Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Best' Education Not Always Best for Boys

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Best' Education Not Always Best for Boys

Article excerpt

What is it about boys that makes them so allergic to schooling, even the best schooling? Recently, I wrapped up a reporting project on graduates of the top charter school networks. Generally, the news was very promising: Their alumni, low-income and minority students, earn college degrees at three to five times the rate of their peers in traditional schools.

Early in the reporting, I never asked the charter networks about their gender gaps. When I finally asked, the answers were anything but promising. Charter schools might have made a breakthrough in getting students into and through college, but the success stories are far more about girls.

Charters take in roughly as many boys as girls, but on high school graduation day there are far more girls on that podium. Six years beyond high school graduation, the gender balances worsen: Far more female graduates earn bachelor's degrees than male.

A few examples:

At Alliance College-Ready Public Schools in Los Angeles, the high school graduating classes (from 2008-10) were 59 percent female. Six years later, 29 percent of them had earned bachelor's degrees, compared with 18 percent of the male grads.

At YES Prep Public Schools in Houston, 59 percent of high school graduates (2001-12) were female. Six years later, 68 percent of those women had earned bachelor's degrees vs. 32 percent of the men.

At Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago, 57 percent of graduates (2003-11) were female. Forty percent of those females earned a bachelor's degree, compared with 26 percent of the males.

Traditional school districts see roughly the same male dropout rates (at high school graduation; almost no traditional districts have college success data). Nationally, 85 percent of girls graduate from high school, compared with 78 percent of males, according to 2012 data. It's not that charters are failing boys; it's that they aren't doing any better with boys than traditional districts. Why?

Most charter network leaders are reluctant to speculate. One exception is Michael Milkie, the founder of the Noble network in Chicago: "In American society, and especially in Chicago, the males have not been well served by the current social structure, which often involves the absence of fathers. …

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