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Title IX Turning 40, But Work Remains for Youth Sports Equality

Next Sunday, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 becomes middle-aged.

That's right, folks. The law, signed on June 23, 1972, will celebrate its 40th birthday in a week and a half. In honor of the occasion, we here at EdWeek thought it proper to take a look at all aspects of the law, not just the athletic side of it.

In case you need a quick refresher course: Title IX states, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." It's most often associated with athletics, but as you'll read, the law has academic and social branches, too.

My story for the anniversary focuses on the athletic side of things, where data show that there's been unquestionable progress in terms of gender equality in the past 40 years. In the year before Title IX's passage, fewer than 300,000 high school girls played on school sports teams. In the 2010-11 school year, more than 3 million did.

Still, as you'll read, there's work to be done. In the 2010-11 school year, there were roughly 1.3 million more male high school athletes than female high school athletes, and the number of female athletes from that year doesn't even match the number of male athletes from 1971-72.

We called on some heavy-hitters at EdWeek to cover two other main aspects of the law. One of our two curriculum writers, Erik Robelen, found similar strides for female K-12 students on the academic side. More than half of all college graduates each year are now female, and females went from earning roughly 7 percent of law degrees in 1972 to about 47 percent in 2011, according to Erik.

Much like in the realm of school sports, Erik discovered some remaining gender hurdles in academics, particularly around science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (the STEM subjects). He published a blog post in Curriculum Matters earlier this week that goes into greater detail about the gender-based achievement gap in STEM subjects that he discovered while reporting this story.

Nirvi Shah, a veritable EdWeek jack-of-all-trades, turned her eyes toward the social components of Title IX, particularly focusing on the rights of pregnant students and Title IX's application to sexual harassment. While the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights monitors sexual-harassment cases rather diligently, Nirvi found experts who say pregnant students are often denied equal opportunities, in part because of ignorance about Title IX.

Our online creative director, Cheri Hung, worked with me to create an interactive timeline detailing 40 years of Title IX milestones, along with the male/female high school athletics-participation rates from every year since the passage of Title IX. It's worth a look, if you haven't seen it already.

To round out the package, we've got a Commentary from Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women's Law Center, which focuses on the future of Title IX. In the piece, she says Title IX's work "is far from complete," and the law "should play a vital role in ensuring that our most vulnerable students meet their educational goals."

Our Commentary team was also kind enough to compile a Storify that takes a thorough look into the past and present impact of Title IX, while offering suggestions for the future.

If you're not too Title IX'ed out yet, we're also having a live chat with Erik, Nirvi, and myself on Wednesday, June 27, at 2 p.m. ET about what we discovered in our reporting of these stories, and what's still left to do. You can sign up for an email reminder now, in case you forget between now and then.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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