Panel Paper: Teacher Bias and Educational Attainment Among Hispanic/Latinx Students

Saturday, November 9, 2019
I.M Pei Tower: Majestic Level, Savoy (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Brittany Blizzard and Alberto Jacinto, American University

Closing educational attainment gaps by race and ethnicity is a key concern for policymakers addressing inequality in the United States. Teacher bias in the form of higher and lower expectations for different groups are seen as playing an increasing role in perpetuating race- and gender-related achievement gaps (Gershenson, Holt, & Papageorge, 2016). This paper extends work by Gershenson and colleagues (2016) by looking at within-group heterogeneity among Latinx students.

Rosenthal and Jacobson's (1968) seminal teacher expectations piece demonstrates that teacher expectations matter. Teacher expectations are a function of the teacher’s perception of the student in the classroom as well as the teacher’s perception of the students' socio-demographic characteristics (Dee, 2005; Peterson, Rubie-Davies, Osborne, & Sibley, 2016; Soares, Fernandes, Ferraz, & de Riani, 2010). Past research indicates that teachers base their expectations for students on numerous factors, including physical attractiveness, socioeconomic status, and immigrant background (Auwarter & Aruguete, 2008; Cate & Glock, 2018; Parks & Kennedy, 2007). Recent literature has shifted attention to the causal impact of student-teacher demographic mismatch on teacher expectations. Studies focusing on the effect of gender and race mismatch show that teachers maintain lower expectations for demographically mismatched students (Dee, 2005; Gershenson et al., 2016).

The literature to date has not tested whether teachers maintain differential expectations for students in the domain of language. Latinx students are more likely to be English language learners or come from a bilingual home, which may bias teachers toward lower expectations for this group of students. There are a couple of reasons to believe that teachers would have different expectations for non-native English speaking students. First, the U.S. has a history of banning the instruction of foreign languages in schools (Bent, 2012). This is likely to lead to a stigmatization of foreign languages, specifically in Latinx students, in the classroom and beyond. Second, stereotypes about the job prospects for Latinx non-native English speakers may lead teachers to form lower expectations for these students. In this study, we look at the effect of being an English language learner on teacher expectation for Latinx students, and how these expectations affect long-run outcomes for these students. We find preliminary evidence that having a different race teacher is associated with lower expectations for post-secondary and graduate school completion for Latinx students whose second language is English. The results of this study have a number of policy implications and is the first, to the authors’ knowledge, to show how teacher bias may perpetuate educational attainment gaps among Latinx students.