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Do Students Perceive Their Teachers and Schools More Positively When More of Their Teachers Look Like Them?

A Research Snapshot by Alica Gerry and Lindsay Bell Weixler finds that Black students rated their academic engagement higher in schools with a higher percentage of Black teachers.

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Do Students Perceive Their Teachers and Schools More Positively When More of Their Teachers Look Like Them?

by Alica Gerry, Lindsay Bell Weixler

Ninety percent of children in New Orleans public schools are people of color, but only 61% of teachers are people of color. A previous ERA-New Orleans study, based on a survey of almost 4,000 students, found major disparities between how Black and White students in New Orleans rate their school climates and teachers. Continuing on that research, Alica Gerry and Lindsay Bell Weixler used survey results and demographic data from 19 schools to answer the question: Do New Orleans students rate their teachers, their school climates, and their own academic engagement more positively in schools with more teachers who are the same race, ethnicity, or gender as them?

Their key findings were:

  • In schools that had a higher percentage of Black teachers, Black students rated their school climate and academic engagement higher. For example, they reported lower levels of bullying, fairer discipline, and more participation in school clubs and activities.
  • However, having a higher percentage of Black teachers in a school was not associated with Black students rating their teachers more highly.
  • In contrast to the above findings for Black students, researchers did not find that survey responses for White, Hispanic, male, or female students changed when they had more teachers that shared their demographics.

These results, taken with existing research on the topic, suggest that New Orleans’ Black students benefit from having teachers who look like them. Local policymakers and practitioners should consider these potential benefits when developing policies and strategies for teacher recruitment and retention in New Orleans.

The report is the first study from ERA-New Orleans’ new Research Snapshot series, which features concise reports that answer questions asked by either our Advisory Board or NOLA Public Schools. By launching this series in partnership with the school district and local education leaders, ERA-New Orleans has the opportunity to answer impactful questions and quickly get answers that policymakers can use to directly help schools and students on the ground.

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