- David M. Quinn
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David M. Quinn
A vast research literature documents racial bias in teachers’ evaluations of students. Theory suggests bias may be larger on grading scales with vague or overly-general criteria versus scales with clearly-specified criteria, raising the possibility that well-designed grading policies may mitigate bias. This study offers relevant evidence through a randomized web-based experiment with 1,549 teachers. On a vague grade-level evaluation scale, teachers rated a student writing sample lower when it was randomly signaled to have a Black author, versus a White author. However, there was no evidence of racial bias when teachers used a rubric with more clearly-defined evaluation criteria. Contrary to expectation, I found no evidence that the magnitude of grading bias depends on teachers’ implicit or explicit racial attitudes.
The “achievement gap” has long dominated mainstream conversations about race and education. Some scholars warn that the discourse around racial gaps perpetuates stereotypes and promotes the adoption of deficit-based explanations that fail to appreciate the role of structural inequities. I investigate through three randomized experiments. Results indicate that a TV news story about racial achievement gaps (versus a control or counter-stereotypical video) led viewers to express more exaggerated stereotypes of Black Americans as lacking education (study 1: ES=.30 SD; study 2: ES=.38 SD) and may have increased viewers’ implicit stereotyping of Black students as less competent than White students (study 1: ES=.22 SD; study 2: ES=.12 SD, n.s.). The video did not affect viewers’ explicit competence-related racial stereotyping, the explanations they gave for achievement inequalities, or their prioritization of ending achievement inequalities. After two weeks, the effect on stereotype exaggeration faded. Future research should probe how we can most productively frame educational inequality by race.
Theory suggests that teachers’ implicit racial attitudes affect their students, but we lack large-scale evidence on US teachers’ implicit biases and their correlates. Using nationwide data from Project Implicit, we find that teachers’ implicit White/Black biases (as measured by the implicit association test) vary by teacher gender and race. Teachers’ adjusted bias levels are lower in counties with larger shares of Black students. In the aggregate, counties in which teachers hold higher levels of implicit and explicit racial bias have larger adjusted White/Black test score inequalities and White/Black suspension disparities.