An Honors Teacher Like Me: Teacher-Student Demographic Match Effects on Advanced Course Enrollment and Performance
Cassandra Hart

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Davis

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
Education researchers have long been concerned about the inequality in outcomes for students from different race/ethnic groups. Although the Black-White and Latino-White achievement gaps have narrowed since the 1970s, Black and Latino students continue to post lower scores on standardized tests (Reardon & Robinson, 2008), take fewer advanced courses (Klopfenstein, 2004; Solorzano & Ornelas, 2004), and graduate at lower rates (Murnane, 2013) than their white and Asian peers.One suggestion to reduce these disparities has been to expand the pool of teachers of color. In 2014, 43% of students nation-wide were non-white, compared to only 18% of teachers from non-white groups (Boser, 2014). This is problematic because numerous studies find that students perform better on tests when taught by teachers of the same race (Dee, 2004; Egalite, Kisida, & Winters, 2015; Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2006a). To the extent that students of color are less likely than whites to be taught by same-race teachers, then, the dearth of teachers of color may exacerbate disparities in outcomes for white students and students of color.The under-representation of teachers of color is especially stark in advanced courses. For example, a study of North Carolina elementary schools found that Black teachers were disproportionately assigned to teach students with lower levels of prior achievement (Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2006b). At the high school level, a 2004 study found that only one of nine African-American students in Texas attended schools with even one Black instructor in Advanced Placement (AP) courses (Klopfenstein, 2004). This suggests that high-achieving students of color are especially unlikely to have access to any benefits associated with same-race teachers in their advanced courses. This is troubling since advanced course-taking is associated with downstream outcomes like the likelihood of college matriculation (Jackson, 2010).Despite the importance of understanding factors that may affect the advanced course-taking gap, however, there has been virtually no attention to whether the dearth of same-race instructors affects the advanced course enrollment and course performance of students of color. This study fills this gap in the literature. Specifically, it seeks to determine:1) Does access to same-race teachers in advanced-track (e.g., AP, International Baccalaureate (IB), or Honors courses) courses affect the enrollment of students of color?2) Does access to same-race teachers affect performance outcomes for students of color in advanced courses? Outcomes of interest will include course grades and scores on AP tests.This study uses administrative data from North Carolina that provides information on both enrollment in courses by race and links to teachers who taught those courses. It employs rigorous quasi-experimental methods to take advantage of changes in instructor race for established advanced-track classes within schools, a source of variation that is plausibly exogenous to students’ propensity for taking, and achievement in, those classes. This project will result in a substantial improvement in our knowledge of whether the teacher-student demographic match benefits established in other classes extend to promoting improved outcomes in advanced courses. It will also speak to important, long-standing questions of how best to improve outcomes for students of color, and especially how to best serve high-achieving students of color who are too often overlooked in current policy debates.
About Cassandra Hart
Cassandra Hart is an assistant professor of education policy in the School of Education at the University of California, Davis and a faculty research affiliate at the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research. She uses quasi-experimental methods to study the effects of school, state and national education policies on overall student achievement, and on the equality of student outcomes. Hart’s recent work has focused on the effects of teacher-student demographic match on student outcomes; and on student use of, and performance in, virtual courses. Other work has focused on school choice programs, school accountability policies, and early childhood education policies. Dr. Hart earned her PhD at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University.

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