A study led by scholars at the University of Texas, and including researchers from Columbia University, and Stanford University, finds that middle school students of color who lose trust in their teachers due to a perception of mistreatment or unfairness are less likely to go to college, even if they achieved good grades and test scores that qualified them for college admission.
Researchers surveyed a large group middle school students twice each year until they graduated from high school. The surveys determined the students’ level of trust with their teachers by asking them the degree to which they agreed with the statement, “I am treated fairly by my teachers and other adults at my school” and similar statements.
The study found that levels of trusts dropped for all students but significantly more so for Blacks. And students who showed the greatest drops in trust levels were shown to be less likely to enroll in college at the end of high school.
David Yeager, an assistant professor pf psychology at the University of Texas and lead author of the study, notes that “perceived bias and mistrust reinforce each other. And like a stone rolling down a hill that triggers an avalanche, the loss of trust could accumulate behavioral consequences over time. Seeing and expecting injustice and disrespect, negatively stereotyped ethnic minority adolescents may disengage, defy authorities, underperform and act out. When students have lost trust, they may be deprived of the benefits of engaging with an institution, such as positive relationships and access to resources and opportunities for advancement.”
The study, “Declining Institutional Trust Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Adolescents: Consequence of Procedural Injustice, Cause of Life-Span Outcomes,” was published on the website of the journal Child Development. It may be accessed here.