By Charlie Schroeder, Continuous Improvement Coordinator
There is a growing body of research that suggests that minority students could benefit from assignment to teachers of their own race/ethnicity. However, minority teachers are typically underrepresented in the public-school system. This underrepresentation of minority teachers could be one of the many contributing factors to the student achievement gap.
There are a number of theories in existence that attempt to explain the mechanisms through which the assignment to a same-race teacher might influence a student’s achievement.  For years, research has documented the racial disparities in a variety of measures, including kindergarten readiness, early grade reading, early grade math, and high school graduation rates.  Many studies and reports have argued that increasing the diversity of teachers to better match the population of students they are teaching is a vital component to tackling the student achievement gap. 
One potential reason that students of color benefit more from having same race teachers is because teachers often act as role models for career success and academic engagement.  In addition, studies have also documented the notion that teachers of color tend to have higher expectations for their students of color than white teachers.  The interactions between students and teachers influence how the students perceives their own academic abilities, so having a teacher that does not seem to hold a student to a very high expectation could lead to decreased academic engagement and perpetuate a stereotype threat.
Following national trends, student diversity in Brown County is significantly different from teacher diversity. During the 2015-16 school year, 96.9% of county teachers were white, compared to 68.67% of students. This gap is widening over time. There is a much greater percentage of students identifying racially as Hispanic (10.4% -> 14.8%), two or more races (0% -> 4.1%), and black (4.7% -> 5.2%).  Alongside of individuals who identify as white, Asian and American Indians as a percent of total are dropping. Data projections show a considerable increase of Hispanic and African American students in Brown County’s public school system. The projections to 2019 show that as the Non-Hispanic White population decreases, Hispanic and African American populations will increase.  The growing diversity of the student body and lack of diversity among teachers in Brown County will be an important thing to keep in our minds as we research student achievement going forward.
 Holt, S. B., & Gershenson, S. (2015). The Impact of Teacher Demographic Representation on Student Attendance and Suspensions. Institute of Labor Economics.
 Ahmad, F. Z., & Boser, U. (2014). America’s Leaky Pipeline for Teachers of Color: Getting More Teachers of Color into the Classroom (Rep.). Washington D.C: Center for American Progress.
 Dilworth, M. E., & Coleman, M. J. (2014). Time for a Change: Diversity in Teaching Revisited (Rep.). National Education Association.
 Papageorge, N. W., Gershenson, S., & Kang, K. (2016). Teacher Expectations Matter. Institute of Labor Economics.
 ABC analysis of data; retrieved from https://dpi.wi.gov/wisedash/download-files/type?field_wisedash_upload_type_value=Enrollment&field_wisedash_data_view_value=All (WISEdash Enrollment CURRENT) and https://dpi.wi.gov/cst/data-collections/staff/published-data (WI DPI’s Salary, Position, & Demographic Reports)
Published: April 18, 2018
Edited: August 5, 2021