Panel Paper: Inspiring Preparation: African American Teacher Representation and the Decision to Pursue a College Preparatory Diploma

Thursday, November 6, 2014 : 2:45 PM
Picuris (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Danielle Atkins and Vicky Wilkins, University of Georgia
Research in the field of representative bureaucracy provides evidence that the presence of minority bureaucrats can improve educational outcomes for minority students. However, the vast majority of these studies rely on measures that focus on how the behavior of minority teachers influence educational outcomes for minority students with very little attention on how the presence of minority teachers may change the behavior of minority students (the work on dropout rates and reproductive health are notable exceptions). Recent work uses interview and survey data to capture how the beliefs and aspirations of individual minority students are linked to the overall representation of minority teachers in their schools and finds that increased representation of African-American teachers is related to an increase in the likelihood that an African-American student believes he or she will graduate from college.

In this study, we question whether the presence of African-American teachers will change the behavior of African-American students. Specifically, does increasing the representation of African-American teachers alter course selection by African-American students? We use data from Georgia public high schools to examine this question.  Students entering ninth grade in 1999-2007 (graduating in 2003-2011) in the state of Georgia had the option to pursue a College Preparatory seal on their high school diploma. To receive the seal on their diploma students had to complete a specific program of study, pass the Georgia High School Graduation Tests, and satisfy attendance requirements. The program of study specified by the Georgia Board of Education required that students successfully complete four credits of language arts, mathematics, and electives. Students must take three courses in both science and social studies, two course units of foreign language, and one unit each of physical education and fine arts. The program of study was designed to overlap with the admission criteria for state colleges and universities and was specifically aligned with the minimum standards required by the Board of Regents of the University of Georgia. Receiving this seal on his or her high school diploma was a positive signal that the student was planning to attend college after graduation.

Based on previous findings in the area of representative bureaucracy, we expect to find that African-American students will be more likely to pursue and receive the College Preparatory seal when the presence of African-American teachers increases. We test this contention by examining the relationship between the percentage of African-American students graduating with a college preparatory diploma and the representation of Africa-American teachers. We find that increased representation of African-American teachers is associated with a statistically significant increase in the percentage of African-American college preparatory diplomas. Additionally, we do not find evidence that increased representation of African-American teachers results in a tradeoff for majority students.