‘Positive Bias’ May Be Hurting Minority Students

Wynne Parry, LiveScience, May 5, 2012

Black and Latino students may be getting less critical, but helpful, feedback from teachers than their white counterparts, a new educational study indicates.


This positive bias in feedback to minority students may be contributing to the achievement gap between white and minority students, a stubborn national problem, Harber said.


Harber and colleagues developed a poorly written essay that they gave to the teachers to grade, under the pretense that it was the work of a student. In some cases, the teachers believed the student was white, in others black and in others Latino.


The researchers found that, indeed, the teachers were prone to give more praise and less criticism if they believed a minority student had written the paper, as opposed to a white student.

The researchers also considered the support the teacher received from colleagues and administration. This turned out to be an important factor if the teachers believed the student was black, with only teachers who lacked support showing the bias. However, when teachers thought the student was Latino, they showed the bias toward positive feedback regardless.

“These results indicate that the positive feedback bias may contribute to the insufficient challenge that undermines minority students’ academic achievement,” the researchers conclude.


Topics: ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • I’ve probably never seen a better example of political correctness putting whites between a rock and a hard place. If teachers are tough on them, it’s racism. If they back off, it’s racism. There is no way to win for white people who are forced to work for, with, or under blacks in a PC dominated context.

  • haroldcrews

    Wait a minute.  Wasn’t there articles posted here last week about the disparities between disciplining between blacks and whites?  Now there are those who claim that the discrimination if in favor of blacks.  Will the blacks please decide to take a position and stick with it.  You really can’t have it both ways when it comes to facts.

    • sbuffalonative

      As I always say, when it comes to blacks, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. It’s a no win, lose-lose situation when it comes to dealing with blacks. Do “A” and you’re wrong. Do “B” and you’re wrong for the opposite reason.

      You can’t win which is why I gave up caring about blacks long ago.

      • haroldcrews

        Sound decision.  The cognitive dissonance required in dealing with blacks according to their demands and expectations isn’t sound to your mental health.

  • ageofknowledge

    The public education system in this country has slipped to 27th place in the world and is falling fast.

  • WmarkW

    George W Bush didn’t have a clue about a lot of stuff.
    But he hammered “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

    •  Huh?  “The soft bigotry of low expectations” is another example of him not having a clue.  He didn’t know it, but he was essentially endorsing the Marxist/environmentalist (not ecology in that case) dialectic.

      So in Bush’s worldview, these people are not brain surgeons because we soft bigots never expected them to become brain surgeons:


      • WhitesRdumb

        That crap sounds like a 2 year old kid playing a cheap Glockenspeil

        • Other than the stupid “music,” they probably recorded his voice separately, then the video of the half-naked spaghetti heads doing their stoner dance separately, then shoved it in some computer for the enhancements, reverbs, bass, simulated instruments.

          Unfortunately, that doesn’t just apply to rap anymore.

        • shmo123

           One of my visions of hell: Being trapped in a room with tattooed black thugs playing God-awful rap music at a deafening volume.

          • hfh1

             I 2nd that emotion! Good Lord! Wouldn’t they all just be more comfortable somewhere in bloody Africa? I know I would be, if they were. There’s no happy denouement in store for any of us.

    • JohnEngelman

      Sometimes low expectations are rational. 

  • xxxtonygunsxxx

    “If I had a son…it would look like Tovon”


  • Anan7

    Mr. Harber, this “stubborn national problem” is that these Black and Hispanic students are in the USA and not in their home countries.

    Send these students home in cultures where they will identify with the people that live there, and we will be much happier!

  • Church_of_Jed

    If the teachers were White, they were just living into the Critical Race Theory of the Pacific Education Group (tied in with Obama’s pals) that forces White teachers to admit that their racist White privilege creates the Achievement Gap because they don’t understand black “students”.

    The best thing we can hope for is that White teachers stop teaching in English and allow Diversity to self-educate.

  • I use to work at a college.  I will tell you that the professors did not want to deal with them.  A couple who I had  personal relationships with told me it was easier to just pass them for sub-par work.  They didn’t want to hear them complain or have to defend themselves to the administration.  One told me in the end life will catch up to them.   I remember I had to meet with a black female student about a professor.  The student was mad about not getting credit for essay questions on an exam.  I reviewed them and she did not answer them in essay format, therefore she didn’t get credit.  In the syllabubs, it even explained the difference between essay and short answer.  Complain and you will receive.  The Dean ended up intervening and the student got a higher grade.  The solution was that she go to the writing lab and work with a tutor so next time she would write essay questions. 

    Standard have fallen very low.  A lot of group work and presentations have replaced individual research and testing.  All to accommodate them.  I would have to tutor them for the English entrance exam.  The majority could not even string a a sentence together.  I ended up teaching them very basic sentence structure.  That was even a challenge.  The school went above and beyond trying to help them with study programs, tutoring, mentoring and basic life counseling.  In the end, all for nothing.  

    • JohnEngelman

      Your first sentence should be, “I used to work at a college.”
      Your third sentence could better be written, “A couple with whom I had a good personal relationship…”

    • WhitesRdumb

        I went back to college a few years ago to get an engineering degree. I was never good at English, so I had to take some remedial classes. The class was 80% black 10% Mexican, and 10% white. The teacher/professor wanted the students to proofread each others essays before they where turned in. I had to proofread a fat black woman’s essay. For 3 pages she wrote the same thing over and over again. It went something like this:

       “I like to smoke. I enjoy smoking. I like to smoke because I enjoy it. I enjoy smoking because I like to smoke. I enjoy smoking because I enjoy smoking…” (and on and on and on for 3 pages with worse grammar)

        After about 45 minutes I finished. I re-wrote the 3 page essay using only 8 sentences. When I gave it back to her, she went ballistic. I felt like I was in the chimpanzee cage at the zoo. She kept screaming at me until I finally said that I made a mistake and it was good. When she got her essay back, she had a score of 5 out of 100. She went ballistic on me again, and claimed it was my fault because I told her it was good. I tried to explain that it was her fault for going ballistic, but she couldn’t understand. Somehow I was suppose to magically make her pathetic essay into a work of art. She dropped the class the next week. Some of the blacks in the class were great writers; better than the whites. I have a similar problem with black students in my science and engineering classes. I am so sick of taking up the slack of incompetent and lazy black students.

  • bluffcreek1967

    These are some of the reasons I could never be a public school teacher. I’m admire those who can, but I would never last in such an environment. I simply couldn’t give some undisciplined and unmotivated Black or Mexican student praise for doing sloppy, incorrect or sub-par academic work! Besides, isn’t it rather patronizing (or whatever one chooses to call it) to praise Blacks and Hispanics for ‘at least trying’ when the same teacher would never except such sloppy work from a White or Asian student??

    When White teachers do this (i.e., praise for incorrect work), they are subtly admitting what all of us already recognize: That Blacks are less intelligent, less inclined to rigorous thought and disciplined academics, and lower IQs as well! The same goes for the Mexican students as well since education is not highly valued in their culture and never has been.

  • No

    Please.  Liberals “find” things like this and act surprised . . . but haven’t WE been saying this all along?  There’s nothing new here. 

    Non-whites have no more business going to school than a racoon or an alligator.  They need to know some basics so they can read signs that say:  N-WORD STAY OFF THIS PROPERTY . . . or NO DOGS OR MEXICANS ALLOWED . . . useful stuff that will keep them from getting killed.  But other than that, they have no use for books. 

     Like Chris Rock said:  “books are like kryptonite to a n-word.”

  • First it was stereotype threat.  Now it’s positive bias.  Or the schools are underfunded, and then that money wasn’t the answer. 

    Honestly why haven’t they just admitted what we all already know?  Black failures are largely a result of their lower average IQ, which is due to genetics.

    They want to fix the gap?  I can tell them how to do it using modern technology and the magical white man’s voodoo of artificial insemination and egg donors.  Of course, they won’t be black anymore – but since race is a construct according to them it shouldn’t matter, right?

    • Joe Blow

      I think you have finally hit on a solution, albeit several generations in the making, to the negro problem. Only let the she boons receive well fare if they become surrogate mothers of white babies. Let the men have all the sex they want with white whores in special brothels as long as they agree to get castrated.

      Black women get to live off welfare for having kids, black men get to have sex with all the white women they want, and whites will finally be rid of the burden of sharing a society with blacks after 70 or so years. It’s a winning situation for all involved.

  • bubo

    “the achievement gap between white and minority students, a stubborn national problem”
    There is no achievement gap that the difference in I.Q. can’t account for.   For such “smart” people why do they delude themselves into coming up with one far-fetched explanation after another for black failure?    Haven’t they heard of Occam’s Razor?

    • The__Bobster

      Because they get rewarded for hope and failure.

  • Major

    One of the last white men besides Jared Taylor….resisting the racism of “affirmative action” and it’s insidious , corrupting negative impact on American whites…..against a  biased, white, misanthropic “proud” lesbian.


  • sbuffalonative

    “Black and Latino students may be getting less critical, but helpful, feedback from teachers than their white counterparts”

    Try giving them honest critical feedback and see how long you keep your job. 

    • Anonymous

      That’s how it is dealing with liberals and angry nonwhites.  They want to know our opinion on something, so we give it and then they get mad and call us racists or deny what we say.  I had this recently with a white liberal.  I responded, “You asked my opinion and I gave it to you.  I even have experience and facts to back up what I said and feel educated and experienced to give you the opinion I did.  If you think you’ll get angry at someone’s opinion, here’s a suggestion.  Don’t bring up the topic again.”

  • Chris

    In the 1990’s it was all about “raising self-esteem” as a means to close the achievement gap.  Teachers were told to make students feel good and they would eventually learn more.  They even stopped grading in red pen as red might make them feel bad because it highlights their failures (which is the point of grading.)  Now we see the results.  While trying to raise the self-esteem of minority students, teachers don’t grade as hard as they should.  When the results of liberals hair-brained schemes are revealed and its apparent that it was caused by a previous hair-brained scheme, the solution is another hair-brained scheme.  Liberals are their own worst enemy.

    • WhitesRdumb

      I’m white and I hate that red pen.

      • Jerrybear

        I think that’s the point. The less red ink, the better the grade.

    • Anonymous

      I know there are people who just can’t sing while other can.  I know there are people who can eat all the food they want and still not get fat.  I know a short person can be a basketball player all they want, but that doesn’t mean they can be the next Michael Jordan.  I know some people work lift weights and still don’t look like they do workout.  I know people who just breeze through school with good grades while others bust their hump and barely pass.  I remember kids in college would ditch class and only show up on test days and do better than I did despite the fact I never ditched class, always did my homework and handed it in on time, always studied hard for the tests, etc.    You don’t want to be down on anybody and tell them, “Give up, it’s up no use, you’ll never make it”, but you also have to be realistic.  Maybe some people and some groups of people just can’t succeed at the same rate at others for whatever reason.  It’s not happening and it might not ever happen.  I wish blacks and Hispanics could succeed at the same level as whites and Asians could without the quotas or white guilt and I wish they’d control their hormones and not have kids until they were married with a good-paying job.  What do you do?

  • deadindenver

    Ahh the Academic Achievement Industry strikes again.  Spinning out yet another theory to explain minority academic achievement gap, that avoids any hint of or reference that DNA may be involved.  Yep just another the “Dog ate my homework” excuse

  • There is more to it than this. Teachers are literally afraid to give out bad marks or criticism. Part of it is the mentality that honest criticism will harm the little fartlings’ egos. And there is genuine fear from parents coming down on them for any brutal truth.
    My daughter was subjected to this happy face sticker mentality and loathed it. She had a learning disorder and knew it. By the time high school came, she wouldn’t put up with the bullshit from teachers and demanded honesty from them. Almost all were relieved that there was someone in class not interested in easy A’s.

    • ncpride

      You are correct. Look at the Char-Meck school district here, not allowing any more zero’s on students work. Teachers are not allowed to give a grade below 50. Why? Because, according to some, if the little darlings see a 50 on a test they have utterly failed otherwise, it may help them THINK they can pass. Unbelieveable. They are getting ready to let loose on the country the stupidest, most ignorant generation in history.


      • Sheila

         Public school is de facto child abuse for White children.  At my son’s Christian school, any mark below 70 on anything (homework, quiz, exam, etc.) is failing, and the parents are promptly notified.

        • ncpride

          No doubt most public schools are a disgrace. I remember seeing a news report about a year or so ago, that said homeschooling had exploded to a 75% increase in the past few years, and that was just in NC. That’s not really surprising considering they have lowered standards to the point of absurity. It will only get worse with the continued browning of America, if that’s even possible.

  • Jerrybear

    I seriously doubt the Reform party would amount to much with or without Pat. The two party system is designed to smash any third party competition.

  • KenelmDigby

    If you praise and nuture them …..that’s no good racist and destructive.
    If you hold them to tough standards and are uncompromising, why…..that’s no racist and destructive.

    Just what are you supposed to?, you simply cannot win. All bases are covered, as they say.

    • The__Bobster

      To quote a famous movie, “The only way to win is not to play”.

  • JackKrak

    How dare teachers tell little D’Ontratavious that his barely intelligible, four sentence paragraph is anything less than the pinnacle of Western literature???

  • xxxtonygunsxxx

    virginia reporters WERE BEATEN FOR TARVON MAU-IN
    Police have issued search warrants for four Twitter accounts seeking
    information about an April assault of two Virginian-Pilot reporters.

    The warrants request personal information, including all tweets,
    email addresses and locations of users, from Twitter, according to court
    records. Messages on the online accounts mention the assault.

    In one tweet written about 90 minutes after the attack, a user wrote
    that she feels sorry “for the white man who got beat up at the light.”
    Another user responded that he did not feel bad, writing “do it for
    trayvon martin.”

    Other comments posted on the accounts joked about the assault and mocked police for their response.

  • Detroit_WASP

    Whenever I see a story like this I loved to point out this:

    Detroit spends $11,500 per student educating  kids (99.7% black)

    Clay County Kentucky, one of the poorest areas of the country spends $9,500 per student and the district is 95% white.  

    The black parents in Detroit also earn more than the white parents in Clay Co. Kentucky. 

    So, who do you think does better on the SAT, ACT and ASVAB tests?  RIGHT, the white kids in Kentucky do better.

    REASON?  Racism.  All the tests are racist.   You blue-eyed devils always figure out a way to keep the black man down!

  • NOT just more praise for the black
    but MORE CRITICISM and harsher grading

  • xxxtonygunsxxx

    “….we need a civilian force just as strong, just as well armed”………bar-ouck’   o’vomit

  • vladdy1

    I love it! There are so many variables…those doing the study actually chose to look at the difference lack of support from administrators and other teachers made. Of COURSE, if you get flack from others, you won’t be as likely to be truthful — or you will be and as time goes on,  you’ll either be fired or quir after being harrassed over it so long (and sometimes the quitting comes after a year of hating yourself for your fear of being truthful with your “minority” students because you know you’ll be called in for another “impromptu” meeting where you’ll be dressed down in front of their complaining parents…very professionally, of course.)

  • WhitesRdumb

    And he probably got promoted before you.