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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Black boys lack ‘a teacher who looks like me’

James Ford teaches high school in North Carolina.

Boys do better with male teachers and non-white students better with a same-race teacher, studies show. Yet, 77 percent of teachers are female and 80 percent are white, reports Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times.

“We find that the effect is really driven by boys,” said Seth Gershenson, an economist studying education policy at American University. “In the elementary school setting, for black children and especially disadvantaged black children, the effect of having even just one black teacher is fairly big and robust and a real thing.” When black children had a black teacher between third and fifth grades, boys were significantly less likely to later drop out of high school, and both boys and girls were more likely to attend college, Mr. Gershenson and his colleagues found in a large study last year. The effect was strongest for children from low-income families.

After elementary school, studies show boys do better with a male teacher, concludes Thomas Dee, a Stanford education professor. In high school and college math and science courses, women do better with a female instructor.

Same-race teachers may have higher expectations, writes Miller. “When black students had both a white and black teacher, the black teachers consistently had higher expectations for the children’s potential.”

Only 2 percent of public school teachers are black men, wrote Emily Hanford in 2017.

Jose Romero, a high school senior who’s Mexican American, wants to be a fifth-grade teacher, he writes on New York School Talk. He had no male teachers of color till high school, he writes.

I want to make my culture an asset in the classroom and be a teacher students feel comfortable confiding in, no matter their background. . . . I’m in an all-male mentorship group led by two African-American men who openly talk about their struggles growing up in New York and give us advice in any area of life—including what it means to appreciate our cultures.

“Having teachers that look like me has made a huge difference,” he concludes. “They don’t just mentor me and help me with my academics, they also make my goal of becoming a teacher seem more realistic.”

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