Study: Teachers Choose Schools According to Student Race

Science Daily, May 27, 2009

A study forthcoming in the Journal of Labor Economics suggests that high-quality teachers tend to leave schools that experience inflows of black students. According to the study’s author, C. Kirabo Jackson (Cornell University), this is the first study to show that a school’s racial makeup may have a direct impact on the quality of its teachers.

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Dr. Jackson’s findings suggest that it’s not neighborhoods keeping high-quality teachers away; it’s the students–and it’s directly related to their race.

“This is particularly sobering because it implies that, all else equal, black students will systematically receive lower quality instruction,” Jackson said. “This relationship may be a substantial contributor to the black-white achievement gap in American schools.”

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“This study implies teachers may prefer a student body that is more white and less black,” Jackson says.

Black teachers were slightly more likely than white teachers to stay in the schools that experienced a black inflow, the study found. However, those black teachers who did leave black schools tended to be the highest qualified black teachers. So the decline in quality was somewhat more pronounced among black teachers than white teachers.

Just what it is about black students that pushes high-quality teachers away is hard to pin down, Dr. Jackson says. It could be that teachers are reacting to notions about black students’ achievement or income levels.

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