New study looks at impacts of same-race teachers

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – A new study focusing on North Carolina students says black educators can help black students in the classroom.

Morticia Walston teaches second grade at Trent Road elementary school in New Bern.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” said Walston, quoting the book of Proverbs. “If they don’t see someone that looks like them, then they have no place to go.”

She said being in front of this classroom is where she is meant to be. “I just always loved learning so I just wanted to teach.”

As an African American teacher, she has young African American eyes watching her every move.

A new study by Johns Hopkins University says children like Walston’s African American students are more likely to succeed because of her presence in their life.

“They need to see that there is something they can attain, there’s a place for them to go,” said Walston.

The study looked at 100,000 black students who entered third grade in North Carolina public schools between 2001 and 2005.

It found 13% ended up dropping out in high school.

Research showed low-income black students who were randomly assigned black teachers were 18% more likely to express interest in college.

ECU education student Glenesha Berryman has dreams to increase the number of African-American educators in classrooms.

“Being an underrepresented student, the teachers in my life have made all the difference,” explained Berryman.

She said representation is most important.

“At the heart of it, you have to understand you can’t be what you can’t see,” said Berryman. “If the books that you’re reading don’t reflect your experiences or don’t reflect the things that you know, you’re going to grow up feeling alienated from education.”

Researchers aren’t done; they would like to see if the benefits of teacher race matching last even longer, by looking at college completion rates and income data.

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