A Project of the Child Trends News Service Supported by the National Science Foundation

When Teens Lose Trust in Their Teachers

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — A new set of studies from the University of Texas at Austin, Columbia University, and Stanford University finds that some minority students who mistrust school authorities during the middle school years may disengage from school, and this can lead to a ripple effect of school and discipline problems.

Is your child losing interest in school? A new set of longitudinal studies might explain why. In one of the studies, 277 white and African-American students were surveyed and followed from sixth grade to college entry. The study found that through middle school, some African-American students perceived more bias in how schools disciplined students and lost more trust than their white peers. Similar results were reported in a second survey of 206 Latino and white students. The unfair treatment minority students perceived may have undermined their trust that all students would be treated fairly, and may explain why they were more likely to get into trouble at school and less likely to enroll in a four-year college.

As schools consider ways to ensure fair treatment, one study found a gesture of trust and respect could go a long way toward keeping kids engaged. In a study of 88 seventh grade African-American and white students, 25 percent of the students received a hand-written note from their teacher that implied the teacher believed in them. The African-American students who received the note had fewer disciplinary incidents and were more likely to go to college than their peers who did not receive a hand-written note.

The authors of the studies suggest that for white students a loss of trust or a poor relationship with a teacher might be only a temporary setback, and that teacher trust and respect was not a predictor of college entry for white students as it was for minority students.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 


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