation gap is large and stubbornly persistent. In the 2012-2013 school year, an estimated 59 percent of Black males nationwide graduated high school on time, compared to 80 percent of White males, according to research from the Schott Foundation for Public Education.
In the study reported by Johns Hopkins, the researchers examined the records of about 100,000 Black students who entered third grade in North Carolina Public Schools between 2001 and 2005. Roughly half of them graduated but had no plans to continue to college. About 13 percent of the cohorts dropped out.
Outcomes were different among the students who had at least one Black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade. They were more likely to graduate and consider going to college 18 percent more than the other group. Impoverished Black males in this group were 29 percent more interested in higher education.
The researchers replicated their findings by evaluating the records of Black students in Tennessee who entered kindergarten in the late 1980s and participated in the Project STAR class-size reduction experiment.
Part of the explanation for the higher achievement is what's called the "role model effect," a term that points to the positive impact of having a role model. It's no surprise that it helps immensely for Black students to see and interact with an intellectual authority figure.
This study builds on earlier research from Johns Hopkins on the impact of unconscious racial bias and how Black and White teachers view their Black students.
Researchers found that Black and White teachers often disagreed on their evaluation of the same student. Black teachers typically have higher expectations of their Black students, which encourages students to fulfill those expectations.