Reducing Racial Educational and Behavioral Disparities through Teacher Unconscious Bias Training

Can training teachers to address unconscious racial bias improve African American students’ academic and behavioral outcomes?

Evidence suggests that teachers’ lower expectations and interpersonal behaviors toward African American students, shaped by unintentional racial biases, contribute to gaps in educational and behavioral outcomes between African American and European American students. Teachers’ expectations and behaviors, then, are critical targets for reducing racial disparities, but interventions to shift them must also mitigate teachers’ unintentional racial bias. This study will test whether a teacher training intervention to address unconscious racial bias can increase teachers’ sensitivity to bias and change their expectations and behavior toward African American students. In turn, it is expected African American students will receive fewer discipline sanctions and improve academically. The Prejudice Habit-breaking Intervention, which has been experimentally tested in more controlled settings, involves a half-day workshop in which teachers are assessed for their racial biases and then learn strategies for overcoming them. Halliday-Boykins and colleagues will randomly assign 259 K-5 teachers to either the intervention condition or professional development as usual. Administrative data and teacher, parent, and student reports will provide data for multilevel analyses that will estimate the effects of the intervention on African American and European American students’ academic achievement, school engagement, and behavior and on teachers’ sensitivity to racial bias, expectations, and behaviors toward students.

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