What are the benefits of a diverse teacher workforce? It’s a big question, but a new discussion paper by Seth Gershenson, Cassandra M. D. Hart, Constance A. Lindsay, and Nicholas W. Papageorge presents high quality evidence that low-income black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college. This paper adds to the literature on the benefits of students having access to teachers of the same race bringing long-term outcomes into the picture. The researchers do an admirable job of supporting a causal interpretation of their findings, the key ones being these:
- 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.
- For very low-income black boys, the probability of dropping out fell 39 percent.
In a Johns Hopkins news release, the paper’s co-author Nicholas Papageorge said, “We’re seeing spending just one year with a teacher of the same race can move the dial on one of the most frustratingly persistent gaps in educational attainment — that of low-income black boys. It not only moves the dial, it moves the dial in a powerful way.”