Study Shows Minority Students Perform Better With Minority Instructors

Researchers call the phenomenon the “role model effect.”

Posted: 10/12/2011 01:09 PM EDT
Filed Under education, racism

Study Shows Minority Students Perform Better With Minority Instructors

This just in from the education gap: minority students fare better academically when a minority teacher is leading the class, according to a new report.

The report, A Community College Instructor Like Me: Race and Ethnicity Interactions in the Classroom focused on students attending one of the nation’s largest community colleges in California and found that Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American students were 2.9 percent more likely to pass courses when the instructor was of a similar racial or ethnic background as the students.

From the report:

“We find that the performance gap in terms of class dropout and pass rates between white and minority students falls by roughly half when taught by a minority instructor. In models that allow for a full set of ethnic and racial interactions between students and instructors, we find African-American students perform particularly better when taught by African-American instructors. ... The class dropout rate relative to Whites is 6 percentage points lower for Black students when taught by a Black instructor. Conditional on completing the course, the relative fraction attaining a B-average or greater is 13 percentage points higher.”

The study notes that the current number of minority instructors (9.6 percent) doesn’t meet the needs of the Black, Latino or Native American college students that, together, compose one-third of the entire college-age population. The authors say that, given their findings, more minority teachers are needed to help close the achievement gap in higher education.

"Our results suggest that the academic achievement gap between white and underrepresented minority college students would decrease by hiring more minority instructors," the authors say. "Hiring more instructors of one type may also lead to greater student sorting and changes to classroom composition, which may also impact academic achievement. A more detailed understanding of heterogeneous effects from instructor assignment, therefore, is needed before drawing recommendations for improving overall outcomes. The topic is ripe for further research."


The issue is not new, however — a conflicting study from 2005 called Is School Segregation Good or Bad? found that "half of the decline in Black dropout rates between 1970 and 1980 is attributable to desegregation plans.” The paper also found that “Based on a metaanalysis of 93 studies ... desegregation has a significant effect on Black achievement, especially among younger children," leaving significant room for debate about what truly makes black student achievement take off.


What do you think? Should Black kids only be taught by Black teachers?

(Photo: Matt McClain/For The Washington Post)