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Students don't learn more from a same-race teacher

Elementary students don't learn more from a teacher who matches them in race or ethnicity, concludes a new study. There is little difference in behavior, executive functioning or placement in gifted or special education classes, write Paul L. Morgan, a Penn State professor of education and demography and Eric Hengyu Yu, a graduate student.

Nationwide, 79 percent of teachers are white, 7 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Asian American. By contrast, 45.2 percent of K-12 public school students are White, 14.9 percent are Black, 28.4 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Asian.

However, "calls to diversify the teacher workforce are unlikely to meaningfully address large racial and ethnic educational inequities in U.S. elementary schools," they write in USA Today.

In theory "a teacher of the same race or ethnicity might help lessen biases and cultural misunderstandings, increase access to role models and mentors, and foster student engagement in classroom activities," they write. There's evidence that black students who've had a black teacher go farther in school.

However, national studies have found only small benefits for students of color," write Morgan and Yu. Effects are "more often observed on subjective measures like classroom behavior than on objective measures of academic achievement."

Student-teacher racial matching seems to have more impact for students attending schools in the U.S. South, they note.

That could be explained by research by Lavar Edmonds, a Stanford graduate student. He found black elementary students didn't do any better with a black teacher, but earned higher math scores if their teacher, of any race, had attended a historically black college or university (HBCU), reports Hechinger's Jill Barshay. There was no effect for white or Hispanic students.

Why? Edmonds doesn't know.

His study found "Black boys were more likely to be suspended with white teachers than with Black teachers," writes Barshay. But "Black boys were less likely to be suspended by an HBCU-trained white teacher than a white teacher who trained elsewhere."

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