STUDY: Having just one black teacher makes black students much more likely to graduate.

By Andrew Pillow

The importance of diversity in the classroom has long been known in education circles. However, a recent study has shown just how little it takes to make a profound impact.

According to a study out of Johns Hopkins University, if a black student has at-least one black teacher they are significantly more likely to finish school. The study also points out that the effect is greater for lower income students:

“Having at least one black teacher in third through fifth grades reduced a black student’s probability of dropping out of school by 29 percent, the study found. For very low-income black boys, the results are even greater – their chance of dropping out fell 39 percent.”

Co-author of the study, Nicholas Papageorge says this study proves that there are definite pros to having black teachers in the classroom.

“Black students matched to black teachers have been shown to have higher test scores but we wanted to know if these student-teacher racial matches had longer-lasting benefits. We found the answer is a resounding yes,” Papageorge said.

It’s worth noting that the study doesn’t make any claims on the effectiveness of the pedagogy of non-black vs black teachers. Instead they cite the “role-model” effect as a possible explanation for the results. Essentially the idea is that some students may believe in their future possibilities more if they come in contact with someone who represents them.

See the full study here.


Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.