The Effect of Political Affiliation or Political Ideology Match/Mismatch Between High School Teachers and Students on Student Academic Outcomes



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Background: The current American political divide is expanding to levels unseen in previous decades due to a combination of factors such as increased polarization and mass party sorting. The educational system has been unable to escape the effects of these political divisions, which has led to increased politicization of both the curriculum and classroom experiences. Additionally, high school students are becoming more politically aware, vocal, and engaged. With teachers setting a classroom’s discourses, rules, values, and reward systems, the teacher’s political values and beliefs become an influential variable in curriculum delivery and teacher/student interactions. Purpose: This study analyzed how teachers and students identified in terms of their political party affiliations and ideologies and what differences emerged when disaggregated by race/ethnicity and gender. Additionally, this study investigated whether or not a political party affiliation match/mismatch or ideology match/mismatch between teachers and students had any statistically significant impact on student grades. Methods: This cross-sectional, quantitative study utilized a non-experimental research design and collected data through surveys using nonprobability, purposeful sampling. The sample included high school students who were at least 18 years old at the time of survey administration and their English Language Arts teachers across the five high school campuses in Spring Branch ISD, a suburban school district in Houston, Texas. Descriptive statistical analysis, Pearson Chi-square tests, independent sample t-tests, and two-way ANOVA were used to analyze the data. Results: The results indicate that the student and teacher populations overwhelmingly identify with the Democratic party and are overwhelmingly liberal in their ideologies. However, the teaching population is far more liberal and closely affiliated with the Democratic party than the student population, whereas the student population is far more conservative and closely affiliated with the Republican party than the teaching population. Conclusion: Study findings suggest that political affiliation or ideology match/mismatch evaluations between students and teachers were not significantly related to student grading outcomes. Furthermore, the findings also indicate that the modality of either in-person or online instruction in addition to any political affiliation or ideology match/mismatch were not significantly related to student grading outcomes. These findings support the existing literature in higher education in which a politically motivated grading bias was not found to be a statistically significant factor in academic outcomes. Lastly, as a result of this study, no additional changes are recommended to Spring Branch ISD’s policies surrounding teacher or student political expression in the classroom.



education, politics, partisanship, bias, grading bias, ideology, match, mismatch, party affiliation