Report: Teachers' Race Can Improve Graduation Outcomes For Minority Students

Apr 13, 2017

A recent study of North Carolina students found positive long-term results from exposing minority students to teachers of the same race.

Researchers analyzed the records of more than 100,000 black students. Those who had at least one black teacher in elementary school were almost 30 percent more likely to graduate high school.

One explanation for the result may be a 'role model effect' on students, according to Johns Hopkins University economist Nicholas Papageorge, who co-authored the study.

“Just spending a year with a college-educated, black professional switches around their beliefs about what they can accomplish,” said Papageorge, adding that his next step is to investigate potential reasons for the study's findings.

Fewer than fifteen percent of North Carolina’s classroom teachers are black, compared with thirty percent of the state's students. That makes it hard for policymakers to act on the study’s finding when the state already struggles to recruit black teachers.

“You're going to need a lot of college graduates who are black,” Papageorge said. “To get that, you're going to need more people who start college who are black. Ultimately that means you can't have high school dropouts that are black, and wait a second, that's the problem we're trying to solve.”