Study by Educational Psychology Ph.D. Student Published

Damira and her coauthors on May 2016 at an international mindfulness conference in Rome, IT. Pictured from left to right is Joshua Brown, Damira Rasheed, Deborah Schussler (not a coauthor), Sebrina Doyle, and Tish Jennings.

Second year Educational Psychology Ph.D. student Damira Rasheed’s study (first author) on “The Association between Teacher-Child Race/Ethnicity Matching and Classroom Diversity Differential Effect on Children’s Socioemotional and Academic Skills” was recently published in Child Development (online version coming out soon). Using a diverse sample of students and teachers, the current study sought to examine whether children’s academic performance and socioemotional competencies varied as a function of teacher-child racial/ethnic match or mismatch. It also extends beyond the typically studied dichotomous approaches to understanding match and mismatch, by examining differential associations between the mismatched teacher-child subgroups. Moreover, they examine how the impact of teacher-child racial/ethnic match and mismatch on children’s outcomes vary as a function of classroom racial/ethnic diversity. This research is important as it attempts to explicate and provide solutions for the pervasive racial/ethnic achievement gap between Black and Latinx students compared to White and Asian students.

Background:

The authors cite research suggesting that children’s race/ethnicity is highly predictive of their school attendance, standardized math and reading achievement scores, and teachers’ expectations of their academic ability and future educational success. Furthermore, these research studies found that compared to their White and Asian peers, Black and Latinx students experienced more negative school achievement, poorer teacher expectations and ratings, and were perceived as less socioemotionally competent. The authors also cite studies that suggests White teachers tend to give more negative assessments of non-White children than non-White teachers. The authors use a cultural asynchrony lens to explain potential cultural misunderstandings that may be occurring between teachers and students in the classroom, which in turn may be having a detrimental impact on student achievement. The authors also review recent studies that suggest students of color may benefit from being assigned to a same race/ethnic teacher or to a racially/ethnically diverse classroom, however, they explain this potential benefit may be hindered by the disproportional representation of teachers of color compared to children of color in American public schools.

Research Questions and Hypotheses:

Authors hypothesized that teachers of same race/ethnicity students would have more favorable academic and socioemotional outcomes than children with different race/ethnicity teachers, but these outcomes would not differ between children from teacher-child racial/ethnic match subgroups. For example, Latinx teachers’ reports of their relational closeness with Latinx children will not differ from White teachers reports of their relational closeness with White children. Furthermore, given the research suggesting Black and Latinx students experience a greater sense of belonging and competence as well as have more access to resources important to academic success in integrated classrooms, they hypothesize that higher levels of classroom diversity would be associated with more positive academic and socioemotional outcomes for children, and would serve a protective role for children in teacher-child racial/ethnic mismatched pairs. The learning environments of racially/ethnically integrated settings may be inherently structured to promote better academic and socioemotional outcomes compared to segregated and thus homogeneous classrooms and schools, therefore, differences in the effects of match versus mismatch may be more evident in low diversity classrooms.

Methodology:

The current study included224 teacher and their 5200 students. The proportion of children across grade levels was similar (17% Kindergarten, 19% 1st Grade, 15% 2nd Grade, 16% 3rd Grade, 15% 4th Grade, and 18% 5th Grade), as were the proportion of females (n= 2744, 50.8%) and males (n = 2456, 49.2%). Participating children were predominantly Latinx or Black (66% Latinx, 23% Black, 3% Asian, 3% White, and 5% unidentified). Eight percent of children (n = 435) had an individualized education plan (IEP), 16% (n = 841) were English language learners (ELL), and over three-quarters (82%) qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. The final analytic sample included 4560 children and 213 teachers.

Teacher reports of children’s academic competence and appropriate classroom behavior were assessed using standardized, psychometrically sound, and widely used measures. The Academic Competence Evaluation Scale-Teacher Form (ACES; DiPerna & Elliott, 1999) was used to assess children's engagement, motivation, math, and reading competencies. School records of children's days absent and present assessed attendance, and he Social Skills Improvement System (Top 10) scale (Social Skills, Gresham & Elliott, 2008) assessed social skills.

Findings:

The current study used a large diverse sample of elementary school children and teachers to examine conceptualizations of teacher-child racial/ethnic match and mismatch, and the moderating role of classroom diversity on children’s academic and social outcomes. Consideration of the effects of race/ethnicity in this predominantly homogenous school context is important as these are the likely characteristics of schools and classrooms Black and Latinx children attend in large urban cities. Using a predominantly Latinx and Black sample allowed for the examination of whether classroom diversity or having a same race/ethnicity teacher provided similar benefits within this sample as have been shown in previous studies when Latinx and Black children are in majority White teacher and student samples (Bates & Glick, 2013). The authors observed that teacher-child racial/ethnic match was associated with children’s improved engagement, motivation, social skills, and attendance. Classroom diversity was positively associated with better reading skills, but it was also related to more relational conflict and higher student absenteeism.

Children paired with same race/ethnicity teachers also had fewer absences than children paired with different race/ethnicity teachers, which is consistent with prior results showing a link between teacher-child race/ethnicity match and lower absenteeism (Holt & Gershenson, 2015). This is an important finding given the links between absenteeism and early school adjustment skills that are critical to later school and life success (Ferguson, 2016; US DOE, 2017).

In racially/ethnically homogeneous classrooms, Black children fared worse than Latinx children in Latinx teachers’ classrooms; no differences were found in racially/ethnically heterogeneous classrooms. Though teacher-child match was protective for Latinx children, poorer ratings of Black children (i.e., those who received lower ratings in low diversity classrooms) improved in diverse classrooms. These results highlight the importance of classroom diversity among children and teachers and suggest racially/ethnically diverse classrooms may be particularly beneficial for Black children in classrooms of non-Black teachers. This protective effect may be driven by unmeasured factors correlated with more diverse classrooms, such as more skilled teachers and greater classroom resources that can effectively promote children’s socioemotional and academic outcomes. Further, greater classroom racial/ethnic diversity may increase the number of race/ethnic congruent peers, affording opportunities for both diverse and same race/ethnic classroom affiliations, and mitigating the negative effects of cultural asynchrony with a non-Black teacher.

Implications of the Research:

The reviewed research and results from the current study suggest Black and Latinx children, and Black children to an even greater extent, face challenges from very early in life. Ferguson (2016) suggests the situation for Black children in the US is so dire that intervention should begin at the prenatal stage. This study provides evidence that even in a diverse sample; children’s outcomes still vary by teacher and child race/ethnicity. Based on our results, schools should employ policies that increase child and teacher racial/ethnic diversity at the classroom level. For the last decade non-White teacher recruitment and retention has been a national initiative. Although, schools and districts have been recruiting more teachers of color it remains inadequate (Carver-Thomas, 2018). Current initiatives are focused on explicating the barriers to recruitment and mechanism to address high attrition rates. A report published by the Learning Policy Institute (2018) found that teacher licensure exams disproportionately exclude teachers of color, and poor working conditions and low salaries can exacerbate attrition rates. In classrooms of teacher-child racial/ethnic mismatch, diverse classrooms may attenuate the negative effects of teacher-child race/ethnicity mismatch for some children. The authors write that this should be considered when planning strategies to recruit and retain teachers of color.

Submitted on: MAY 30, 2019

Category: Educational Psychology