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Impact of Same-Race Teachers on Black Students’ Application to College

2719 words (11 pages) Essay in Education

08/02/20 Education Reference this

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Statement of the Problem

Students from Historically Underrepresented Groups (HUGs) continue to be underrepresented in colleges and universities in the United States. Statistics show that the gap between HUG and white student enrollment in college is closing, but since 2010, enrollment of African American students has decreased. The Hispanic – white student gap in enrollment has recently remained about the same, but the types of colleges HUG students are applying to are less selective; often 2-year colleges, or those with non-degree programs. In 4-year college enrollment, the gap increases (Baker et al., 2018; de Brey et al., 2019). Perez-Felkner (2015) reported that school regard, mainly teacher perception, influences student decision on attending college. She states that white teachers often perceive HUG students’ abilities to be less than that of white students, due to implicit biases.

Gershenson, Holt and Papageorge (2016) examined a longitudinal study and found that black students that were paired with at least one black teacher during grades K – 3 were 7% more likely to graduate high school, and 13% more likely to enroll in college than other black students who did not have a black teacher. The current study builds upon these findings and proposes that the impact of having one or more same-race/ethnicity teacher in high school during grades 9-11 will positively impact the decision of HUG students to apply to college. Although this study will not prove specific causality, a generalization can be gathered that may garner interest in how implicit bias of white teachers, and the role model effect or absence of stereotype threat in same race/ethnicity teachers may be causal factors. Lack of attendance by HUG students in four-year colleges is problematic because it promotes and maintains stratification and hierarchy in the workforce and prevents minorities from achieving higher socio-economic status (SES) (Gregory & Huang, 2013). These results further the oppression of HUGs in the racialized culture of the United States.

Justification for and Significance of the Study

Deficit of Students from Historically Underrepresented Groups in Four-year Colleges and Universities

Historically, the number of students from HUGs have been disproportionately low in U.S. four-year colleges and universities. This deficit continues today, particularly for black students (Baker et al., 2018; de Brey, et al., 2019). Additionally, the more selective a college or university is, the larger the gap in HUG representation (Baker et al., 2018). The issues at the root of this disparity occur during the K-12 years of education where inequality and segregation exists. Several factors, such as poverty, lack of teacher training, and unpreparedness of students for SAT tests, contribute to a disadvantage for students from these communities in applying to college (Yun and Moreno, 2006).

Social Economic Status (SES) plays a large part in this problem. Students who come from families with higher SES are twice as likely to apply to a college or university as those from families with low SES (Bowden & Doughney, 2012). In a report derived from U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics data, Noel (2018) highlights the fact that people from HUGs (African American, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaskan Native) have lower income levels than other groups (white and Asian American), with African Americans at the lowest level. The same report notes that the Hispanic population has the lowest percentage of members with a higher education degree, then American Indian/Alaskan Native, and African Americans, in that order. It also indicates that there is a positive relationship between a higher education degree and high SES. Noel states that having a higher degree results in better social consequences, such as higher income, staying married and able to combine financial resources. Those who are in a lower SES perpetuate the cycle by not attending college and remaining in a low SES.

Family income and parent education may have a strong influence on a student’s decision to attend college. Not knowing that resources may be available to aid in paying for college is a detriment to some students who do not want to burden their low SES parents. A belief that the benefit of a degree does not outweigh the cost also influences the student. Parent education level may prevent a family from having accurate knowledge about the impact of their choices and the resources available to them. Family background is directly related to cost/benefit beliefs about college (Morgan et al., 2012).


Teacher Expectations and Biases

In a longitudinal study, Gregory and Huang (2013) found that teacher expectations of their 10th grade students were a better prediction of students continuing on to higher education than that of their parents, or even the students themselves. They also found that as teacher expectations for their students increased, the level of a student’s family SES mattered less as a predictor of going to college. Sciarra and Ambrosino (2011) also found that teacher expectations were a strong indicator of college attendance, and had more of an effect than parents.

Gershenson, Holt and Papageorge (2016) found that other-race teachers had considerably lower expectation for black students attaining a 4-year college degree than same-race teachers. Expectations were only slightly higher for Hispanic students, and were lowest for Native Americans. Qualitative studies done by Liou and Rojas (2018) revealed “deficit thinking” in teacher who are not informed about structural racism. During interviews, other-race/ethnicity teachers purported to be protecting students from HUGs by not encouraging high expectations of themselves.

In a study by Grissom, Kern and Rodriguez (2015), the racial and ethnic makeup of teachers in diverse communities were considered.  The researchers compared having an equivalent diversity ratio of teachers to students to having equal representation in society, with a prevalence of inequality if teacher diversity was not equivalent to student diversity. They found that when there was an increase in the number of teachers from HUGs, students from HUGs performed better. They attribute this to an absence of stereotype threat. Stereotype threat is defined as “a psychological phenomenon in which apprehension regarding minority student stereotypes impede minority student performance” (Grissom et al., 2015). The study also reports that this centralizes an important issue in the U.S. school system, that the number of students from HUGs is increasing quickly, but the number of teachers from HUGs is increasing very slowly. Furthermore, a study by Rocha and Hawes (2009) found that the increase of teachers from any HUG had a positive affect on the success of all students from HUGs, no matter what race or ethnicity they were. In schools where there were more teachers from HUGs, policies were more equitable. They also found that the ubiquitous practice of more frequent and severe disciplinary actions, and labeling students from HUGs as “mildly retarded” increased in segregated schools with relatively little diversity in teaching staff.



The sample will be composed of high school seniors in schools where at least 40% of the student body and at least 20% of the teachers are from HUGs. Demographics will be collected to determine which students self-identify as black, white, Hispanic, other ethnic groups, or multi-racial. The survey will also ask about parent education levels. All consenting senior students in the school will be surveyed. All students who are seniors will be asked to voluntarily fill out the survey. Those students under the age of 18 will be asked to have parent assent forms signed. There will be no monetary compensation offered. After the surveys are completed, in appreciation for filling them out, all students will be given the opportunity to attend two information sessions. The first session will be a panel session about the college experience, presented by undergraduates of different races and ethnicities, including first-generation college students. The second session will include information about applying to college after a gap year, and information about financial aid and scholarships. The second session will be geared toward the students who did not apply to college, but may still be interested in doing so in the future.


For this study, age, gender, ethnicity, race, parents’ highest level of education, and information about whether the student applied to a college will be added to the survey (see appendix A).

Study Design

The sample will be surveyed after the general application deadline for colleges, in April or May. This will give a definitive measure (dependent variable measure) of those students who applied to college and those who did not.

All senior students will attend an informed consent session. Students who are not 18 years of age will be given a consent form in advance to bring home to parents. The consent form will contain information about the study, and will have to be returned with the parent’s signature in order for the students to participate. Students will be told that they are taking a survey to see what possible factors may have influenced their decision to apply to college or not, but no mention of race or ethnicity will be made. 

The survey will be an online Qualtrics survey. Students will take the survey using the school’s computer lab, and the survey will be anonymous. The survey will be a total of 18 questions (see appendix A). One of the questions will ask students which teachers they had in grades 9 – 11. To preserve the anonymity of the teachers, the students will be given a key provided by school administration in which each teacher’s name has a corresponding number. The student will check off the numbers that match the teachers’ names. The researchers will be given a similar key provided by administration, but will only have the teacher’s race and/or ethnicity next to their corresponding number, so that the researchers will not have teacher names.  Any subsequent questions in the survey that involves teacher recognition will be done in this same manner.      


The research question concerns students from historically underrepresented groups and their decision to apply to college. The current study will determine if there is a relationship between two categorical variables. The first variable categories are 1) applied to college or 2) did not apply to college. The second variable is 1) student had at least one same race or same ethnicity teacher in grades 9 -11, or 2) student had no same-race or same-ethnicity teacher in grades 9 – 11. With two categorical variables, a Chi-square statistic will be used to measure the relationship between these two variables. Given the evidence produced in the literary reviews, the researcher predicts that having at least one same-race or same-ethnicity teacher will positively impact a student’s decision to apply to a four-year college or university. Further, there may be an additive effect with additional same-race or ethnicity teachers.


  • Baker, R., Klasik, D. & Reardon, S.F. (2018). Race and stratification in college enrollment over time. AERA Open, 4(1), 1-28.
  • Bowden, M.P. & Doughney, J. (2012). The importance of cultural and economic influences behind the decision to attend higher education. The Journal of Socio-Economics, vol. 41(1), 95-103.
  • de Brey, C., Musu, L., McFarland, J., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., Diliberti, M., Zhang, A., Branstetter, C., and Wang, X. (2019). Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018 (NCES 2019-038). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
  • Dee, T. S. (2004). Teachers, race, and student achievement in a randomized experiment. Review of Economics & Statistics, 86(1), 195-210.
  • Gershenson, S., Hart, C. M. D., Hyman, J., Lindsay, C. & Papageorge, N. W. (2018). The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers (Working Paper 25254). Cambridge, Massachusetts: National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Gershenson, S., Holt, S.B. & Papageorge, N. W. (2016). Who believes in me? The effect of student-teacher demographic match on teacher expectations. Economics of Education Review, 52, 209-224.
  • Gregory, A. & Huang, F. (2013). It takes a village: The effects of 10th grade college-going expectations of students, parents and teachers four years later. American Journal of Community Psychology, 52(1-2), 41-55.
  • Grissom, J.A., Kern, E.C. & Rodriguez, L.A. (2015). The “Representative Bureaucracy” in education: Educator workforce diversity, policy outputs, and outcomes for disadvantaged students. Educational Researcher, 44(3), 185-192.
  • Liou, D.D & Rojas, L. (2018). The significance of the racial contract in teachers’ college expectancies for students of color. Race, Ethnicity and Education,
  • Morgan, S.L., Leenman, T.S., Todd, J.J. & Weeden, K.A. (2012). Occupational plans, beliefs about educational requirements, and patterns of college entry. Sociology of Education, 86(3), 197-217.
  • Noel, R.A. (2018). Race, Economics and Social Status. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Washington, D.C.: Spotlight on Statistics.
  • Perez-Felkner, L. (2015). Perceptions and resilience in underrepresented students’ pathways to college. Teachers College Record, 117, 1-60.
  • Rocha, R.R. & Hawes, D.P. (2009). Racial diversity, representative bureaucracy, and equity in multiracial school districts. Social Science Quarterly, 90(2), 326-344.
  • Sciarra, D.T. & Ambrosino, K.E. (2011). Post-secondary expectations and educational attainment. Professional School Counseling, 14(3), 231-241.
  • Yun, J.T. & Moreno, J.F. (2006). College access, K-12 concentrated disadvantage, and the next 25 years of education research. Educational Researcher, 35(1), 12-19.


  1. Please check off all teachers you have had for all subjects in grades 9 – 11. Using the key provided, check off the number corresponding to each teacher’s name. Checklist
  2. Do you feel that at least one teacher you have had in grades 9 – 11 was a mentor to you? Yes, No, Somewhat
  3. If you answered Yes or Somewhat to question 2, using the teacher key given to you, please check off the teacher(s) you felt mentored you at least somewhat. Checklist
  4. Has one or more of your parent(s)/guardian(s) encouraged you to apply to college? Yes or No
  5. Has one or more of your parents or guardians been influential in your decision to apply to college? Yes or No
  6. Has any other person(s) encouraged you to apply to college? Yes or No
  7. Do you feel that any other person(s) has been influential in your decision to apply to college? Yes or No
  8. If your answer to question 7 was Yes, please state each person’s relationship to you (e.g. aunt, friend, coach, etc.) Short answer text
  9. Have you applied to a college or university? Yes or No
  10. If you did not apply to college, do you plan to apply in the future? Yes, No or Maybe
  11. How old are you? Checklist
  12. What gender do you identify with? Short answer
  13. Please check off the race or ethnicity you identify with (check all that apply): African American or Black, Hispanic or Latinx, Caucasian/European ancestry, Asian, Native American/Alaskan Native, Other
  14. If you answered other to question 13, please list the ethnic group(s) you identify with. Short answer
  15. Do you identify as an international student (not a U.S. citizen, or have lived in another country for a long period of time? Yes or No
  16. If you answered yes to question 15, which country do you identify with? Short answer
  17. What is the highest education level of parent/guardian 1? Elementary School (grades K-5), Middle school (grades 6-8), High School (grades 9-12) Some college, Associate Degree, Bachelor’s degree, Graduate School, Vocational/Technical School or Certificate Program
  18. What is the highest education level of parent/guardian 2? Check one: Elementary School (grades K-5), Middle school (grades 6-8), High School (grades 9-12) Some college, Associate Degree, Bachelor’s degree, Graduate School, Vocational/Technical School or Certificate Program, Unknown
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