Race’s role in student-teacher connections

Diversity of teaching staff can boost student scores, study finds


Caitlyn Schlaman/Special to Bear Witness

Ryan McCarthy, Sports Editor

If you take a minute to remember your favorite teachers, you may step back and realize some of them looked a little bit like you.

A recent study reveals that students with teachers with demographic similarities will do better in school, along with attaining higher educational aspirations. Most of these similarities were found with relations in race, as students in these situations were more interested in their schoolwork and also felt more cared for. On the other hand, students without these similarities in their teachers find that these interests decrease. These findings suggest that students find role models in teachers that look like them, while also doing better in school.

Opportunities like this for students may be disappearing, as more students find that there are less teachers with these similarities available to them. A growth in a teacher-student diversity gap will inevitably result in a discrepancy in academic performance between different races.

According to Anna Egalite, a member of the team conducting this study, only 18% of public school teachers are people of color, contributing to a school system where white students are better equipped to succeed than non-white students.

Expanding the range of races in teachers won’t fix this issue by itself. According to University of Wisconsin-Madison professor, Gloria Ladson-Billings, “we need teachers who can view their students of color as whole people” in order to change the attitudes and behaviors of these students in regards to school.

Acting upon this issue now is imperative, as diversifying the entire teaching force may take years to complete. Administrations may need to seek not just diversity in their teachers, but also students’ opinions on the choices of new teachers. What students think of and appreciate about self-mirroring teachers can influence decisions like this, as it can vastly affect how students perform in the classroom.

If students can gain an opinion from who educates them, it may gain administration and teachers an advantage in connecting with a larger and more diverse body of students, regardless of race. With these connections, student potential can rise to a dramatic, unparalleled degree.