Issues Affecting Female Students of Color

Girl at blackboard solving equation

The way teachers perceive Black students influences their success in school. 

Bias, prejudice and racial stereotyping explain why many Black girls encounter negative expectations of their behavior. Educators’ attitudes can stand in the way of students’ academic achievement.

  • Studies show that Black students are often viewed as being loud or angry. These perceptions negatively impact Black students’ test scores and may even keep Black children from pursuing student leadership roles.
  • Research has identified a pattern of so-called “adultification” as “contributing to a false narrative that Black youths’ transgressions are intentional and malicious, instead of as the result of immature childhood decision-making.” Black girls are viewed “as less innocent and more adult-like than white girls of the same age, especially between 5–14 years old.” When compared with white girls, Black girls were perceived as needing less nurturing, protection, support and comfort; being more independent; and knowing more about adult topics, including sex.
  • Black boys from lower-income families suffer more negative effects of poverty and racism than girls. Boys in lower-income neighborhoods are more likely to receive messages that doing well in school is not manly or masculine.
  • Students of color are disproportionately disciplined in schools, with studies finding that children of color are generally viewed more harshly than their white peers. Participants in one study routinely judged Black boys to be older and more responsible for their actions than their white counterpart.


A Pressing Need for Teachers of Color

Though the U.S. population is increasingly diverse, there is still a shortage of teachers of color in most U.S. schools. This stems from a the legacy of demoting or firing Black teachers and principals at the time when schools were being integrated. Since then, there has been little effort to recruit — and create a positive professional culture — for teachers of color. As a consequence, Black students are losing out: Research shows that Black teachers are more likely to see Black students as capable of success. Other studies have found that Black students with Black teachers are more likely to be placed in “gifted” education programs and more likely to graduate and consider college.