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The role of race and teachers’ cultural awareness in predicting low-income, Black and Hispanic students’ perceptions of educational attainment

Abstract

Demographic shifts in the United States have resulted in similar demographic shifts between K-12 teachers and their students, resulting in important implications for the educational outcomes of traditionally marginalized students and educators’ cultural awareness required in teaching diverse classrooms. Using data from the Three-City Teacher Study, this study examined students’ (N = 207; 55 % female; 52 % non-Hispanic Black, 48 % non-White Hispanic; mean age = 16.70 years, SD = 1.67) and teachers’ (N = 202; 71.5 % female; 64.3 % white; mean years of experience = 13.80 years, SD = 10.83) agreement on the potential educational attainment of the student. Specifically, we explored the probability that teachers had lower, matched, or higher perceptions of educational attainment compared to their low-income Black and Hispanic students’ perceptions of attainment while accounting for teachers’ and students’ reports of school connectedness, teachers’ cultural awareness, and moderating effects of students’ race. Results from multinomial logistic regressions found that teachers were more likely to have lower perceptions of educational attainment for Hispanic students compared to Black students. Teachers were also more likely to have lower perceptions when they perceived students to have low school connectedness. For Black students, teachers’ cultural awareness attenuated this association; that is, teachers were more likely to have higher perceptions of educational attainment for Black students when they reported higher cultural awareness. The reverse was true for Hispanic students. These results enhance our understanding of how teacher and student perceptions shape expectations of educational attainment with implications for teacher education and professional development domestically and internationally.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The United States poverty level is calculated by the Census Bureau and compares a family’s income with established income thresholds that vary by family size and composition. For example, an income threshold in 1999 for a family of 3 was $13,880; in this study, a family would be considered low-income if their income was $27,760 or below.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge and thank the funding agencies that allowed for the collection of the data: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01 HD36093 “Welfare Reform and the Well-Being of Children”), The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Searle Fund for Policy Research. We also thank the universities that provided a large amount of internal support for the research team. We extend a special thank you to the research firm, Research Triangle Institute (RTI) as well as to the children and caregivers who graciously participated in the Three-City Study and gave us access to their lives during the past 6 years. We gratefully thank the families for allowing us to approach the focal child’s teacher, and the school districts and individual schools that granted permission to contact their employees. We are grateful to the teachers who participated in the study. We thank them for being a part of the TCTS project and their ongoing dedication to educating American’s children. The write-up of this work was supported by a grant from the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University. We also thank Dr. Pamela W. Garner for providing feedback on earlier versions of the manuscript.

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Mahatmya, D., Lohman, B.J., Brown, E.L. et al. The role of race and teachers’ cultural awareness in predicting low-income, Black and Hispanic students’ perceptions of educational attainment. Soc Psychol Educ 19, 427–449 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-016-9334-1

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Keywords

  • Race
  • Teacher perceptions
  • Cultural competence
  • Educational attainment