Black Teachers Don’t Make a Difference For Black Students?

June 12, 2012  |  

We often talk about the need for more black teachers, particularly males, in school systems across the country to help our kids excel, but according to a new study from the University of Houston, that desire may be baseless.

Walter Hunt,a  recent graduate from the University of Houston’s Executive Education Doctorate in Professional Leadership and a local assistant principal, says African American students don’t necessarily fare better when taught by African American teachers. When he examined the impact of African American teachers on African American eighth-graders in Texas Title I schools he found no significant relationship between their academic achievement and the percentage of African American teachers on campus.

“At first glance, it would appear that teacher race doesn’t matter when addressing student achievement of minority students, but there are many layers involved when analyzing achievement of a middle-school student, such as racial identity, self-identity, age, involvement in school activities,” he said. “In this particular study, I was surprised to see that the campuses with more African-American teachers did not have the highest African-American student achievement. This just goes to show that having a positive impact on students is a complex, multi-layered process.”

Hunt examined eighth-graders and teacher diversity in 198 Title I Texas schools because Title I is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which provides additional funding for campuses serving children from low-income families. Comparing 2010 eighth-grade math and reading scores from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests with African American and Caucasian students from campuses with both large and small percentages of African American teachers showed no significant difference in outcomes. In a lot of ways this isn’t totally shocking because plenty of black students have done well without ever having been taught by a black teacher but in some environments the influence of an African American teacher shouldn’t be downplayed.

Hunt does want to delve a little bit deeper into the study by perhaps broadening the examination to other middle school grades and high school and also looking at social studies and science TAKS scores. He should also consider how disciplinary action towards black students is carried out in schools with more black teachers, and also considered the psychological effects of black children seeing someone who looks like them in certain professions and positions of authority.

Do you still think having more black teachers in school would help black students perform better academically?

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