Author Archives: Woody

Black Teachers Boost College Enrollment For Black Students

The influence of having a black teacher can make a monumental difference in a black student’s life, according to a study by researchers at the University of Connecticut and three other universities.

Having just one black teacher in elementary school not only makes children more like to graduate from high school – it also makes them significantly more likely to enroll in college.

All it takes is one black teacher to influence a student. Black students who’d had just one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college – and those who’d had two were 32 percent more likely.

The findings, from researchers at UConn, Johns Hopkins University, American University, and the University of California-Davis, were published recently in a working paper titled “The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers” from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Teachers’ Expectations Also Important

Another, related working paper by the same team titled “Teacher Expectations Matter,” also published today by NBER, found teachers’ beliefs about a student’s college potential can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Every 20 percent increase in a teacher’s expectations raised the actual chance of finishing college for white students by about 6 percent and 10 percent for black students.

However, because black students had the strongest endorsements from black teachers, and black teachers are scarce, they have less chance to reap the benefit of high expectations than their white peers.

Positive Outcomes Last Into Adulthood

Both papers underscore mounting evidence that same race teachers benefit students, and demonstrate that for black students in particular, positive outcomes sparked by the so-called role model effect can last into adulthood and potentially shrink the educational attainment gap. “

Black student students often don’t have parents or other black adults in their lives who have gone to college and gotten professional jobs,” says Joshua Hyman, an assistant professor of public policy at UConn, who has a joint appointment in the Department of Educational Leadership in the Neag School of Education. Hyman co-authored the papers along with researchers from the three other universities.

One Black Teacher Can Make a Difference

“All it takes is one black teacher to influence a student,” he adds. “They see someone like them in their classroom and start to believe they can go to college too, and get a good job.”

The paper appears to be the first to document the long-term reach of the role model effect. The researchers previously found that having at least one black teacher in elementary school reduced their probability of dropping out by 29 percent for low-income black students – and 39 percent for very low-income black boys.

The latest findings are based on data from the Tennessee STAR class size reduction experiment that started in 1986 and randomly assigned disadvantaged kindergarten students to various sizes of classroom. The researchers replicated the findings with similar data for North Carolina students.

Importance of Teachers in Early Grades 

The study found that black students who’d had a black teacher in kindergarten were as much as 18 percent more likely than their peers to enroll in college. Getting a black teacher in their first STAR year, any year up to third grade, increased a black student’s likelihood of enrolling in college by 13 percent. Black children who had two black teachers during the program were 32 percent more likely to go to college than their peers who didn’t have black teachers at all.

“What’s very interesting about this paper is that it looks later in a student’s life,” says Hyman. “It’s impressive that the impression of having a black elementary school teacher last that long. It helps reduce the race gap.”

In addition, students who had at least one black teacher in grades K-3 were about 10 percent more likely to be described by their 4th grade teachers as “persistent” or kids who “made an effort” and “tried to finish difficult work,” the researchers found. These students were also marginally more likely to ask questions and talk about school subjects out of class.

Although enrolling in college is a positive outcome, one concern, according to the researchers, is that the main enrollment effect is driven by students choosing community college, where degrees aren’t as lucrative as those from four-year colleges. It’s also unclear because of incomplete data how many of the students from the study who enrolled in college eventually graduated.

Need To Double the Number of Black Teachers

Despite clear benefits for black students from same-race teachers, diversifying the education workforce so that every black student in the United States could have one would mean doubling the current number of black teachers, the researchers say. To put this into context, that would require 8 percent of all black college graduates to become teachers.

Regarding teacher expectations, the authors previously found that when evaluating the same black student, white teachers expected significantly less academic success than black teachers. Now the researchers show compelling evidence that these biases affect whether students make it to college, graduate, and begin their adult life focused on a career.

“One of the lingering issues of this paper is that we have to entice black people to enter the teaching areas,” says Hyman. “In schools where there is a large black population, that has to be addressed.”

Thanks to UConn for publishing this report.

UConn Senior Is Selected As Newest Alma Exley Scholar

Isabella Horan, a senior at the University of Connecticut, has been selected as the Alma Exley Scholar for 2019. Supporters of the Alma Exley Scholarship Program will honor her at a reception in the spring, date and place to be announced later.

Ms. Horan, a graduate of Duxbury (Mass.) High School, is in the fourth year of the five-year Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s (IBM) program at UConn. She is an elementary education major with a minor in English.

At UConn, she has spent two years as president of the Teacher Education Student Association (TESA). She has refashioned the organization into a vital source for community building among students and faculty. Under her leadership, TESA has organized events such as a forum focused on how teachers can strengthen relationships across racial differences to better serve K-12 students.

She is deeply committed to addressing issues of educational equity. In her field placements in public schools, she has paid close attention to how special education students were being disciplined. She raised her concerns with UConn faculty and worked with cooperating teachers in the schools to rectify the disciplinary practices. And she has conducted research into the causes and consequences of the over-representation of students of color in special education.

She has received UConn IDEA Grant to support her efforts to recruit more teachers of color to work in the schools local to her hometown. She worked with organizations in Boston that shared her goal. She is now involved in other research projects with the goal of ensuring that all school districts become culturally diverse to reflect student populations.

Among other activities, she has served as a mentor to prospective education majors in UConn’s First-Year Experience Program. She has visited third-grade classrooms to promote literacy in the Champions Are Readers program with her sorority, Pi Beta Phi. And has also been recognized for outstanding leadership with an award from the Greater Hartford Panhellenic Association.

Ms. Horan joins a remarkable network of Alma Exley Scholars honored over the past 23 years. They include teachers as well as principals and assistant superintendents. Many have been honored for their contributions to education and their communities.

Our selection committee is certain that she has a bright future as an outstanding educator.



Celebrating Closing of One Chapter and Opening of Another

Editor’s note: Theodore Martinez, whom we honored in 2018, posted the following  on Facebook, reflecting on his academic career as he is about to begin his career as a teacher.

So I’m taking a moment and writing a long post because I’m proud of myself and don’t celebrate myself, or my accomplishments often.

Today, I attended my final class of this degree program. I am wrapping up my second master’s degree and about to graduate with a 4.0. Four years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined myself in this position. I struggled during my undergrad, and arguably during my first master’s. The cards have been stacked against my learning for a very long time.

I am a minority. I am the child of a single parent. I am of a lower socioeconomic status. Really, the only thing I’ve got going for me is the fact that I’m a male. But I was raised by an incredibly wise woman who instilled this work ethic that got me here. Growing up, I was told I had to be twice as good. Twice as good to get half the recognition, half the credit, half the praise.

This year, in talking with adults, I’ve been praised for my accomplishments, but those praises have been met with qualifiers. “You’re so well educated, for a Hispanic.” “You’ve got such a great work ethic for a Hispanic.”

Let’s be clear.

I am well educated. For anyone, regardless of race. I have a strong work ethic, yes, and maybe it’s because of my race, but that just means I’ve found a way to play the game to get where I’m at. I found a way to get here, to be the only minority in my cohort.

I am a child of redlining. I am a child who was moved to a suburb of Hartford because the school system is stacked in a way that benefits white, suburban towns. I am an adult who will continue to do everything I can to make it better for all children.

Now that I’m truly about to begin my career in education, it’s time for me to sit down, get to work, and reflect on where I can make the biggest impact. Will I go back for another degree? Let’s be honest, we know I can’t stay out of school for that long. Just give me time.

For now though…I’m proud of myself for doing the unexpected and getting here.