Did teachers' verbal ability and race matter in the 1960s? : Coleman revisited

by Ronald G. Ehrenberg, Dominic J. Brewer

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In this paper, the authors reanalyze data from the classic 1966 study "Equality of Educational Opportunity," or "Coleman Report." The paper addresses whether teacher characteristics, including verbal ability and race, influenced "synthetic gain scores" of students (mean test scores of upper grade students in a school minus mean test scores of lower grade students in a school), in the context of an econometric model that allows for the possibility that teacher characteristics in a school are endogenously determined. The authors find that verbal aptitude scores of teachers influenced synthetic gain scores for both black and white students. Verbal aptitude mattered as much for black teachers as it did for white teachers. Finally, holding teacher characteristics other than race constant, in some specifications black teachers were associated with higher gain scores for black high school students, but lower gain scores for white elementary and secondary students. Because these findings are for American schools in the mid-1960s, they do not directly apply to our contemporary experience. However, they do raise issues that should be addressed in discussions of hiring policies in American education.

Originally published in: Economics of Education Review, v. 14, no. 1, 1995, pp. 1-21.

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