Do Racial Stereotypes Impact Teachers’ Communication With Parents?

nyuA new study by a scholar at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University finds that many teachers communicate differently with parents depending on the race and immigrant status of their students.

In an examination of a large group of high school sophomores, the study found that mathematics and English teachers were significantly more likely to contact parents of Black students about behavioral issues than was the case for White students. Parents of Black students were less likely to be contacted by teachers when students had achieved a great accomplishment than was the case for White parents and students. The author states that this bias may result from teachers’ perceptions that Black parents are less involved in their children’s schooling than is the case for White parents.

Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng, an assistant professor of international education at New York University and author of the study, states that “the patterns of communication we saw are consistent with stereotypes that teachers may subscribe to different racial and ethnic groups.”

The study found that teachers were less likely to contact parents of Asian American students about academic issues such as non-completion of homework or poor performance in class, even when the Asian American students were struggling in their academic work. The author speculates that this is the case due to the stereotype that Asian parents are already heavily involved in encouraging their children’s academic pursuits.

Dr. Cherng notes that “these findings support the notion that Asian American students are perceived by teachers to be ‘model minorities’ – the image that all Asian American students excel academically and are in less need of attention or intervention.”

The author recommends that education policy makers be cognizant of the disparities in teacher-parent communication and suggests incorporating more diversity training in teacher preparation programs.

The study, “Is All Classroom Conduct Equal?: Teacher Contact With Parents of Racial/Ethnic Minority and Immigrant Adolescents,” has been published on the website of Teachers College Record. It may be accessed here.

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