Equity & Diversity Report Roundup

Students’ Scores Found to Rise When Teachers Look Like Them

By Stephen Sawchuk — March 17, 2015 1 min read

Students, especially black and low-performing elementary pupils, appear to benefit academically from being taught by a teacher of their own race, according to a new analysis of Florida test data.

In a study to appear in the April volume of Economics of Education Review, researchers from Harvard University, the University of Arkansas, and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs used a value-added model to examine the relationship between teacher ethnicity and nearly 10 million student math- and reading-test scores in grades 3-10 from 2001-02 to 2008-09.

After controlling for students’ prior test performance, socioeconomic status, and other characteristics, the researchers found higher test scores when teachers were of the same race as their students. The effect was small overall, but stronger for certain groups and grades of students. Black students matched with a black teacher, for instance, had gains equal to moving from the 50th percentile to the 53rd percentile, while Asian students matched with an Asian teacher in high school were associated with improvements equal to moving from the 50th to the 55th percentiles. Black and white students in the bottom third of student performance also seemed to get more out of having a same-race teacher than more-advantaged peers.

There was one exception to the overall pattern: Hispanic students, for whom the data sometimes showed a negative correlation from being matched with a Hispanic teacher. That may be because of the huge diversity in that population, which includes Spanish-speaking students of Caribbean, South American, Mexican, and Central American descent.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 2015 edition of Education Week as Students’ Scores Found to Rise When Teachers Look Like Them

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