Do School Counselors Exhibit Bias in Recommending Students for Advanced Coursework?

Dania V. Francis 1 , Angela C. M. de Oliveira 2 , and Carey Dimmitt 3
  • 1 Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 203 Crotty Hall, 412 N. Pleasant Street, Amherst, USA
  • 2 Resource Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA, Amherst, USA
  • 3 Department of Student Development, University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA, Amherst, USA
Dania V. Francis
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  • Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 203 Crotty Hall, 412 N. Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01002, USA
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, Angela C. M. de Oliveira and Carey Dimmitt

Abstract

In this paper, we seek to understand minority and female underrepresentation in advanced STEM courses in high school by investigating whether school counselors exhibit racial or gender bias during the course assignment process. Using an adapted audit study, we asked a sample of school counselors to evaluate student transcripts that were identical except for the names on the transcripts, which were varied randomly to suggestively represent a chosen race and gender combination. Our results indicate that black female students were less likely to be recommended for AP Calculus and were rated as being the least prepared. Our results have policy implications for any program that asks individuals to make recommendations that may be subject to bias – whether conscious or unconscious.

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