In the early parts of the 20th century, boys attended school, but usually farmed or worked in some industry as well. In fact, many schools focused heavily on sports and hands-on trade skills for boys. However, in the 70s and beyond, girls were found to be trailing boys in school scores as well as opportunities in sports. So the law began to focus on girls, which has proven very successful. Today, our colleges are on an average 57% girls. Sadly, the high school graduation rate among boys is only 65% nationally. Worse, it's only 48% for African-American boys and 49% for Hispanics boys.
In recent times, we have asked boys to learn more like girls. It is unnatural to expect them to sit still all day long and listen and learn by reading and imagining. So, what do we do to compensate? Often, in elementary school we drug them. If they're older, we incarcerate them. Granted, there are students who really do need ritalin and similar drugs in order to focus, but the use of these controlled narcotics for learning issues is astronomical. I have to wonder what would happen if we simply returned to inserting a couple of recesses during the day - and lightening the academic load by replacing a few classes in high school with hands-on learning. This would include good old-fashioned shop, auto mechanics, printshop, and even cooking! Life skills have been sidelined in favor of AP Calculus and I would go so far as to say that we are losing many boys due to this inverted learning plan that goes against the grain of how boys learn.
A new article in USA Today states,
Our public schools are turning millions of normal children into dropouts and failures. This isn't because of a few bad teachers or principals, but because the natural learning behaviors of children are routinely penalized instead of praised. Initiatives such as "No Child Left Behind" and "Race to the Top" won't change this, because they don't adequately take into account research about how children learn.
Our classrooms are outdated, functioning like mid-20th century factories. Each child is offered an identical curriculum, like a car on an assembly line. But children aren't units of production, and this approach is failing. Since 1970, the rate of high school graduation has declined, and the U.S. has fallen from first to 12th among developed nations in education.
This is inexcusable given the well-documented research about what makes students effective learners. Contemporary neuroscience has confirmed that children's learning is largely dependent on inherent interest, emotional engagement, social interaction, physical activity and the pleasure of mastery. . . .
Freedom to make mistakes and benefit from them is the basis of intellectual growth. If researchers or entrepreneurs were forbidden to make errors, innovation would cease. But when teachers are required to prioritize standardized test preparation, children are necessarily taught that being wrong is unacceptable.
Further, the NY Times informs us that Proficiency of Black Students Is Found to Be Far Lower Than Expected. The article shares some sobering facts proving that our schools—and our society—are not doing the job of educating all our people.
Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.
The state with the highest overall graduation rate was New Jersey (88 percent), followed by Iowa, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, each with 85 percent. The state with the lowest overall graduation rate was South Carolina (54 percent), followed by Georgia (56 percent) and New York (58 percent).
Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches. . . .
Worse, the Council of the Great City Schools released a new study with the alarming headline, New Report on Black Male Achievement in America Reveals 'National Catastrophe'
But the study points out that there has been no concerted national effort to improve the education, social and employment outcomes of African-American males, who are not receiving appropriate attention from federal, state and local governments or community organizations.
"This is a national catastrophe, and it deserves coordinated national attention," stresses the report.
What's going on?
“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”
Those include “conversations about early childhood parenting practices,” Dr. Ferguson said. “The activities that parents conduct with their 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds. How much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.”
Last, an article from the AP entitled, "Blacks struggling with 72% unwed mother rate", tells us
Seventy-two percent of black babies are born to unmarried mothers today, according to government statistics.
Children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults and have their own children out of wedlock.
The black community's 72 percent rate eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of American Indians were born to unwed mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which government figures are available. The rate for the overall U.S. population was 41 percent. . . .
There are simple arguments for why so many black women have children without marriage.
The legacy of segregation, the logic goes, means blacks are more likely to attend inferior schools. This creates a high proportion of blacks unprepared to compete for jobs in today's economy, where middle-class industrial work for unskilled laborers has largely disappeared.
The drug epidemic sent disproportionate numbers of black men to prison and crushed the job opportunities for those who served their time. Women don't want to marry men who can't provide for their families, and welfare laws created a financial incentive for poor mothers to stay single.
"It's all connected. The question should be, how has the black family survived at all?" says Maria Kefalas, co-author of "Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage."
The Council of the Great City Schools report makes the following strong statement on society,
"The issues that emerge from the data are both moral and economic, calling into question the nation's ability to harness all of its talent to maintain a leadership footing in the world," says Council Executive Director Michael Casserly. "How can you narrow or close the country’s black-white achievement gap when African-American males are not getting the attention and support they need to succeed?"
George Will writes in the Washington Post of some of the findings of a sociology professor named Nathan Glazer. In an article in American Interest Glazer puts forth some alarming statistics on what he calls "the black condition." Glazer is concerned that with the election of Obama any discussion of the black condition in America has all but disappeared.
Here are some of the statistics:
70% of black children born in the United States are born to unmarried women.
More than 60% of black high school dropouts born since the mid-1960s go to prison.
Mass incarceration blights the prospects of black women seeking husbands.
For every bachelor's degree conferred on a black man, 2 are conferred on a black woman.
Only 35% of black children live with two parents.
And here's an interesting number ...
By age 4 the average child in a professional family hears 20 million more words than the average child in a working-class family and about 35 million more than the average child in a welfare family.
There is a very strong link between the number of words a child hears in the early years and that child's success in school.
Now, from the Educational Testing Service, comes a report about "The Black-White Achievement Gap: When Progress Stopped," written by Paul E. Barton and Richard J. Coley. It examines the "startling" fact that most of the progress in closing the gap in reading and mathematics occurred in the 1970s and '80s. This means "progress generally halted for those born around the mid-1960s, a time when landmark legislative victories heralded an end to racial discrimination."
There are those in Georgia examining the state's history in education. In fact, just today, the Georgia Family Council released ...
What do you really know about education in Georgia?
Their Citizen's Guide to Education in Georgia covers virtually all aspects of primary and secondary education in Georgia. The guide includes:
- The history of education in the state
- Current forms of education (public, private, virtual and homeschooling)
- How education is funded
- How Georgia compares nationally relative to student achievement
- Trends in education spending, public school reform and parental choice in education
Overall, DeKalb suffers from virtually all of the above societal issues. Our system is a majority African-American (72%), about 12% Hispanic and less than 10% white and 3-4% Asian and other. Our schools are 64% free and reduced lunch, bringing over $30 million annually to the system in Title 1 funds. Funds that are not finding their way to the classroom and are instead funding an army of "supervisors" in the school administration.
We have a lot of work to do to bring the education of all of our students to a respectable level. Currently, some of our students do quite well, while others are not testing well at all. Our schools are not equal. Some, like Fernbank, Oak Grove, Vanderlyn, Austin and Evansdale do quite well. Others—merely a few miles away—are doing a very poor job. The achievement chasm is wide. And this is the reason that redistricting is being fought so hard.
The board, therefore, is in a quandary. They cannot simply redraw attendance lines and expect everything to be grand and glorious. If they try, they will enter a battle of wills like we've not seen in a very long time in DeKalb. They also cannot continue the culture of responding to the "squeaky wheels". They must fix what ails all of the schools first. They must offer a quality education at every school coupled with a healthy, well-rounded arts and physical education. On top of that, they must insist on new teaching methods and tools and offer teachers a high level of support in their efforts in the classroom. Additionally, they must find a way to make high school interesting for boys (and girls) who struggle with the traditional learning environment—find a way to light a path for them to a future filled with hope.
As one of our regular bloggers so eloquently put it the other day,
Ultimately we need to spend less on buildings and more on instruction. In order to do that we need to reduce the number of schools in the district. We'll soon find out if our Board is willing to make the tough decisions or continue to accommodate citizens.
To me, that pretty much sums it up.