Photo by US Department of Education, Flickr CC
Photo by US Department of Education, Flickr CC

An ongoing concern within K-12 education is how to go about diversifying the teaching profession. While some blame the negative narratives that discourage many young people of color from ever considering a career in K-12 education for the lack of diversity, others point to weak retention practices.

But which students want teachers of color in the first place? Well, a recent study finds, all of them.

Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng and Peter Halpin recently examined how sixth- through ninth-grade students from more than 300 schools across the country answered 30-question surveys about their teachers. Students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds reported significantly more favorable perceptions of their Latino teachers in all seven survey categories, and more favorable perceptions of black teachers in at least two or three of these categories. These findings held even when Cherng and Halpin accounted for students’ age, gender, socioeconomic background, and academic performance.

The bottom line? Students of all backgrounds prefer teachers of color. Cherng, a former math teacher turned sociologist, told NPR that the findings are surprising:

“I thought student awareness of the racial hierarchy would influence the results,” in favor of whites, he says.

He suspects that teachers of color may draw on their experiences to contextualize issues like race and gender for their students in a variety of disciplines, and says his future research will examine the relationship between teachers’ multicultural beliefs and their strengths in the classroom.