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. The American Federation of Teachers' president endorsed the idea. Philadelphia followed with a school-within-a-school concept known as charters.
In 1991 and 1992, respectively, charter school laws were passed in Minnesota and California. Nineteen states had supported the creation of charter schools by 1995, and forty states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, had done so by 2003. Charter schools have been hailed as the fastest growing educational innovation. (2)
Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The charter establishes each school as its performance contract. The charter/contract details the school's mission, program, goals, students to be served, method of assessment, and how it is to be measured to determine whether the school has been successful in doing what it set out to do. Most charter schools are authorized to operate for three to five years and thereafter seek renewal of the contract based on performance in meeting the specified goals. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor (state or local board of education). In return for this accountability in performance, charter schools experience increased autonomy. In general, charter schools are accountable to these groups: the sponsor, parents, and public. The schools must give an accounting of academic results and fiscal management. Today, charter schools serve more than one million students in more than thirty-five hundred schools.
Charter schools were established for these benefits:
1. Increasing opportunities for learning and access to quality education for all
2. Providing innovation in testing
3. Offering new professional opportunities for teachers
4. Increasing parental involvement
5. Improving public education
6. Helping educators realize their vision
7. Gaining autonomy
8. Serving special populations
Education is a state function; however, the federal government, represented by the U.S. Department of Education, establishes, administers, and coordinates federal assistance in education. Thus, there is a coordinated link between charter schools and the federal government.
History and Overview of Single-Sex Schools
The first public school founded in the United States in 1635 was the all-boys Boston Latin School. Shortly thereafter, the first U.S. public schools were opened with all-boys populations. Girls who attended schools were also in single-sex settings. However, girls' schools did not necessarily have an academic focus. The education females attained was to address the needs of males--imparting the social graces and learning to rear intelligent, knowledgeable sons. In the main, formal schools were reserved for the well-to-do.
After the Revolutionary War, schools became a concern because of the need for educated males to become leaders in the new republic. However, due to lack of funding and for political reasons, mixed classes were established against the better judgment of white middle- and upper-class parents. Coeducational schools began during the mid to late eighteen hundreds, and they persist today. By the close of the nineteenth century, only 12 of the 628 American public school districts reported having single-sex schools. As is the case today, private and parochial schools operate the greater portion of the nation's single-sex schools. During the twentieth century, the women's movement also contributed to the decline of single-sex schools.
In the latter part of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century, there has been a revival of the single-sex education movement. The revival has met with social and legal challenges; however, the challenges have been rebuffed in favor of students' reaching their fullest academic, social, and personal potential. (3) Some proponents believe that single-sex schooling is an answer to some of the academic and social problems confronting parents and educators.
Single-sex education has been given more consideration, because of the educational reform movement. In particular, the focus has been on whether there is equitable treatment of the sexes when they are …
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Publication information: Article title: Increasing Male Academic Achievement. Contributors: Jackson, Barbara Talbert - Author. Journal title: Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table. Publication date: Summer 2008. Page number: Not available. © 2008 Forum on Public Policy. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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