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Is a Lack of Teacher Diversity Related to Higher Suspensions, Unexcused Absences?

Is a Lack of Teacher Diversity Related to Higher Suspensions, Unexcused Absences?

A new paper from researchers Stephen B. Holt and Seth Gershenson titled The Impact of Teacher Demographic Representation on Student Attendance and Suspensions suggests that student-teacher racial and demographic mismatch can be correlated to suspensions and absences, therefore lowering student achievement.

Using data from kindergarten through fifth grade students in North Carolina’s public schools from 2006-2010, the researches use the administrative data to "test the hypothesis that public behavior responds to demographic representation among” teachers.

The results of the researchers work, the paper says,"provide strong evidence of a causal relationship between student-teacher racial mismatch and student absenteeism and suspensions, as predicted by representative bureaucracy theory.”

"Our within-classroom analysis of the impact of racial mismatch at the student-teacher level finds modest, positive, statistically significant effects of racial mismatch on both absenteeism and suspensions, regardless of how absenteeism and propensity to be suspended are measured.”

Student-teacher racial mismatch has been hypothesized to have an effect on student achievement for quite some time.

This has especially dominated recent conversation because while the U.S. Department of Education has predicted that in 2022, 54.7 percent of public school students will be non-white, almost 80 percent of all public school teachers are currently white.

While this lack of teacher diversity has already been a talking point due to its disproportionate nature, this paper suggests the lack of diversity is damning to minority students who might benefit more from same-race teachers.

When it comes to suspensions, the paper found that “[s]tudents with racially mismatched teachers experienced a 20% increase in suspensions, driven primarily by the response of nonwhite male students to white classroom teachers.”

"The evidence of a casual-link between student-teacher demographic mismatch and student suspensions and absences presented here provides novel, strong support for representative bureaucracy theory, which predicts that demographic alignment among street-level bureaucrats and the citizens they serve cultivates a better relationship for providing public service.”

Read the full paper.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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