Black Students Think School Is Fairer When Teachers Look Like Them

Sep 9, 2015

African American students have greater faith in the fairness of their schools when they have more black teachers. That’s a finding in a new national study conducted by professors from the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri.

The study examined student attitudes towards discipline and fairness by analyzing survey data of 10th graders around the country from the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education.

Researcher Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, says these findings echo research he has conducted about black perceptions of fairness in police departments and other government agencies.

“The first real experience many people have with authority outside the home is authority within public schools,” Haider-Markel said.

In the context of police shootings and unrest in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York City and elsewhere, Haider-Markel said it was important to examine how trust in schools as an institution develops.

“I think the efforts to recruit more minority candidates into education programs and pursue education degrees and pursue being teachers would be highly advantageous to public schools,” Haider-Markel said. “And particularly, we noted that in schools that have a higher percentage of minority students … the benefits of recruiting African American teachers in particular were the highest.”

Federal research has found that black students are three times more likely than white students to be disciplined, and Haider-Markel said that this tends to happen in schools with higher numbers of teachers of color.

“It’s not so much that people will be wholly upset by the particular outcome that they received, if they believed the process was fair,” Haider-Markel said.

According to the study, white students with more minority teachers are also more likely to believe discipline at their schools is fair.