Johns Hopkins University study: White teachers more likely to doubt educational prospects of black boys and girls

3 Apr

Moi wrote in The teaching profession needs more males and teachers of color:

Moi believes that good and gifted teachers come in all colors, shapes, sizes, and both genders. Teachers are often role models and mentors which is why a diverse teaching profession is desirable. Huffington Post has the interesting article, Few Minority Teachers In Classrooms, Gap Attributed To Bias And Low Graduation Rates which discusses why there are fewer teachers of color in the profession.

Minority students will likely outnumber white students in the next decade or two, but the failure of the national teacher demographic to keep up with that trend is hurting minority students who tend to benefit from teachers with similar backgrounds.

Minority students make up more than 40 percent of the national public school population, while only 17 percent of the country’s teachers are minorities, according to a report released this week by the Center for American Progress….

In a second report, the CAP notes that in more than 40 percent of the nation’s public schools, there are no minority teachers at all. The dearth of diversity in the teaching force could show that fewer minorities are interested in teaching or that there are fewer minorities qualified to teach.

The lack of diversity in the teaching profession has been a subject of comment for years.

In 2004, the Council for Exceptional Children wrote in the article,New Report Says More Diverse Teachers Reduces the Achievement Gap for Students of Color:

Representation of Diverse Teachers in the Workforce

The number of diverse teachers does not represent the number of diverse students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2003):

  • In 2001-2002, 60 percent of public school students were White, 17 percent Black, 17 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 percent American Indian/Alaska Native.
  • According to 2001 data, 90 percent of public school teachers were White, 6 percent Black, and fewer than 5 percent of other races.
  • Approximately 40 percent of schools had no teachers of color on staff….

The Impact of Diverse Teachers on Student Achievement
Increasing the percentage of diverse teachers not only impacts the social development of diverse students, it also is directly connected to closing the achievement gap of these students. Research shows that a number of significant school achievement markers are positively affected when diverse students are taught by diverse teachers, including attendance, disciplinary referrals, dropout rates, overall satisfaction with school, self-concept, cultural competence, and the students’ sense of the relevance of school. In addition, studies show that

o    Diverse students tend to have higher academic, personal, and social performance when taught by teachers from their own ethnic group.

o    Diverse teachers have demonstrated that when diverse students are taught with culturally responsive techniques and with content-specific approaches usually reserved for students with gifts and talents, their academic performance improves significantly.

o    Diverse teachers have higher performance expectations for students from their own ethnic group.

Other advantages of increasing the number of diverse teachers are: more diverse teachers would increase the number of role models for diverse students; provide opportunities for all students to learn about ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity; enrich diverse students learning; and serve as cultural brokers for students, other educators, and parents.

A diverse teaching corps is needed not only to mirror the society, but because the continuing family meltdown has broadened the duties of schools.

Elisha Mc Neill reported in the Education Week article, Study Finds More Evidence of Racial Bias in Teachers’ Expectations for Students:

White teachers are less likely to expect academic success from black students, especially black boys, according to a new Johns Hopkins University study.

Published in the journal Economics of Education Review, the “Who Believes in Me?” study was compiled to investigate how teachers form expectations for students, whether those expectations are systematically biased, and whether they are affected by racial differences.

The findings are based largely on data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, an ongoing study following 8,400 10th grade public school students. For the survey, two different math or reading teachers, who each taught the same student, were asked to guess how far that one student would go in school.

The findings show that with white students, evaluations from both teachers were about the same. But for black students, white teachers had lower expectations than black teachers.

“What I would like to do is make teachers aware of biases,” said co-author Nicholas Papageorge, an assistant economics professor at JHU’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, according to the Huffington Post. “Racism is alive and well. I’m sure when people look at a black young man they have certain views, and they might not realize they have these views, and that’s really dangerous.”

Researchers found that, compared to black teachers, white teachers were about 30 percent less likely to predict the same student will attain a four-year college degree and 40 percent less likely to expect their black students will even graduate high school. By contrast, black female teachers were 20 percent less likely than white teachers to predict their student wouldn’t graduate high school, and 30 percent less likely to to make that prediction than black male teachers….

The study also found that white and other non-black teachers were 5 percent more likely to predict that their black male students would not graduate high school compared to their black female students, whom white male teachers were 10 to 20 percent more likely to have low expectations for.

The research adds to a growing number of studies indicating that race can shape how teachers see and treat their students. For example, a 2010 Georgia Southern University study found that 342 students reported they had experienced a type of microagression, such as a teacher assuming a black student was poor without asking, at least once during high school. A 2015 American University study found the likelihood of boys of color being suspended or missing class in elementary school rises significantly if assigned to a teacher of another race. According to a Stanford University study in 2015, students of color are disciplined and taken out of class at higher rates than their white peers…..                                                                                           

Here is the press release from Johns Hopkins:

Race Biases Teachers’ Expectations for Students

White teachers more likely to doubt educational prospects of black boys and girls

March 30, 2016
CONTACT: Jill Rosen
Office: 443-997-9906
Cell: 443-547-8805

Johns Hopkins University

When evaluating the same black student, white teachers expect significantly less academic success than black teachers, a new Johns Hopkins University study concludes. This is especially true for black boys.

When a black teacher and a white teacher evaluate the same black student, the white teacher is about 30 percent less likely to predict the student will complete a four-year college degree, the study found. White teachers are also almost 40 percent less likely to expect their black students will graduate high school.

“What we find is that white teachers and black teachers systematically disagree about the exact same student,” said co-author Nicholas Papageorge, an economist in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. “One of them has to be wrong.”

The study, forthcoming in the journal Economics of Education Review, and now available online, suggests that the more modest expectations of some teachers could become self-fulfilling prophecies. These low expectations could affect the performance of students, particularly disadvantaged ones who lack access to role models who could counteract a teacher’s low expectations, Papageorge said.

“If I’m a teacher and decide that a student isn’t any good, I may be communicating that to the student,” Papageorge said. “A teacher telling a student they’re not smart will weigh heavily on how that student feels about their future and perhaps the effort they put into doing well in school.”

The findings also likely apply beyond the education system, the researchers say — leading to racial biases in the workplace, the service industry and the criminal justice system.

The researchers analyzed data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, an ongoing study following 8,400 10th grade public school students. That survey asked two different teachers, who each taught a particular student in either math or reading, to predict how far that one student would go in school. With white students, the ratings from both teachers tended to be the same. But with black students, boys in particular, there were big differences — the white teachers had much lower expectations than black teachers for how far the black students would go in school.

The study found:

  • White and other non-black teachers were 12 percentage points more likely than black teachers to predict black students wouldn’t finish high school.
  • Non-black teachers were 5 percent more likely to predict their black boy students wouldn’t graduate high school than their black girls.
  • Black female teachers are significantly more optimistic about the ability of black boys to complete high school than teachers of any other demographic group. They were 20 percent less likely than white teachers to predict their student wouldn’t graduate high school, and 30 percent less likely to say that then black male teachers.
  • White male teachers are 10 to 20 percent more likely to have low expectations for black female students.
  • Math teachers were significantly more likely to have low expectations for female students.
  • For black students, particularly black boys, having a non-black teacher in a 10th grade subject made them much less likely to pursue that subject by enrolling in similar classes. This suggests biased expectations by teachers have long-term effects on student outcomes, the researchers said.

Papageorge’s co-authors are Seth Gershenson, an assistant professor of public policy at American University, and Stephen B. Holt, a doctoral student at American University.

“While the evidence of systematic racial bias in teachers’ expectations uncovered in the current study are certainly troubling and provocative, they also raise a host of related, policy-relevant questions that our research team plans to address in the near future,” Gershenson said. “For example, we are currently studying the impact of these biased expectations on students’ long-run outcomes such as educational attainment, labor market success, and interaction with the criminal justice system.

The study was supported by the American Educational Research Association.


Johns Hopkins University news releases are available online, as is information for reporters. To arrange a video or audio interview with a Johns Hopkins expert, contact a media representative listed above or visit our studio web page. Find more Johns Hopkins stories on the Hub.


March 30, 2016 Tags: economics, Education, Nicholas W. Papageorge, race, teacher expectations, teachers
Posted in Education/K-12, Social Sciences

Office of Communications
Johns Hopkins University
3910 Keswick Road, Suite N2600
Baltimore, Maryland 21211
Phone: 443-997-9009 | Fax: 443 997-1006                                    

Brian Resnick wrote an intriguing article for National Journal, When Teachers Overcompensate for Racial Prejudice:

The performance gap between white and minority students is one of the most persisting problems in American education. Since the 1990s, the performance gap, as reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, has more or less stagnated. While a multitude of factors contribute to the disparity — most glaringly the quality of instruction in poorly funded schools — there are some underlying psychological factors as well.

One widely documented phenomenon is called stereotype threat: When confronted with a racial bias (for example, a suggestion that black students do not perform well on a task), stereotyped students actually don’t do as well compared to control groups. This, in part, explains why black students may not perform as well on high-stakes tests such as the SATs. Some studies have even shown that the threat can diminish short-term memory.

Another psychological roadblock, as outlined in a recent study in the Journal of Educational Psychology, is a tendency for white teachers to judge minority students’ work less critically than white students’.

It’s called positive feedback bias, but its effects are largely negative. “There’s nothing wrong with getting positive feedback,” says Kent Harber, lead researcher of the study. But “what happens is that when the feedback is inaccurate, it doesn’t provide a valid fix as to where a student is actually performing. Then they don’t know where they need to best direct their efforts. It’s like having a biased compass.”

Furthermore, the minority students are implicitly aware that this is happening, which increases their distrust of their white teachers and fuels disinterest in schoolwork.

“When black students get positive feedback from a white, and they believe that the white is aware of their race, not only does their self esteem not get bolstered by the positive feedback — it is actually depressed,” Harber says.

In the study, 126 teachers from the New York metropolitan area were asked to edit essays supposedly written by a black, Latino, or white student. They weren’t told the the student’s racial demographics, but the researchers provided students’ names that hinted at it (Taisha or Jarell for black students, Mark or Molly for white students). The teachers were told their comments would be delivered back to the students. In actuality, there were no students and the essays were assembled to mimic a C-grade level ability.

The researchers found that the teachers were indeed not grading the black and Latino students as critically as the white ones. This trend has been documented before, but the deeper question Harber and his colleagues were trying to answer was the source of the teacher’s motivation. What compelled them to be less critical of minority students?

Political correctness is often seen as an effort to keep up appearances, but Harber’s group found that something different was going on here. The teachers were trying to preserve a self image of being unbiased. The research group came to this conclusion this because the teachers didn’t show bias toward the objective aspects of the essay — the grammar or the spelling — but rather the subjective aspects like ideas and logic. And as the paper states, “criticizing subjective features of writing raises the risk of appearing unfair because there are few established standards to justifying such criticism.”

“There might be multiple causes [for positive feedback bias], but the one that seems particularly potent is a self-image concern, that the whites don’t want to see themselves as prejudiced, independent of how other people see them,” Harber says. “What happens, I believe, is their focus gets distracted from what are the needs of the students to what are ways that I can restore my self image.”

So how can this problem be solved? Harber and his colleagues found that teachers who have greater social support at school are less likely to show a positive feedback bias toward black students. The theory is that teachers with support feel less anxious about their performance and can concentrate on being fair graders.;_ylc=X3oDMTNsMnZqdms3BF9TAzk3NDc2MTc1BGFjdANtYWlsX2NiBGN0A2EEaW50bAN1cwRsYW5nA2VuLVVTBHBrZwNkYWZkODM5NS04YjNkLTM4OTYtYTYyZC1mYzUyNGE0MTRiY2MEc2VjA21pdF9zaGFyZQRzbGsDbWFpbAR0ZXN0Aw–;_ylv=3


Database: PsycARTICLES

[ First Posting ]

Students’ Race and Teachers’ Social Support Affect the Positive Feedback Bias in Public Schools.

Harber, Kent D.; Gorman, Jamie L.; Gengaro, Frank P.; Butisingh, Samantha; Tsang, William; Ouellette, Rebecca

Journal of Educational Psychology, Apr 30 , 2012, No Pagination Specified. doi: 10.1037/a0028110


  1. This research tested whether public school teachers display the positive feedback bias, wherein Whites give more praise and less criticism to minorities than to fellow Whites for equivalent work. It also tested whether teachers lacking in school-based social support (i.e., support from fellow teachers and school administrators) are more likely to display the positive bias and whether the positive feedback bias applies to Latinos as well as to Blacks. White middle school and high school teachers from 2 demographically distinct public school districts gave feedback on a poorly written essay supposedly authored by a Black, Latino, or White student. Teachers in the Black student condition showed the positive bias, but only if they lacked school-based social support. Teachers in the Latino student condition showed the positive bias regardless of school-based support. These results indicate that the positive feedback bias may contribute to the insufficient challenge that undermines minority students’ academic achievement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

There are many causes for the disparity in education outcome for many children of color. Along with family situation, low-income status, low-performing schools, and cultural norms, more attention must be paid to the expectation of teachers regarding children who they judge as not likely to succeed.


Is there a ‘model minority’ ??                                                                  

UN-traditional Father’s Day message: Don’t become a father unless you can make the commitment to YOUR child

Study: The plight of African-American boys in Oakland, California                                                                                                 

Who says Black children can’t learn? Some schools get it               

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