The Impact of White Teachers on the Academic Achievement of Black Students: An Exploratory Qualitative Analysis

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2008


In today's school systems, students of color, particularly in urban settings, represent the majority student populations (Lewis, Hancock, James, & Larke, in press). Interestingly, the educators--teachers and administrators--that comprise these settings are predominately White, and, in turn, the students of color commonly face pressures that students who do not share the racial and cultural background of the educators do not (Landsman & Lewis, 2006). This study on black student perceptions of their White teachers is grounded in Milner's (2006) theoretical assumptions, which focus on problems that White teachers commonly experience when teaching students of color, particularly African American students in K-12 educational settings. The following research questions guided this study: (1) What role do White teachers play in facilitating Black students' success or contributing to their academic failure?; (2) Do White teachers' views of Black students allow them to address the educational needs of these Black students?; and (3) Do Black students have perceptions of White teachers' ideas, beliefs, and values that get in the way of their academic achievement? For the purpose of this study, a qualitative research design utilizing retrospective interviews was employed (Reiff, Gerber, & Ginsberg, 1997). The eight Black students in this study included five females and three males. Based on the data collected during the interviews, four themes emerged that characterized the experiences of the Black in this study. These themes included: (a) Respect: I Need Respect; (b) Stereotypes: Don't Pass Judgment on Me; (c) The Administrators Need to Check Themselves; and (d) We Like This Environment. In addition, based on these themes, a series of consistent issues for improving the relationship between the White teacher and the Black student also emerged. In this article the four themes are developed, and then, following the discussion of the findings, the ideas for improving the White teacher-Black student relationship are presented. Finally, several conclusions are drawn in the final section.