Bias is defined as “a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly.” For our purposes, bias in educational expectations refers to different attitudes about students’ abilities and their academic and career paths, often based on race/ethnicity and social class labels and assumptions. Bias in educational opportunities refers to students’ different access to high quality academic experiences, resources, and guidance.    

Bias in expectations (attitudes) and in opportunities (treatment) can be conscious and explicit or it can be unconscious and implicit. For example, through socialization we learn stereotypes about different race/ethnic groups and different social classes. As a result, we often consciously or unconsciously accept these labels and associate positive or negative characteristics and have preferences for some individuals/groups (e.g., white people and middle and upper classes) and aversions to other individuals/groups (e.g., black and brown people and lower classes). We have the ability to question and not accept these stereotypes and to not act on them, but only if we are conscious of the ways it affects our ideas, choices, outlooks, and actions.    

Expressions of explicit bias can include labeling and discrimination as a result of conscious thought.  But, expressions of implicit bias can also result in labeling and discrimination.  A fairly common example of this is seen in studies that show that white people will frequently associate criminality with black people without even realizing they are doing it. One example in education, involves black boys being seen as troublemakers and suspended at much higher rates than white boys. Once this practice of unfair treatment based on race becomes part of the normal expectations and behaviors of people in an organization it is institutionalized racism. These biased policies or practices are built into the structures of various social institutions, like education, and can continue to operate even without the active support and maintenance of individuals. Thus, implicit biases in expectations based on race and class can result in unequal institutional treatment and opportunities for black and brown students and lower class students in K-12 and postsecondary education.

In today’s society, biases in educational expectations based on race and class are often implicit and not as easy to document and describe by region or location like with school funding and college affordability. Even research on the resulting biases in educational opportunities, like teacher preparation, curriculum offerings, teaching and learning styles, tracking, counseling, and disciplinary practices, are usually not state or district specific.

We compiled reports from national, non-profit research and policy institutes and from peer-reviewed journals and books that examine biases in educational expectations (e.g., different attitudes about students’ abilities and their academic and career paths) and their impact on educational opportunities (e.g., different access to high quality academic experiences, resources, and guidance).  Below are general sources on bias in education followed by specific sources on biases in K-12 educational expectations and opportunities and biases in college educational expectations and opportunities.


Peer Reviewed sources

Placing Equity Front and Center: Some Thoughts on Transforming Teacher Education for a New Century. Journal of Teacher Education. Sonia Nieto. May 1, 2000. 

Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity (Law, Meaning, and Violence) Reprint Edition. University of Michigan Press. Ann Arnett Ferguson. August 28, 2001. 

Schools’ Racial Mix, Students’ Optimism, and the Black-White and Latino-White Achievement Gaps. Sociology of Education. Pat António Goldsmith. April 1, 2004.  

When Race Matters: Teachers’ Evaluations of Students’ Classroom Behavior. Sociology of Education. Douglas B. Downey and Shana Pribesh. October 1, 2004. 

Tracking and High School English Learners: Limiting Opportunity to Learn. American Educational Research Journal. Rebecca M. Callahan. January 1, 2005. 

Keepin’ It Real: School Success Beyond Black and White. Oxford University Press. Prudence L. Carter. March 29, 2007. 

Early Schooling: The Handicap of Being Poor and Male. Sociology of Education. Doris R. Entwisle, Karl L. Alexander, Linda S. Olson. April 1, 2007.

Teaching Anti-Bias Curriculum in Teacher Education Programs: What and How. Teacher Education Quarterly. Miranda Lin, Vickie E. Lake, and Diana Rice. Spring 2008. 

Understanding Unconscious Bias and Unintentional Racism. The Phi Delta Kappan. Jean Moule. January 2009. 

The Implicit Prejudiced Attitudes of Teachers: Relations to Teacher Expectations and the Ethnic Achievement Gap. American Educational Research Journal. Linda Van den Bergh, Eddie Denessen, Lisette Hornstra, Marinus Voeten, and Rob W. Holland. June 2010. 

Preparing Teachers for Diversity: Examination of Teacher Certification and Program Accreditation Standards in the 50 States and Washington, DC. Equity & Excellence in Education Journal. Motoko Akiba, Karen Sunday Cockrell, Juanita Cleaver Simmons, Seunghee Han, and Geetika Agarwal. November 15, 2010. 

Why race and culture matter in schools: Closing the achievement gap in America’s classrooms. Teachers College Press. T. C. Howard. 2010. 

Exploring Bias in Math Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ Ability by Gender and Race/Ethnicity. Gender and Society. Catherine Riegle-Crumb and Melissa Humphries. April 2012. 

Reconceptualizing Teacher Education as a Social Justice Undertaking: Underscoring the Urgency for Critical Multiculturalism in Early Childhood Education. Childhood Education. Dilys Schoorman. July 25, 2012. 

Rethink, Revise, React. Using an Anti-Bias Curriculum to Move Beyond the Usual. Childhood Education Journal. Isabel Killoran, Marisa Panaroni, Sally Rivers, Yasmin Razack, Diane Vetter, and Dorothy Tymon. September 5, 2012 

Who Deserves Good Schools?: Cultural Categories of Worth and School Finance Reform. Sociological Perspectives. Emily Meanwell and Julie Swando. Winter 2013.

A Close Encounter with Personal Bias: Pedagogical Implications for Teacher Education. The Journal of Negro Education. Patricia Clark and Eva Zygmunt. Spring 2014. 

Culturally Responsive and Anti-Biased Teaching Benefits Early Childhood Pre-Service Teachers. Journal of Curriculum and Teaching. Lydiah Nganga. June 2015 

Popular Visual Images and the (Mis)Reading of Black Male Youth: A Case for Racial Literacy in Urban Preservice Teacher Education. Teaching Education. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz & Perry Greene. 2015. 

Using the U.S. Civil Rights Movement to explore social justice education with K-6 pre-service teachers. The Journal of Social Studies Research. Janie Hubbard and Holly Hillboldt Swain. July 2017. 

The Science of Equality in Education the Impact of Implicit Bias, Racial Anxiety, and Stereotype Threat on Student Outcomes. Perception Institute. Rachel D. Godsil, Linda R. Tropp, Phillip A. Goff, john a. powell, and Jessica MacFarlane. February 2017. 

Inequality Frames: How Teachers Inhabit Color-blind Ideology. Sociology of Education. Jessica S. Cobb. October 25, 2017. 


Peer Reviewed sources

The meaning of money: Perceptual differences between college counselors and low-income families about college costs and financial aidAmerican Behavioral Scientist

Patricia M. McDonough and Shannon Calderone. 2006. 

Social capital and college planning: Students of color using school networks for support and guidance. Education and Urban Society. Raquel. L. Farmer-Hinton. 2008. 

Pathways to Teaching: African American Male Teens Explore Teaching as a Career. The Journal of Negro Education. Margarita Bianco, Nancy L. Leech, and Kara Viesca. 2011.

Guest Editorial: The Rapidly Changing Landscape in Higher Education and Its Impact on African American Students. The Journal of Negro Education. Bryant T. Marks and Karl W. Reid. Summer 2013. 

Black Students in 21st Century Higher Education: A Closer Look at For-Profit and Community Colleges (Editor’s Commentary). The Journal of Negro Education. Constance Iloh and Ivory A. Toldson. Summer 2013.  

Race, ethnicity, and College Success: Examining the Continued Significance of the Minority-Serving Institution. Educational Researcher. Stella M. Flores and Toby J. Park. 2013. 

Creating college opportunity: School counselors and their influence on postsecondary enrollmentResearch in Higher Education. Andrew S. Belasco. 2013. 

Inequality: Underrepresentation of African American Males in U.S. Higher Education. Journal of Public Affairs Education.  Lorenda A. Naylor, Heather Wyatt-Nichol, and Samuel L. Brown. Fall 2015. 

Special Issue 39: Diversity & Social Justice in Higher Education. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations. Department of Sociology, Humboldt State University. 2017. 

School Counseling Intervention Research on College Readiness, College Access, and Postsecondary Success: A 10-Year Content Analysis of Peer-Reviewed Research. Journal of College Access. George McMahon, Catherine Griffith, Melissa Mariani, and Brett Zyromski. 2017.