December 2010 Archives

From Kansas City author Derrick Barnes....


But the newspaper's editorial fails to make a substantive case for it. Let's hope the actual educators have more in mind than merely "reducing social distractions" and offering girls a more colorful surrounding....


From former schools superintendent Ronald Holmes. I wish I had seen more about literacy -- the reason so many boys end up in that special education track Holmes says black males need to avoid....


Have him take a gap year, as The Wall Street Journal describes. The track record of boys like this going directly to college -- with the parents hoping for the best -- is not great. Many just continue their slacker ways....


The L.A. Times publishes an important story that gets to the heart of my new book coming out in a few weeks,The Bee Eater. Can dramatic improvements in teacher quality in failing urban schools turn things around? Yes. Those helped the most are those currently hurt the most, black and Latino boys. The fallout, however, may prove politically lethal, as explained in my book....


Dan Willingham always writes in a blunt style I appreciate. What he has to say won't make a lot of boy advocates happy -- those who argue that "brain based" instruction is the solution to the boy troubles....


Considering the number of single-sex programs starting up, it's possible to argue that Leonard Sax and his National Association for Single Sex Public Education rivals Arne Duncan for the person having the most impact on classrooms. Sax steers schools toward single-sex programs, Duncan toward better teacher evaluation and accountability. Here's a taste of Sax's latest work in Syracuse. As a solution, I'm not as focused on single-sex as Sax is. I've seen other reform models work equally well. But I like Sax's directness. Just splitting students by sex and making a few instructional changes won't produce the results you're hoping ...


A seminar on how to direct their giftedness toward school, rather than video games....


David Brooks names the best magazine essays of the year, and Hanna Rosin's Atlantic piece makes the short list. In case you missed that piece, here it is again. The fact that Brooks picked this piece, and that Times columnist Nicholas Kristof chose Why Boys Fail as the subject for a Sunday column are signs of an important development: 2010 was the year when everyone stopped questioning whether males are in trouble and started asking the why question. Too bad it took so long. This is an international issue. Compared to several other countries already trying to deal with the ...


I'm offering no comment on this one....


This Arizona commentator mashes up the boy troubles with military recruiting challenges....


Interesting argument here at Education Week in a teachers blog, reacting to the commentary I wrote with reading professor William Brozo. From the commentary: "We're living through a fundamental international failure of schools and parents to engage boys in literacy skills," write Brozo and Whitmire. To fix this, they suggest making reading more enjoyable for boys. But what do boys like to read? ASCD blogger and president of an education consulting firm Grant Wiggins says it's not fiction books. In fact, he thinks schools should ban most fiction books from the curriculum altogether because they don't prepare students for the ...


Canadians paying attention to gender gaps in Ottawa. Judith Kleinfeld in the article: "The difficulties of boys, however, which span far more areas, have been generally ignored. It is boys who are performing at strikingly lower levels in literacy," she writes in the journal Gender Issues. It is boys who are more likely to quit school early, to be in special education, to have behaviour problems and be suspended or expelled. Boys are far more likely to skip their homework, arrive at school without books or pencils and cause a disturbance that gets them kicked out of class. Boys are ...


That's the conclusion here. The reasons: women are better educated, more suited to the contemporary workforce and didn't lose as many jobs during the recession....


Or lack of it, to be more precise. As this Bloomberg Businessweek story explains, boys benefit more from breast feeding than girls....


I like to keep track of the anecdotal findings. This from Florida....


Whichever country solves the problem of boys becoming disinterested in reading -- and thereby school and college -- stands to win the global education race. In the New York Daily News I team up with George Mason University professor William Brozo, whose book I drew on for my book research, to lay out the rules of the race. We use both PISA and the recent Center on Education Policy report....


As in the United States and Britain, they are closing fast, due almost entirely to the education gaps....


The hypothetical objections to separating the genders (and possibly shortchanging girls) seem less important than the practical question: is separating the sexes the best answer to the boy troubles? And further: what's the backup plan if this doesn't work?...


The boy troubles are a more mature issue there. What they are seeing if what we would see if we bothered to take a look, especially among white boys from blue collar families. The press coverage from recent testing is here, here and here....


In Slate, by Lise Eliot and Diane Halpern. An excerpt: The biggest problem with the survey is that the state Single-Gender Initiatives program that administered it--and which fervently advocates single-sex education--did not give students the option of answering "no change" when asking how their current attitudes compared with their feelings before they moved to single-sex classrooms. Forced to choose between "increase" and "decrease" for questions about their motivation and confidence since switching from coeducation, the students were more likely to pick the positive option. The younger students' glowing answers to every question in particular reflect the instinctive desire to please ...


The case for making the connection is made here, at the Philly Daily News. Frankly, I think of rap music in the same way I think of video games -- not helpful, but not the actual source of the problem....


Mimic what this Australian high school did: boost the reading and writing skills of boys, and you're guaranteed to raise the academic standard of the entire school. It's amazing so few U.S. schools have figured this out....


New York Times editorial does a good job summarizing the complex picture....


My commentary in Education Week about the problems some sports programs raise. The top: Emphasizing Sports Over Academics Sets Up Black Boys to Lose By Richard Whitmire A little-noticed controversy played out in the District of Columbia schools recently that highlights a rarely discussed reason African-American boys lag so far behind in academics: sports. That sounds wrongheaded, doesn't it? After all, conventional wisdom holds that sports are supposed to keep at-risk boys interested in school and out of trouble. But in fact, sports can have just the opposite effect. The controversy involved Ballou High School Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader , academically ...


I've heard Tom Mortenson, the wise man of the "boy troubles" issue, argue that this is the core issue/tragedy: bad things are happening to men around the world due to (overlapping) shifts in the economy and education. And men are stunned, because they are what they do. Men work because, well, that's what they're supposed to do. It's all they know. And where does that leave men when they lose their job? They lose their core meaning. Here's a new movie, The Company Men, that dips into that painful issue. (I have yet to come across a Tommy Lee ...


Feds are soliciting ideas from the public about successful anti-bullying programs -- an area where, apparently, they lack research. From the press release: The Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Task Force announced today that it will begin accepting submissions from the public of field-based practices to combat bullying. Entries that are approved for posting on the website--www.bullyinginfo.org--can include formats ranging from research articles to youth-produced public service announcements (PSAs). All materials and resources posted must be free of charge and hosted on either a government or non-profit website. "We know that many programs are successfully addressing bullying and ...


HISD moves to open up an all-boys school modeled after Chicago's Urban Prep Academy. From the article: "We have to do something to save our young men of today," HISD Trustee Carol Mims Galloway said, noting that too many already have been in jail or are on track to land there. Hard to argue with that. Still, there's no denying that schools like this bleed off the academic leaders, leaving other schools with the hardest-to-educate students. Given the track record of those public schools in most big cities, where more than half of black males never even graduate, it's hard ...


How often do you hear that, unless it has something to do with barbies (no, not the doll) or 'roos' or rugby? I visited Australia while researching Why Boys Fail. Great country, and I'm not just talking about the beer. Australia is way ahead of the world in researching the boy troubles. They haven't solved the issue, in practical terms, but the basic research is a decade ahead of most countries. (Arne Duncan could save himself a lot of time and expense just by 'lifting' their Lighthouse reports and claiming them as made-in-the-USA.) I was wandering around a PISA site ...


This is the same phenomenon we're seeing in major cities in the U.S. -- young women out earning young men, due to the education gap favoring women....


In Britain, the concern is always with poor white boys. Frankly, if we ever dug into the data in this country (which is nearly impossible to do, because the data systems are designed to track by race/ethnicity) we'd find the same. But here, nobody's paying attention to what's happening to white boys from blue collar families. From the article: Data shows white British boys eligible for free meals - the Government's standard measure of deprivation - were the worst performing group, other than those from gipsy and traveller backgrounds. Only 50.1 per cent of these children - 11,375...


This report from British Columbia is sobering, especially the writing results (always the source of the biggest gender gaps, which is a problem, considering that college work demands competent writing skills). From the article: ...at least one trustee was deeply troubled by the male-female gap across all grades. "We're losing a whole bunch of young men," Mickey Kinakin said. "We're getting one more report of this happening and I don't see it being addressed. And it's not just the fault of the school district. It's throughout the whole education system. There's a failure of boys in the public system and ...


Interesting discussion there around a proposed charter school aimed mostly at African American boys. These schools tend to have a good track record, but how much of that is due to admissions skimming and shedding unsuccessful students? Therefore, I'm still looking for the perfect argument for going in that direction. You don't need that school to find an IB curriculum; nor do you need it to find a diverse population. So what is the rationale? This proposal, which includes a non-union staff, is a tough sell in liberal, pro-union cities such as Madison, which elevates the need to settle on ...


Lies in boosting boys' reading scores, suggests this Canadian reporter from the Globe and Mail, the same reporter who recently produced a remarkable series on academic gender gaps in that country. From the article: Girls outperformed boys in reading tests in every country and in every Canadian province. That gap was greatest, close to 10 per cent of total scores, in PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador. "It's time to take a leap and look at what strengths in reading we can bring in particular to our boys," said Denis Mildon, a literacy expert and education consultant. Because they represent close ...


It's those annoying BOYS, of course. What are the Finns going to do about falling into third place on the OECD rankings? "Overall, compared to the other countries and areas, the results for Finland are excellent," insisted Jouni Vaelijaervi, the director of the Institute of Educational Research, which administers the PISA tests in Finland. But he also acknowledged that getting Finnish boys more involved in school would probably become a central issue in the future. Kaisa Alanne, the principal of the Sakarinmaeen School in the eastern suburbs of Helsinki, insisted boys were not inherently less interested in reading than girls. "It's...


The International Reading Association weighs in on the international testing released yesterday, including the reading gender gaps. Female students outperformed males in all participating countries, though the size of the difference varied across countries, with the smallest gap found in Colombia and the largest in Albania. "This disparity in reading literacy achievement in favor of females continues a near decade-long pattern established in PISA 2000 and observed consistently in other international reading studies," notes William Brozo (USA), who chairs the International Reading Association (IRA) PISA/PIRLS Task Force, which is charged with interpreting the outcomes of international studies of reading ...


Sandra Stotsky is always worth reading on this issue, but I wish she had included something on the literacy gender gaps. I know she's familiar with the issue. From Education Week (may be password protected)....


Readers of this blog already know the literacy gender gaps are international, at least in industrialized Western countries. Others are about to find out from today's report on international academic achievement comparisons. From the Post article: -- Girls outperform boys in reading in every participating country. The gender reading gap, among the organization's members, was equivalent to about 39 points on the testing scale, or a year of schooling. "In the United States, we're quite used to this" gender gap, said Tom Loveless, an education scholar at the Brookings Institution, "but it turns out that it's a worldwide phenomenon."...


Urban Prep sounds like a huge success story, and I have no doubt it is. But as for their claim of sending 100 percent of their graduates to college, that has to be put in perspective, as Stephanie Banchero does in the Wall Street Journal: At the group's first campus in gang-infested Englewood, 80% of the 150 incoming freshman read at a sixth-grade level or below. Four years later in 2010, 107 graduated from the school and all were accepted to four-year colleges. Three of the other students were expelled and the rest transferred out of Urban Prep, school officials ...


That's the name of a summit taking place over the next two days to imagine how life might be different for black males. From Russell Simmons writing in the Huffington Post: If a black boy is born in the US today, he will have a 33% chance of going to prison in his lifetime. Stated another way - 1 in 3 black boys born today will face prison time. It has become sad normality, almost a backwards rite of passage, for black young men to enter the penal system and never return to our communities. And if we are "lucky" ...


New report from the National Marriage Project lays out who's getting married, who's not -- and who's having babies out of marriage. It's all about education levels, and the gender gaps in education are well documented. From the report: New data indicate that trends in non-marital childbearing, divorce and marital quality in Middle America increasingly resemble those of the poor, many of whose marriages are fragile. However, among the highly educated and affluent, marriage is stable and appears to be getting even stronger - yet more evidence of America's "marriage gap." The report is the first to address the causes ...


Tampa Bay columnist speculates. Focusing on minorities is important. That's where you'll find the steepest gaps. At the same time, however, keep this in mind: among white recipients of four-year degrees, 57 percent are women....


Thanks to the recently launched Boys Initiative blog, I know about Understanding and Raising Boys, a launch from PBSParents. Looks interesting ... and any blog where Geoffrey Canada and Thomas Newkirk serve as advisers is a blog worth reading. (Full disclosure: Canada provided a back cover blurb for my upcoming book on Michelle Rhee, The Bee Eater.) Could the "boy troubles" be crossing an intellectual threshold here?...


The recent studies about black males falling behind in school have one thing in common: they ignore the role sports play in the issue. When parents, coaches and principals allow students to pursue sports absent academic requirements they encourage young men to ignore academics and invest all their ambitions in sports dreams -- dreams that come true for very few athletes. Here's a letter to the editor I wrote, published in today's Washington Post. For background, here's one of the stories published in the Post....


When it comes to schooling, the SAT (not counting football) is about the only standout for boys. It's an aptitude-heavy test, which means actual school learning counts less. As Mona Charen pleads (on behalf of her own sons and other boys): please, for the sake of the boys, keep the SAT. She has a point. Nobody has ever said boys are less bright than girls. Problem is, a good SAT score will get you only so far. As Maryland's Towson University learned in an experimental admissions program, admitting males with high SAT scores and poor grades doesn't really work. The ...


Here's a mystery gender gap: Women prefer iPhones; men Android. Prefer a gender neutral mobile device? Try the BlackBerry....


A grass roots approach in Lexington, Ky. (As always, I argue that the "boy troubles" should not be pigeonholed by race. The key to helping African American males is to identify the reasons nearly all boys are having problems. The solutions will end up helping black boys the most, because their problems are the most severe.) The five ingredients to seeing improvements, according to the speaker: ■ Teachers should identify the leaders of peer groups and push them to take on positive roles in school. ■ Parents need to be involved in the workings of the school and give support at home. ■ ...


In this Slate article, "The Cheating Cheaters of Moscow," the cheating phenomenon is explained, in part, by the "operational sex ratio." Put simply, when there's a shortage of one sex the opposite sex sets the rules. Doesn't matter if it's the animal or human kingdom. In Russia, the shortage of men is a major player in that country's attitudes about infidelity among men. The same holds true on college campuses in this country, where there's a shortage of men. And it's playing out on in the broader society as well, where there's a shortage of marriageable mates -- equally educated ...


If so, that could explain much of the pay gender gap. That controversial topic is explored at Time (brave souls there)....


Interesting story from Greenville confirms my anecdotal observations: single-gender classes benefit girls more than boys. As for academic improvements made in single-gender classrooms, I don't pay much attention to self-reported observations from students. This is a situation where real research is required. At the same time, however, I don't dismiss the importance of "satisfaction" surveys. Parents and students seek out choice in all forms, and single-gender classrooms is another avenue of choice. Before anyone gets too excited about parents flocking to single-gender offerings, however, consider this perspective from Anderson....


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