Community college students perform better when the instructor is the same race or ethnicity, according to a study published by the National Bureau for Economic Research. The effect is greatest for blacks and younger students, concludes “A Community College Instructor Like Me: Race and Ethnicity Interactions in the Classroom.”
Researchers studied the grades and persistence of more than 30,000 students at De Anza College near San Jose. A majority (51 percent) of De Anza students are Asian-American with some coming from low-income immigrant families and others from affluent homes. Twenty-eight percent are white, 14 percent Latino, 4 percent black and 3 percent “other.”
Approximately 70 percent of instructors are white, 15 percent are Asian-American, 8 percent Latino and 4.5 percent black.
I wonder if the results would be the same at a college with more black and Latino students and instructors.
All groups did best in course completion and grades with a same-race instructor and worse with a different-race instructor, notes Inside Higher Ed.
Among all nonwhite groups, the study found a gain of 2.9 percentage points in the proportion of students completing courses taught by instructors of the same race as students — cutting in half the gaps in minority vs. white course completion rates. (Among all students in all non-recreational courses, 24 percent of white students drop out, compared to 26 percent of Asian students, 28 percent of Latino students, 30 percent of black students and 28 percent of other, nonwhite students.)
. . . of those students who don’t drop out, 89 percent of white and Asian students pass, compared to 82 percent of black students; and 68 percent of white and Asian students who complete courses earn at least a B, while only 53 percent of black students do. For black students taught by a black instructor, there was a gain of 13 percentage points — among those who completed the course — in the proportion earning a B or higher.
It’s not likely that minority instructors grade same-race minority students leniently, researchers conclude, pointing to dropout rates that occur before the instructor has handed out any grades. In addition, same-race instructors have little effect on achievement by students 22 and older.
If the students were reacting to discrimination by instructors, the impact should be evident among older students as well, the authors write. The authors write that they suspect younger students “are likely to be susceptible to role-model effects, while older students are not.”
While hiring more black and Latino instructors would give an academic boost to traditional-age students in these groups, it would hurt the performance of Asians and whites, the researchers pointed out.