There are many factors that can affect how well students do in schools. But can the race and gender of a teacher have an effect? For children of color the answer may be yes.
As students have returned to school, they have been greeted by teachers who, more likely than not, are white women. That means many students will be continuing to see teachers who are a different gender than they are, and a different skin color.
But how much does that matter? According to a significant body of research, for non-white students it may matter quite a bit. Students tend to benefit from having teachers who look like them, especially nonwhite students.
Over all, girls outperform boys, and white students outperform those who are black and Hispanic. According to the research, the disparity may be due in part to the teacher not being of the same race or gender.
At the present time, 77 percent of teachers in public and private elementary and high schools are women, up from 71 percent three decades ago. The teaching force has grown more racially diverse in that period, but it’s still 80 percent white, down from 87 percent.
The effect of the problem is stronger on boys. Research has found that boys, and particularly black boys, are more affected than girls by disadvantages, like poverty and racism, and by positive influences, like high-quality schools and role models. Yet they are least likely to have had a teacher that looks like them. For black children and especially disadvantaged black children, the effect of having even just one black teacher is fairly big and robust and a real thing.
The issue of the race and gender of teachers influencing student performance is difficult to fully assess and there are certainly many other factors that may come into play. If future research sheds more light on this the issue it will then become a matter of encouraging still more diversity in teachers.