Panel: New Evidence on Racial Disparities in K-12 Education
(Social Equity and Race)

Saturday, November 9, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
I.M Pei Tower: Majestic Level, Savoy (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Ying Shi, Syracuse University
Panel Chair:  Lisa Barrow, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
Discussants:  Jacob Vigdor, University of Washington and Daniel Kreisman, Georgia State University

Our proposed session includes four papers from researchers across disciplines (education, public policy, and economics) that address racial gaps in K-12 educational achievement, with a focus on the role of teacher expectations and bias in shaping these disparities. A growing body of evidence documents the ways in which teacher expectations directly impact student grades and also indirectly affect student performance by shaping their own beliefs and behaviors. As such, efforts to bridge gaps can benefit from a more informed understanding of this determinant of achievement disparities.

The first paper highlights how one increasingly prevalent policy in education – teacher performance pay programs - may interact with expectations of black and white students to exacerbate the racial achievement gap. If teachers hold higher expectations of white students than black students, the introduction of performance pay may mean shifting effort towards white students because they anticipate larger gains from this subgroup.  Drawing on rich administrative data from North Carolina, the authors find evidence for this behavior and a widening black-white gap. The conditional black-white achievement gap expands by nearly 0.05 standard deviations, relative to a baseline conditional gap of 0.06 standard deviations.

The second paper examines the consequences of teacher bias for an understudied group: Latinx students. Teachers may form lower expectations for Latinx non-native English speakers due to stigmatization and other factors. Preliminary evidence shows that having a different race teacher is associated with lower expectations for post-secondary and graduate school completion for Latinx students. Taken together, the evidence suggests that teacher bias may perpetuate educational attainment gaps among Latinx students.

The third paper is motivated by the large and persistent generational differences in racial attitudes in assessing differences in the efficacy of teachers from different generations. Teachers, who are predominantly white, may be differentially effective at teaching black versus white students depending on which generation they belong to. The authors use administrative North Carolina data to show that teachers from recent generations help narrow the black-white test score achievement gap compared to teachers from older generations. Evidence also suggests that the benefit of assignment to a black teacher for black students is lower for recent generations of teachers than older generations. These results provide optimism regarding the black-white test score gap since recent generations of teachers are substantially more effective at teaching black students than earlier generations.

The final paper not only documents the extent of teacher bias, it also scrutinizes its origins. The authors propose that early classroom conditions shape teacher expectations and subsequent assessments of the same racial/ethnic group. Using rich administrative data linking students, teachers, and courses, the paper provides some of the first evidence on factors affecting the formation of teacher biases. It finds that the distribution of academic abilities among white and black students in novice teachers’ first classrooms matter for how teachers assess students of the same racial groups later on.  For example, a larger math performance gap favoring white students in early classrooms leads to greater teacher favoritism of subsequent cohorts of white students.

Generational Gaps in Teacher Effectiveness and Race
Javaeria Qureshi, Nhu Nguyen and Ben Ost, University of Illinois, Chicago

Paying for Whose Performance? Teacher Incentives and the Black-White Achievement Gap
Daniel B. Jones, University of Pittsburgh and Andrew Hill, Montana State University

Teacher Bias and Educational Attainment Among Hispanic/Latinx Students
Brittany Blizzard and Alberto Jacinto, American University

Teacher Biases: Evidence on the Role of Early-Career Experiences
Marcos A. Rangel, Duke University and Ying Shi, Syracuse University

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