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Teachers Expectations for Students Colored by Race

Race matters, according to a new study measuring high school teachers’ expectations for black students.

The survey involving 16 thousand high school teachers around the country finds black teachers are more optimistic about black students than white teachers are.

Researchers at American University and Johns Hopkins would pick a 10 th grader and then ask two of his teachers (one white and one black)  about how far they thought the student would go in school.

Drop out? PhD?

If the kid was white, the black and white teachers made similar predictions.  But if he or she was black, white teachers were less optimistic.

Professor Seth Gershenson of American University's School of Public Affairs said researchers found the same race teacher had higher expectations for that student's outcome.

“A black teacher is about 30% more likely to expect a black student to graduate from college than a white teacher is - again, when they’re both evaluating the same student.”

They also found the racial mismatch was stronger for boys, and stronger in math teachers than in reading teachers.

Gershenson says past studies with teachers have shown that could mean a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“If teachers have expectations that are too low they might reassign their energy and efforts to other students who they think either have more potential or are on the margin of just needing a little more assistance.”

Gershenson says other studies have found students tend to do better with same race teachers.   In Ohio just 5% of public school teachers are black.