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Same-Race Teachers Have Big Effect On Black Children

John Locher

Black students are more likely to go to college if they have at least one black teacher in elementary school. That’s one of the findings in a new study from researchers at several schools, including the University of Connecticut.

You can see the difference at a young age. Black students who have a black teacher before third grade are about 13 percent more likely to enroll in college.

“It’s really striking. I mean the fact that these are little kids, in first, second grade, and having these black teachers at that age, the fact that it lasts so long, it’s really quite amazing I think,” said UConn professor Joshua Hyman, who co-authored the study.

Hyman and his colleagues followed black students as they progressed through the educational system.

“We’re able to track these students from when they’re really little – in elementary school, early elementary school – and track them all the way to when they’re college-age.”

Hyman said it could be that black teachers have gone through similar experiences and can communicate better to black students. Or it could be what Hyman calls the role model effect.

“Interacting with these teachers every day for a year tells them, look, there’s this person that looks like you, and they’ve gone off and got a college degree, and you can do this too.”

Hyman said whatever the cause, the benefits are clear. But we’d need to double the number of black teachers in America to ensure that every black student has at least one black teacher.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.