Black Students Much More Likely to Be Placed in Gifted Programs If Teachers Are Black

Black Teachers Think More Highly of Black Students
A new study finds that black teachers are more likely than white teachers to identify black students as educationally gifted. Sean Gallup/Getty

It has long been known that black students are significantly underrepresented in gifted programs, and now one factor is seen as a possible contributor: racial bias.

If a black student has a black teacher, that student is three times more likely to be placed in a program for gifted students than if the student has a white teacher, a study published Tuesday in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory found.

Using national survey data, the researchers from Indiana and Vanderbilt universities also found that even after adjusting for the students' scores on standardized tests and other variables, black students are 54 percent less likely than white students to be identified as eligible for gifted-education services overall.

The data, gleaned from the federal Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which tracks information about students from kindergarten through eighth grade, demonstrates that there is "some evidence" black teachers' perceptions of black students are more positive than are white teachers' perceptions, the researchers wrote, which could be "partially" responsible for the large discrepancy.

"It's that teacher-student match, independent of your test score," Jill Nicholson-Crotty, an associate professor at Indiana University and an author on the study, said in a statement. "It's the relationship between the teacher and the student." The researchers also found that it made no difference if the teaching force in the school was diverse in general; what mattered was the race of the child's classroom teacher.

The study arrives on the heels of another study, out of American University, which found that teachers who were not black had significantly lower expectations for black students than black teachers did, even when evaluating the same students.