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Study: Students of all races prefer non-white teachers

A study by New York University sociologists Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng and Peter Halpin claims to show that students of all colors prefer to be taught by teachers of color.

According to NPR, the duo queried “1,700 sixth- through ninth-grade teachers from more than 300 schools in cities” using a 30-question survey featuring questions like “How much does this teacher challenge his students?” “How supportive is she?” and “How captivating does she make the subject?”

They discovered “that all the students, including white students, had significantly more favorable perceptions of Latino versus white teachers across the board, and had significantly more favorable perceptions of black versus white teachers on at least two or three of seven categories in the survey.”

From the article:

The relationship persisted after controlling for students’ age, gender, their free and reduced-price lunch status and their academic performance. The researchers also controlled for other factors like the teacher’s level of experience and education, their gender, and even outside expert ratings of the teachers’ effectiveness, based on classroom observations.

No matter what, students had warmer perceptions of their teachers of color.

Cherng calls the findings “surprising.”

“I thought student awareness of the racial hierarchy would influence the results,” in favor of whites, he says. …

His working theory is that teachers of color score more highly because of their ability to draw on their own experiences to address issues of race and gender, which, he says, can be highly germane even to teaching subjects like math, especially in America’s majority-minority public schools. He’s currently working on a series of studies that look at preservice teachers and teacher training, to provide more evidence about the relationship between teachers’ multicultural beliefs and awareness and their effectiveness in the classroom.

Cherng might want to consider a more in-depth examination of the term “Latino.” It actually encompasses many races, especially white and black. Many official forms ask for an applicant’s race and also if he/she is Latino/Hispanic. (The study notes researchers used teachers’ race/ethnicity noted in school records.)

Using student evaluations has its “pitfalls,” NPR points out; however, Cherng’s may be more valid “because of its thoroughness.”

Ed Week notes that, although the study “focused on urban districts” where students tend to be less affluent, it controlled for “student demographic and academic characteristics, teacher efficacy, and other teacher characteristics.”

Read the full NPR article and full study.

h/t to Joanne Jacobs

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