Increasing Male Academic Achievement

By Jackson, Barbara Talbert | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview
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Increasing Male Academic Achievement

Jackson, Barbara Talbert, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Saying that we do not need to understand the brain to be able to teach it, is like saying a physician need not understand the body in order to treat it.

Patricia Wolfe (1)

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, United States federal legislation signed into law January 8, 2002, has as its primary goal improving the academic performance of U.S. school-age children. The intent of the legislation is laudable; however, its implementation procedures and effect on the academic achievement of students is a topic of great discussion and concern among educators and legislators across the country. NCLB supports a heavy emphasis on reading and mathematics skill development as its means of fostering and measuring academic achievement. While these curricular areas are fundamental to academic success, the instructional delivery appears to be neither challenging nor engaging, particularly among male students. Test scores of boys consistently have been significantly lower than those of girls, as measured by the standardized achievement instrument administered to high school students in grades 9 through 12 in an urban school district in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States (see table 1).

It is fair to note that the NCLB legislation did not dictate pedagogy or organizational structure. However, its narrow subject matter focus on reading and mathematics tends to create a dilemma for administrators and teachers whose professional careers are tied to the students' success in these two subject matter areas.

As a result, it appears that limited attention is given to innovation and creativity in the delivery of instruction, whereas heavy emphasis is placed upon teaching to the test, rote memory, and skill and drill. Disciplines that speak a universal language and contribute to the mental and physical well-being of humankind, such as the arts, health, and physical education, are often displaced by more reading and mathematics instruction.

Herein lies the crux of the problem. In the face of significant educational flaws related to content offerings and instructional delivery, as evidenced by the test data, girls are still achieving more effectively than boys academically in this urban school district. Those data reported on thirty-five schools serving grades 9 through 12 show that for the 2007 school year, in thirty of the thirty-five schools (86%), girls scored higher than boys in reading. In mathematics, girls scored higher than boys in twenty-one of the thirty-five schools (60%).

Employment in this region primarily depends upon academic skill levels commensurate with white-collar jobs in governmental and corporate entities. In the service industry and for factory workers, where manual skills are required, employment is limited and inconsistent with the high cost of living in this demographic area. Therefore, to maintain a viable work force that can contribute to the economy and general wholesomeness of society, it is imperative that the lack of academic achievement, particularly among these male students, become of paramount concern among regional educators. To this end, a proposed plan of action was undertaken. An application for a grant would be submitted to the Board of Public Charter Schools to establish the All Boys Capital City Collegiate Sports Academy (the academy), an open-enrollment, all-male, uniform school for students in grades 9 through 12. A charter school was the selected schooling method to eliminate socioeconomic factors as a barrier to enrollment.

History and Overview of Charter Schools

The charter school movement has its roots in other reform models, such as alternative schools, site-based management, magnet schools, public school choice, privatization, and community-controlled schools. The term charter seems to have been used in the 1970s to identify New England school educators who had been given control, or a charter, to tackle the education crisis immediately.

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