Category Archives: Diversity Resources

Articles and research on diversity in education

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.

Connecticut Partners To Increase Teacher Diversity

The Connecticut Department of Education has formed a partnership with a nonprofit group called to recruit more teachers of color. will launch an advertising campaign and a website to attract teaching candidates.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is backing the initiative, said in a written statement, “Our education system is stronger when our teacher workforce is as diverse as the communities they serve, and the launch of TEACH Connecticut will only strengthen our schools.”

Only 8.7 percent of the state’s educators or persons of color, while about 45 percent of students in the state are minorities., launched by Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Education, is backed by teacher associations across the country.


Students Pay the Price When Teachers of Color Exit

Black teachers are leaving the profession in droves, and new research confirms that students of color are paying the highest price for this disparity.

This is the conclusion of an article in the April/May 2018 issue of The article focuses on Jason Dunning, a black teacher of science at a virtually all-black middle school in Birmingham, Alabama.

“For a lot of (my students), me standing there wearing bow tie and a lab coat is a big deal,” Mr. Dunning says. “For many, I’m the first black man they’ve ever seen as a teacher, outside of P.E. or as a coach.”

Jason Dunning, inspiring his students in the science classroom.

And his presence is having an impact. As Principal Davida Hill Johnson says, “So many of them want to be scientists now.”

One of them is seventh grader J’layah Shepherd, who says connecting with Dunning has inspired her to attend college and pursue a science career.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, having a black man as a science teacher, but it’s been great,” she says. “He’s like one of us, and there’s more connection there.”

Statistics suggest that it is increasingly rare for African-American students like Shepherd to have teachers who look like them. Now, for the first time, there are more students of color (51 percent) enrolled in public schools than white students. But teachers of color represent only about 20 percent of the nation’s elementary and secondary school teaching force. And more than 40 percent of public schools don’t have a single teacher of color, according to the National Education Association (NEA).

(In Connecticut, although more than 40 percent of public school students are students of color, only about seven percent of teachers are persons of color.)

Studies have shown that a lack of teacher diversity tends to adversely affect students from underrepresented groups, especially students of color.

“Students of color learn better when they see a teacher of color in the classroom, and they’re more likely to stay in school and graduate,” says Lisette Partelow, director of K-12 strategic initiatives for the Center for American Progress (CAP). “So the impact is very measurable. We also believe a diverse teacher workforce can help students develop a more realistic and inclusive worldview. All students benefit from a more diverse teacher workforce.”

For decades, the positive effects of same-race teacher exposure were almost exclusively anecdotal. But recent research affirms that outcomes, such as test scores, attendance and suspension rates, are affected by who is doing the teaching. Experts say diverse teachers serve as role models for students of color, and they have been shown to have higher expectations and a better cultural understanding of those students.

In fact, an April 2017 study by the Institute of Labor Economics (ILE) found that having just one black teacher in third, forth or fifth grade reduced a low-income black boy’s probability of dropping out of high school by 39 percent. And if a black male or female student from a low-income household had a black teacher, the ILE  found that the student was more likely to plan to attend a four-year college.

However, in numerous studies and surveys from school districts nationwide, black teachers have reported high levels of job dissatisfaction. They have expressed widespread concerns about job security and concerns about implicit bias directed toward them and students of color, too.

As a result, teachers of color are leaving the profession in droves. Contributing to the problem is that research confirms that black teachers are more likely than their white counterparts to be clustered in high-need, economically disadvantaged urban schools with limited resources. And many of those who do land jobs at more affluent or well-resourced suburban districts often report feeling isolated.

Jerry Washington, one of two other black, male teachers at Dunning’s school, believes that increasing teacher pay is at the heart of fixing the leaky diverse teacher pipeline. “The fact that people feel that teachers don’t get paid enough is a big part of the problem,” he says. “I think that if the salaries were raised, more people would be willing to consider education.”

Many cities and states have implemented initiatives to recruit and retain more teaches of color. In New York City, for example, the NYC Men Teach program aims to put 1,000 additional men of color on course to become teachers over three years.

Mr. Dunning believes that the black teacher shortage will turn around when the black community makes it a priority. “We have to make that sacrifice because, for so many of our students, we are the only positive role models that they’ll et to see,” he says. “If we don’t educate and inspire our youth to become the very best, nobody else will.”