The Role of Teacher Implicit Bias in the Racial Achievement Gap
Mortenson, Breah Caitlin
Morrison, Donna R
The black-white academic achievement gap in the American education system persists, despite decades-long efforts to close it. Several theories have been posited to explain this achievement gap between students of different races with the same socioeconomic status, including a predominantly white teacher population contrasted against an increasingly racially diverse student body, a lower esteem for education in black families, and oppositional culture theory, which holds that black culture rejects the normative values that lead to educational achievement.My research explores an alternative theory, that the implicit racial bias of teachers accounts for the racial achievement gap not explained by socioeconomic factors. I examine whether implicit racial bias is a statistically significant predictor of student achievement levels, irrespective of a teacher’s race. Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ nationally representative 2002 Educational Longitudinal Study, I conduct a series of OLS multivariate analyses to test for correlations between student achievement and teacher attitudes and student race and teacher attitudes. I use students’12th grade standardized math test scores as a measurement of student achievement. To examine teachers’ assessments of student ability and engagement, I use factor analysis to develop a composite variable of base year teacher survey responses specific to individual students, and I create an interaction variable to test the relationship between teacher assessments of students and student race.The results of my analysis support the hypothesis that part of the racial achievement gap not explained by socioeconomic factors can be attributed to a proxy measure for teacher implicit racial bias. In order to one day close the racial achievement gap, we must first understand all of its causes. Empirical studies such as this one, demonstrating the role of teacher implicit racial bias in the achievement gap, will enable policymakers to develop tailored policies through which to address teacher implicit racial bias.
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