Minority Boys Have Two Gaps to Bridge
Posted by annamarkowitz
March 21, 2012, 9:24 pm
As someone who has worked in the education field for the past seven (7) years and taught in East New York (Brooklyn), I am all too familiar with the socioeconomic and ethnic gaps that persists in our country. I have heard statistic after statistic about how black and Latino youth have lower graduation rates: black youth in New York City have a graduation rate of 60%, Latino youth 58%, and white youth reaching 78%.
This is a problem that many organizations are trying to fix and the NYC Department of Education has been using various methods (including closing and restructuring schools) to attempt to provide a better education to minority students in New York City. There are both public and charter schools that have proven that this problem can be fixed with the proper leadership, teachers, and community support. And now we are in the process of attempting to recreate these success stories on a larger scale.
However, there is another gap that in our education system that I was not as familiar with until this past week: the gender gap between boys and girls. At the 7th Annual Celebration of Teaching and Learning I had the pleasure of hearing Peg Tyre speak on the gender gap; she had some staggering statistics to share:
• Twice as likely to be expelled from preschool
• Four times as likely to be diagnosed with ADD, and
• Five times more likely to commit suicide
I then looked into the graduation rates in New York City and found that in 2006, 70% of girls graduated vs only 59% of boys. And this is not just an inner city problem -- this is also repeated at a national level.
Studies have shown that boys come into preschool knowing fewer words than girls and that the gap grows each year in literacy. In addition to this disadvantage, the fact that most elementary school teachers are women affects them as well. When Ms. Tyre interviewed a group of seven-year-old low readers (all boys) and asked them why they did not enjoy reading, they all exclaimed, "Reading is girly". At first Ms. Tyre assumed that this was just a defense mechanism since they struggle with reading. Later, however, when she looked at their classroom library she noticed that most of the books were tailored to interests typically associated with girls. For example, boys typically like books about how things work, sports and animals whereas girls like books that focus more on characters and emotions. With classroom teachers being mostly women, often the books can be more skewed towards "girly books" and therefore disengage boys.
It will clearly take an enormous level of work for us to eliminate this gender gap in our country -- this goes double for minority boys. They not only have to over come the various educational disadvantages associated with being a boy but also those related to their ethnicity. With both of these odds stacked against them, we must do everything that we can to help them get on the path to success.