Federal Opinion

Opening Salvos on NCLB

By Richard Whitmire — February 05, 2010 1 min read
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Time to put down markers on the reauthorization of NCLB. That law, detested by most teachers and principals, opened up schools for (nearly) full data inspection. Schools were held accountable along the lines of race, ethnicity and income.

At one point, this Times editorial appears to suggest that gender was part of that accountability package. Unfortunately, not so. Schools are required to collect numbers on gender, but they didn’t have to do anything with the numbers. Naturally, the gender numbers become an obscure afterthought.

That’s unfortunate, because careful school researchers in places such as Chicago are discovering the “genderization of race.” Simply defined, that just refers to the obvious: Girls and boys coming from the same families, same neighborhoods and same schools are turning out very differently, with the girls succeeding, at least by comparison.

In short, that means you can’t solve racial learning gaps without factoring in gender. It also means that problems such as white boys from blue-collar families, who are going to college at far lower rates than their sisters, will remain an invisible problem.

Adding gender to the accountability list would serve as a badly needed wakeup call. In advocating that, I don’t want to leave the impression I’m naive. The Obama administration is not in a mood to add more AYP accountability measures. Just the opposite.

If the administration moves in the direction of relaxing rigid accountability in exchange for rewarding schools that move forward, that will leave the gender dilemma for local school leaders to figure out (a task that should fall to federal researchers who seem reluctant to tackle the prickly issue).

My prediction: Local school districts that continue to focus only on race and income will pay a price; those that wrap in gender will get rewarded.

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