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Exposure to Same-Race or Same-Ethnicity Teachers and Advanced Math Course-Taking in High School: Evidence From a Diverse Urban District

by Jason A. Grissom, Sarah E. Kabourek & Jenna W. Kramer - 2020

Background/Context: Research links advanced mathematics course-taking to important later outcomes, including college graduation and earnings, yet many students fail to progress into higher math courses as they move through high school. Black and Hispanic high school students are less likely than their white peers to take advanced math courses. A complex set of factors inform decisions about student course-taking, but teachers play key roles, including providing information about courses, giving students encouragement, helping students form aspirations (e.g., through role modeling), and serving as gatekeepers via grade assignment and formal recommendations. At the same time, growing empirical evidence suggests that students from different racial/ethnic groups benefit from being taught by teachers with similar demographic backgrounds, which motivates an analysis connecting math teacher–student racial or ethnic congruence with progression into higher math courses in high school.

Purpose: We investigate the degree to which having a math teacher of the same race or ethnicity predicts subsequent enrollment in more advanced high school math courses, as well as in honors and Advanced Placement (AP) math courses. We also investigate potential mechanisms, including impacts of student–teacher congruence on course grades and standardized test performance, which may in turn predict a higher likelihood of advanced math course enrollment.

Setting: We examine student-level administrative data from high schools in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest school district in the United States.

Research Design: We estimate the likelihood that a student will take a higher level math course as a function of student–teacher racial/ethnic congruence, plus student, teacher, and classroom characteristics, and school fixed effects. This research design compares later math course-taking between students with and without race/ethnicity-congruent teachers within the same school, holding a variety of other factors constant. We estimate similar models for honors and AP course-taking. We also estimate models for math course grades and end-of-course (EOC) exam scores using school-by-course and student fixed effects.

Findings/Results: We find that high school students with a same-race or same-ethnicity teacher are more likely to take a higher math course in the next year than other students taking the same course in the same school. Associations are largest for Black students, who are 2 percentage points more likely to advance to a higher math course when taught by a Black teacher. Having a demographically similar teacher is also associated with movement into honors and AP courses in the next term, on average, though results vary by student subgroup. Students receive higher EOC scores and higher grades when taught by a demographically similar teacher, with higher grades even than what would be predicted by their EOC score, particularly in algebra.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Our analysis contributes to growing evidence on the importance of teacher diversity for outcomes for students from minoritized groups and is among only a very small set of studies that demonstrate teachers’ impacts on student outcomes not just for one year, but also in subsequent years. Our results underscore the importance of efforts to recruit and retain teachers of color, particularly in high schools. We recommend future research to better understand the mechanisms linking diverse teachers to student course-taking outcomes.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 7, 2020, p. 1-42
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23323, Date Accessed: 2/27/2021 4:28:00 PM

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About the Author
  • Jason Grissom
    Vanderbilt University
    E-mail Author
    JASON A. GRISSOM, Ph.D., is a professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and faculty director of the Tennessee Education Research Alliance. His research interests include school leadership, educator labor markets, educational equity, and K–12 politics and governance. Recent coauthored publications include “Strategic Retention: Principal Effectiveness and Teacher Turnover in Multiple-Measure Teacher Evaluation Systems” (2019, American Educational Research Journal) and “Money over Merit? Socioeconomic Gaps in Receipt of Gifted Services” (2019, Harvard Educational Review).
  • Sarah Kabourek
    University of Chicago
    E-mail Author
    SARAH E. KABOUREK is a research scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago. She conducts mixed-methods and quantitative analysis on a range of topics related to early childhood education, program evaluation, and school finance, with an equity-oriented focus. Her work at NORC includes partnerships with federal, local, and private education agencies working toward expanding the reach and quality of early childhood education and preschool services.
  • Jenna Kramer
    RAND Corporation
    E-mail Author
    JENNA WEBER KRAMER is an associate policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. Her research leverages experimental, quasi-experimental, and qualitative methods to examine the effects of institutional practices and governmental policies on student postsecondary preparation, college access and success, and workforce transition. Her recent work focuses in particular on the student transition to open-access postsecondary training and the enrollment decisions and experiences of students in a tuition-free college environment.
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