Lack of trust in teachers may inhibit black, Latino student success
- Psychology researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found black and Latino middle schoolers who lose trust in their teachers because of perceived mistreatment in school are less likely to go to college, even if they were high-performers academically.
- Researchers conducted twice-yearly surveys of 483 U.S. middle school students’ perceptions of their teachers’ impartiality, tracking the connection between those attitudes and disciplinary treatment as well as four-year college enrollment, and ultimately finding black and Latino students lost trust in their teachers from sixth to eighth grade more quickly than their white peers did.
- Those who lost trust more than expected were less likely to enroll in a four-year college on time, and an intervention tested with a subset of seventh graders — where teachers were asked to provide feedback with academic critiques that reinforced high expectations and a belief in the students’ ability to meet them — found black students had significantly fewer disciplinary incidents the following year and were 30% more likely to go to college than their peers in the control group.
Teacher biases are often implicit, meaning even teachers who think they do not treat their students differently based on race might actually do so. A recent Yale Child Study Center research project asked teachers to monitor four students in video segments and identify those presenting challenging behavior, though the video didn’t actually show any challenging behaviors. Teachers were most likely to identify the black boy as the one who required the most attention out of a group of a white boy and girl and a black boy and girl.
Districts can offer diversity training to help teachers think about implicit biases and conduct a frank self-assessment of their own behaviors that they might not otherwise recognize as troubling. This type of work is important, and the UT-Austin research shows how serious the long-term consequences can be of ignoring the problem.
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