Students of all races need encouragement while they are in school, but it seems that students of color are getting the short end of the stick. A new report by the Center for American Progress found that it’s the educators of students of color who don’t believe they can succeed.
In The Power of the Pygmalion Effect, CAP researchers combed through a decade of data about 10th graders to explore how teacher expectations affect student achievement. Predictably, the report found that high schoolers whose teachers had high expectations for their future were far more likely to finish college than those whose teachers did not. Sounds great—until you further analyze the results.
“Secondary teachers have lower expectations for students of color and students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” the report’s authors write. “Secondary teachers predicted that high-poverty students were 53 percent less likely to earn a college diploma than their more affluent peers.”
According to an analysis of teacher attitudes, educators believed “African American students were 47 percent less likely to graduate from college than their white peers.” Hispanic students didn’t fare much better: Teachers thought they were 42 percent less likely to earn a college diploma than their white classmates.
Though the breakdown in how students are viewed based on their race seems troubling, CAP researchers caution against labeling teachers as racist simply because they view possible student outcomes differently.
“Educators’ expectations might simply be a mirror of the broader problems of the nation’s education system,” the report’s authors write. But Rafranz Davis, an instructional technology specialist in Dallas, says the issue goes deeper than that.
Well this seems quite problematic. Certainly even students of color are smart enough to know if the people who are educating them actually believe that they have potential and can achieve in the classroom and beyond.
Yahoo News reported, despite some teachers’ harboring stereotypes about minority students, Davis says she’s found that students of color are far less likely to be stigmatized when their teachers look like them.
“I have found that students in schools with majority teachers of color do not share the same [negative] academic experience, while students in schools with little to no teachers of color certainly do,” she notes. “For example, a white kid in an AP class is no surprise, but a Hispanic or black kid is often met with ‘Wow, I didn’t expect him/her to be so articulate.
CAP recommends that teacher preparation programs do a better job of reiterating the importance of having high expectations for all students, regardless of race. Jose Lara, a teacher and the vice president of the El Rancho Unified School District, just outside Los Angeles says that isn’t enough.
Schools must ensure “educators come from diverse backgrounds and are knowledgeable about student real-life experiences,” he says, echoing findings that students of color perform better when taught by teachers who look like them. “Show me a well-funded school that respects students’ culture and history, treats teachers like professionals and parents as partners, and I will show you a high-performing school.”