Of Promise and Penalties: How Student Racial-Cultural Markers Shape Teacher Perceptions

Abstract

Scholars document considerable disparities in teacher perceptions of students, yet absent from this literature is an examination of how race, ethnicity, and immigration status intersect to influence teacher ratings. This study extends previous research by examining variation in teachers’ ratings of academic ability across four conventional racial/ethnic groups as well as thirteen racialized subgroups. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten Class of 1998–1999, we find that black first-graders receive lower ratings in language and literacy, a pattern that holds for both black Americans and black immigrants. In contrast, Asian first-graders receive higher ratings in math; however, this is primarily driven by teachers’ much higher ratings of East Asian and Southeast Asian immigrants. These subgroup differences remain even after controlling for a host of background and contextual factors, as well as students’ tested ability and academic growth in math and reading. Teacher perceptions of student academic behavior explain lower language and literacy ratings for black Americans and higher math ratings for Southeast Asian immigrants that are present net background and performance, but higher math ratings for East Asian immigrants remain. We conclude by discussing implications of our approach and findings.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Indeed, native-born Americans may believe that all Asians are first-generation immigrants. For example, Asian Americans report frequently being asked questions such as “Where are you really from?”, implying that native-born Americans believe all Asians are born abroad (Luo 2016).

  2. 2.

    The sample was refreshed the following year to account for students who did not enroll in school until first grade.

  3. 3.

    Dependent variables were included in imputation models; however, only cases with valid responses for the dependent variables were included in our analysis. Additionally, our analytic sample size is rounded to the nearest tenth in accordance with NCES rules for restricted data use.

  4. 4.

    South Asians are not divided by immigration status because the overwhelming majority of students in this category are either 1.5 or second generation.

  5. 5.

    BIC statistics for models estimated with non-imputed data suggest that replacing the race/ethnicity variable with the multidimensional racialized subgroup measure improves model fit.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Brian Powell, Matthew Hughey, Becky Schewe, Ryan Cobb, and anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback on previous drafts of this manuscript.

Funding

This research was supported by a Ford Foundation Fellowship through The National Academies and by a grant from the American Educational Research Association which receives funds for its Grants Program from the National Science Foundation under NSF Grant #DRL-0941014. This research was also supported in part by Grant, 5 R24 HD042849, Population Research Center, awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Opinions reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the granting agencies.

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Correspondence to Yasmiyn Irizarry.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 6, 7 and 8.

Table 6 Descriptive statistics for model controls
Table 7 Comparison of racialized subgroup estimates for teacher ratings of language and literacy skills from Models 4 and 5
Table 8 Comparison of racialized subgroup estimates for teacher ratings of math skills from Models 4 and 5

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Irizarry, Y., Cohen, E.D. Of Promise and Penalties: How Student Racial-Cultural Markers Shape Teacher Perceptions. Race Soc Probl 11, 93–111 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-018-9231-7

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Keywords

  • Race
  • Racialization
  • Racial disparities
  • Teacher perceptions
  • Stereotypes