It’s not a secret that African-Americans living at or below the poverty line —especially Black boys— have the worst drop out rates in the nation. But a new study suggests that one way to lower those statistics is to hire more Black teachers.
According to Quartz, researchers from Johns Hopkins are working on a paper that suggests that having a one Black teacher in elementary school can dramatically reduce a Black student’s probability of later dropping out of high school. They analyzed 100,000 young African-American students who were just starting North Carolina public schools between 2001 and 2005. Then looked at their high school performance with whether or not they had at least one Black teacher between the ages of 8-11.
Here’s what they found: Just having one Black teacher in the grades 3-5 decreased a Black student’s chance of dropping out by 29 percent and a whopping 39 percent for Black boys if they came from low-income families. The data also showed that having more than one Black teacher improved outcomes for these students, but not significantly more than having just one.
Nicholas Papageorge, a Johns Hopkins assistant professor who co-authored the study, admitted that they are still trying to figure out the “why” to explain their results, but he offer a few theories.
“If having a teacher with high expectations for you matters in high school, imagine how much it matters in the third grade,” Papageorge said in a statement.
“Many of these kids can’t imagine being an educated person and perhaps that’s because they’ve never seen one that looks like them. Then, they get to spend a whole year with one. This one Black teacher can change a student’s entire future outlook.”
He added: “Black students matched to bBack teachers have been shown to have higher test scores but we wanted to know if these student-teacher racial matches had longer-lasting benefits. We found the answer is a resounding yes. We’re seeing spending just one year with a teacher of the same race can move the dial on one of the most frustratingly persistent gaps in educational attainment — that of low-income Black boys. It not only moves the dial, it moves the dial in a powerful way.”
Hopefully the Department of Ed and schools across the nation are paying attention because the current statistics around teachers of color are pretty dismal. As U.S. News & World Report noted, teachers of color represent 18 percent of educators, and Black males represent just 2 percent. Meanwhile, approximately half – 49 percent – of public elementary and secondary school students are children of color.