Apparently, there’s still a horrible crisis in education. And the answer according to some pundits is to go back to single sex schools.
Advocates of single-sex education for girls believe that, in general, many girls thrive when educated apart from boys. Research concerning the academic achievement of girls suggests that in coeducational classrooms they often defer to boys, are called on less frequently than boys, receive significantly less teacher attention than boys, and are less likely than boys to study mathematics and science. Evidence suggests that attending single-sex schools improves many girls’ academic performance and attitude toward less traditional school subjects for girls while encouraging them to assume non-traditional career paths.
Granted, it’s compelling. The problem is, it disregards the fact that girls have, in fact, been doing better in school thanks to a new awareness of the problem and steps to correct it.
The study identified some benefits to both girls and boys: The single-sex setting in some cases eliminated social distractions and allowed for better concentration on academics and open discussion about dating and pregnancy.
But these benefits were undermined because gender equity often was not addressed in the classrooms, gender stereotypes were often reinforced and in some cases stereotypical behaviors were worsened, according to the report. "Single-gender, public academies need to guard against becoming a new form of tracking or resegregation," it said. "Segregation might lead to a safe or comfortable space for some populations, but they clearly create tensions for race and gender equity."
The academic success of both girls and boys was influenced more by small classes, strong curricula, dedicated teachers and equitable teaching practices than by single-sex settings, the researchers said. This finding reinforced those of a 1998 study by the American Association of University Women that concluded that separating the sexes does not necessarily improve the quality of education for girls. [Emphasis mine.]
For boys, single-sex schools may be more likely to provide male role models; consequently many perceive them as effective remedies in communities where boys suffer from high dropout rates, low academic achievement, truancy and violence. Because of the potential for providing role models for high risk youth, the few single-sex programs for boys that have emerged in public schools are usually in urban areas and emphasize mentoring relationships between men and boys, high academic achievement, self-esteem building, and responsibility to the community.
Male role models are great–but what are you going to do if there aren’t a lot of male teachers? My father was taught in all-boys schools, and in grade school his teachers were nuns (in high school they were Jesuit priests). How many male role models do you think he had in school during his formative years?
Those "at risk youth"? They are at risk because they are poor. High dropout rates, low academic achievement, truancy, and violence are almost all resulting from poverty (although wealthy white entitled boys have their own tendency to violence; this, however, is not a problem but a bit of fun).
The problem isn’t girls. It’s poverty.
Poor neighborhoods (many of which are Black and Latino) are not able to raise as many funds to keep their schools in good shape, to get updated textbooks, to pay teachers well, or to have the basics that many of the pundits take for granted, like, say, working bathrooms. But when it comes to funding schools the at-risk youth attend, especially when those "at-risk" youth are Black, people balk.
Ostensibly, the message was about the decision 11 schools made to secede from a high school athletic conference, the South Inter Conference Association. But the message went well beyond athletics and focused squarely on academic achievement. In pertinent part, the caller said, "I watched the neighborhoods all change. The schools that used to be good like Rich Central, Rich East and Rich South are all failing. Why are they failing? Because of what’s in ’em."
The caller left no doubt about what she meant by "what’s in ’em." She meant, in her words, "poor blackie." Earlier in her recorded message, she bemoaned giving "poor blackie" a free education, subsidized housing and welfare. So there you have it. According to the mystery caller, schools in communities such as Harvey, Dolton and South Holland fail because they are full of poor black kids.
If the caller did some research before launching her diatribe, she’d realize she was only half right. It’s not race that leads to failing academics, but poverty. Consider the students in Odin High School in rural, southern Illinois. According to the most recent Illinois School Report Card, Odin High is on the academic watch list because of poor test scores.
Most kids in Odin, just like Dolton, fail Illinois state standardized tests that cover math, reading, writing, science and social studies. In some subjects, the kids in Dolton scored higher; in others, the kids in Odin. Bottom line: Most children in both schools registered failing grades in all subjects and live in poverty. The only key difference between the two schools is race. More than 95 percent of the kids in Dolton are black, while in Odin more than 95 percent are white. Do you think the person who left the message with the Sun-Times would amend it to complain about "poor whitey"?
Poor kids often go to school with empty stomachs. They go to school with untreated illness. They live in neighborhoods that tend to have a higher concentration of environmentally damaging businesses–medical incinerators, factory dumping, and toxic waste. The kids get sick from ingesting lead and other damaging materials, they get asthma from all of the crap in the air, and they have subpar medical care because they are poor. They live in unsafe, run-down firetraps. They go to school with untreated dental problems because their parents can’t afford to take them to the dentist. Ever try to concentrate when you had a toothache? When you were sick but your parents couldn’t stay home with you because they both had to work a couple of jobs to make rent? Ever try to concentrate with a neck or back that’s thrown out because you have to sleep on the couch since there is only one bedroom and your other siblings have it?
The nation’s main program for educating the disadvantaged, Title I, is hampered by loopholes that prevent it from fulfilling its mission, according to a new study.
The $13 billion Title I program, now the major funding arm of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, must close the loopholes if it is to ensure that school districts channel the money to needy schools, said lead author Marguerite Roza, a research assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs.
The new research documents how current rules allow the federal funds intended for low-income schools to be shifted – sometimes inadvertently – to affluent schools within the same district.
"In some places," Roza said, "taxpayer money intended to help overcome the effects of poverty is actually diverted to schools in the wealthiest neighborhoods."
This stems from a practice that was scrutinized by Roza and her colleagues at the university’s Center on Reinventing Public Education. In almost every school district, experienced teachers are not only far better-paid than novice teachers, but they are far more likely to work in wealthier parts of town.
However, district accounting practices typically fail to show this hidden subsidy for affluent students. Instead, most districts count costs as if salaries were the same in every school.
In the real world, the study shows, this means poor children get shortchanged. When Houston’s actual teacher salaries are factored in, for example, low-income schools there get $472 less per student in non-targeted state and local funds than the district average.
Thus, the study found that despite Title I language requiring that the aid reach schools in impoverished neighborhoods, in practice the grant flows into district funding systems favoring the rich.
Do you think that maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t that boys and girls go to school together, but that the kids who are furthest behind are shortchanged? A feel-good, retro "solution" isn’t going to fix the problem. Blaming race or gender for this won’t help. Actually providing the funding for a decent place to learn, coupled with efforts to alleviate and eradicate poverty will.
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