How important is it for our kids from lower-income households to have a Black teacher? Very important, it turns out. A recent study conducted by researchers at American University, U.C. Davis and Johns Hopkins reveals that having just one Black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduced low-income Black boys’ probability of dropping out of high school by 39 percent. The researchers looked at long-term records for more than 100,000 Black North Carolina and Tennessee elementary school students. They found that the Black students (boys and girls) assigned to Black teachers were not only graduating high school at higher rates, they were more likely to take a college entrance exam. You can read more about the study here, and read the study itself here.

These results aren’t really surprising, since we know how important it is for all of our kids to see people who look like they do in their classes, especially at the front of the room. Just one Black teacher telling our sons and daughters that they can achieve (and being a living, breathing example of one who has) can make so much of a difference. Of course this means that we need to have more Black teachers in our elementary schools. But this study suggests that by making sure that our sons and daughters have one Black teacher during their elementary school years (especially in 3rd, 4th or 5th grade) improvements can start now. As Nicholas Papageorge of Johns Hopkins, one of the authors of the study notes: “We could push around rosters tomorrow, change the way we assign kids, and have some effects next school year, not 10 years from now.”

GCP parents of the elementary school set: have your sons or daughters had a black teacher in their elementary years? Time to focus on this!