This is Part One of a three-part series on all-male education.
by Karl Zynda EGP Staff Writer
August 1, 2008 - Boys Uplifted, the program of classes offered at Tom Bradley Elementary School, Audubon Middle School, and Crenshaw High School in South Los Angeles, has completed its first school year. Dr. Genevieve Shepherd, principal of Bradley, raves about its success.
“The best thing that could happen to us is this class, honestly, its been wonderful,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd has noticed a sharp decrease in the number of disciplinary visits to the principal’s office by the boys who are in the program’s fourth and fifth grade all-male classes offered at Bradley Elementary.
“Last year they were terrors, all of them,” Shepherd said. “They had all kinds of problems.”
Boys Uplifted was started by Lydia Templeton, an attorney who funded the program with a grant from the Gilbert Foundation and money from other private donors. Los Angeles Unified School District has budgeted $250,000 a year for four years for the program. The program is an attempt to address the problems boys in South Los Angeles have of remaining in school and going on to college.
“This is not going to work for all young men but for young men who are in danger of dropping out of school. We have to get their attention,” Templeton said.
Shepherd told the story of one young man who had been in the principal’s office often the past semester.
“This little one who was in the office 3000 times last year, [today] you ask him what his goals are, he’s going to graduate from high school, then go to college, then to law school, then become a lawyer, then become a district attorney, and then become a judge. And then he’s going to the Supreme Court,” Shepherd said.
Tutoring is provided for the students in the program after school. All the boys are given responsibilities, such as book distributor, bulletin monitor, etc. Some of the students are asked to mentor boys in lower grades. Lawyers, doctors, and businessmen have been recruited to guide and help them. One day a week the boys wear dress clothes to class.
“Whatever works is what we have to try,” Shepherd said. “We have to save these boys for the next generation.”
Female students have outnumbered male students in colleges and universities since the early 1980s, and the gap between their numbers has persisted and grown. In 2005, data from the California State University and the University of California show that there were 13 percent more female first-time freshmen than there were men. Nationwide, the gap is projected to grow to 20 percent—a 60 percent-40 percent ratio between male and female students–by 2016 (source: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education). Another gap between male and female student achievement is also apparent in high school dropout rates. The four-year male dropout rate for the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2007 was 36.8 percent, compared to a female dropout rate of 30.5, (source: California Department of Education, Educational Demographics Office). The high dropout rate for African-American and Latino males, for whom “the dropout problem is the most critical,” according to a 2006 report by the California Postsecondary Education Committee, is believed to produce an even greater male-female gap in those ethnicities.
What is to blame for the gap in male-female college enrollment has not been determined by studies, although many possible causes for the gap have been suggested.
John Perez, vice chair of the California Postsecondary Education Committee and former president of (teachers union) United Teachers of Los Angeles, expressed concern about the gap’s possible impact on our economy. He cited a study by CPEC in 2006 that estimated the loss to the economy created by a loss of male graduates at $191.6 billion by 2016.
“I think it has a lot to do with how we deliver our education,” Perez said. “We expect boys to sit and be quiet.”
Perez said that not examining the difference in the ways that boys and girls learn and the assumption that men who do not go on to college will get jobs with high pay and benefits may contribute to the gap. But due to a lack of research, Perez said that there is no conclusive understanding of what has caused the gap.
“They’re having a hard time finding funding to find out what the reasons are behind the numbers,” Perez said.
Perez is watching and waiting to see the results of educational programs that have utilized all-boys classes.
“Let’s see what happens in Boston, let’s see what happens in South Carolina,” Perez said. “Thirty years ago when I was a teacher, I would have been opposed (to male-only classrooms). Now I’m like an agnostic. I want to see what the results are.”
From New York City to Foley, Alabama, from Gary, Indiana to here in Los Angeles, the reasons for beginning all-male education programs may vary from school to school. Some inner-city schools with predominantly black student populations may be looking for a way to save boys from a future of disenfranchisement and the problems of gangs, drugs and crime that afflict inner-city black men. Others may just be looking for a classroom that will channel the energies of boys rather than suppress it. Still others may be looking for a way to bring up test scores, particularly reading scores, or to reduce discipline problems in their male students.
A change in the interpretation of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which prohibited gender discrimination in federally-funded schools, allowed for more flexibility in instituting gender-separated educational programs in public schools. “Research shows that some students may learn better in single-sex education environments,” Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said in the October 2006 press release announcing the rules change.
This is Part One of a three-part series on all-male education. Next week, EGP talks to the principals of Salesian and Cathedral High Schools about all-male education, and a teacher in a Catholic boys high school explains the Gurian Method.