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Further Research Finds Lack of Teacher Diversity Negatively Impacts Minority Students

Further Research Finds Lack of Teacher Diversity Negatively Impacts Minority Students

Research from two Vanderbilt University researchers has expanded on the fact that a lack of teacher diversity could be significantly disadvantaging minority students.

After studying more than 10,000 elementary-school students with a gifted program in their schools, the researches found that white children were twice as likely to get into gifted programs than black students even while having the same math and reading scores on federally-administered tests.

The researchers called this finding nothing short of troubling.

“It is startling that two elementary school students, one black and the other white, with identical math and reading achievement, will have substantially different probabilities of assignment to gifted services ... This is especially troubling since previous studies have linked participation in gifted programs to improved academic performance, improvements in student motivation and engagement, less overall stress, and other positive outcomes.” said one of the researchers, Jason Grissom.

The researchers set out to find reasons that could contribute to the assignment gap, and found a correlation between teacher diversity.

"One factor the researchers did discover that helped alleviate the gifted assignment gap for black students was being assigned to a same-race teacher. In fact, all else being equal, black students are three times more likely to be assigned to gifted programs when taught by a black teacher than a nonblack teacher. Assignment rates for high-achieving black students with black teachers are similar to those of white students with similar characteristics,” according to a press release for the report from the American Educational Research Association.

"Previous research has found that because the process of gifted assignment often begins with teacher referral, classroom teachers can play a gatekeeping role. Grissom and Redding cautioned, however, against concluding that teacher bias is the cause of the race gap, which could be explained by numerous other factors.”

Regardless, this is the second report this month that has indicated a lack of teacher diversity is partly responsible for creating achievement gaps.

Earlier this month, a report from researchers Stephen B. Holt and Seth Gershenson titled The Impact of Teacher Demographic Representation on Student Attendance and Suspensions found that student-teacher racial mismatch is related to higher minority suspensions and absences.

Read more about the Vanderbilt study here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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