Saturday, March 25, 2006

Latina Students and High School Sports - Why are so Few Participating?

In my decade-long time as the girls' varsity soccer coach I have always had between five and eight players of hispanic heritage. However, despite my best efforts to recruit them, I am down to three, with two seniors having been on my team since freshmen year. Checking with other coaches in my and other schools the lack of Latina girls in sports appears to be a very disturbing trend. Sure, you can still find many Latina girls on some teams where the school is almost totally Hispanic. However, for the most part it appears that the percentage of Latina girls on a team is much lower than the school's population. What can be causing this problem? There are probably many reasons or combinations. I will try to pick out what I think are the problems, based upon my discussions with ESL, ELL, and other teachers.

1. Home Life: Many Latina girls are expected to do the chores that their mothers used to do. Cooking, cleaning, and supervizing younger family members. This may be due to an increasing lack of a father in many families making the mother the sole bread winner and the teenage girl then takes over the role of the mother.

2. Increasing ineligibility of their boyfriends to play soccer due to poor grades. Unlike many other cultures there appears to be a link between the Latina girl's decision to play/not to play soccer based upon their boyfriend's participation. Why are the Latina girls different? I asked that question to one of the Latina guidance officers. Her response was that Latina girls are very loyal to their boyfriends and won't play soccer if the boyfriend can't/won't. Again the increasing lack of a father in the household may be part of the reason on why boys are not doing well in school.

3. Finally, the attractiveness of many types of expensive items in a typical teenage girl's possesion (all cultures). Ipods, picture cell phones, and computers are all a necessity for the typical teenager and usually for a teenager to have these items they need a part-time job. This means that the opportunity to participate in after school activities are eliminated. Combined with the other two reasons, this reduces the students available for sports.

Are there any solutions to the dwindling participation of Latina girls in sports? More intact family structure. Aggressive recruiting at Freshmen orientation, and last, but not least, a targeted program to encourage all girls' to join after school activites by showing the girls the advantages of joining a team.

a. Better self-esteem
b. Working well with teammates
c. Have better quality friends
d. More respect from other students
e. Social bonding with team members

In conclusion, it will take a very aggressive effort if we are to stop and reverse the loss of Latina girls' in after-school activities.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bill O'Reilly's Interview With John Stossel - Where Was Randi???

I am a casual viewer of Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox cable and was shocked to see that teachers-bashing 20-20 reporter, John Stossel was trying to explain why he wrote the piece that dissed the New York City public school teachers. However, even more shocking was Randi Weingarten's failure to accept the invite to debate Stossel. In fact, no UFT representative showed up! It was left to O'Reilly to question Stossel. To be fair O'Reilly did question Stossel about his statistics and teacher incompetence. Further, O'Reilly did defend teachers when he brought up the student culture, class values, and using tests that compared different community schools rather than the same type of schools. Finally, O'Reilly informed Stossel how clueless parents are to what goes on in the schools. This seemed to have caught Stossel off guard.

While, Bill O'Reilly, did not protect the public school teacher, he did not buy into Stossel's voucher rap either. He seemed to me to have been "Fair & Balanced" in his interview and it is too bad that Randi Weingarten did not see fit to debate Stossel on an equal footing. It's a pity, this was the chance Randi needed, she claimed she was edited by 20-20 and came off badly. In my view Randi has come up worse for not defending the teachers she is supposed to represent.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

NYC Public Schools & The Absent Father

The New York Daily News published an article today about the low high school graduation rates of boys in the New York City high schools. The article by Kathleen Lucadamo stated that the four year graduation rate for girls was 50% compared to a 37% graduation rate for boys. Further, the article showed that the high school dropout rate was 13% for girls compared to 17% for boys. When you consider the pregnent girls usually do not graduate in four years, you would think the dropout rate for girls would be much higher than boys. The article compared the fourth-grade and eigth-grade students that were able to meet the New York State reading and math standards and found that the fourth-grade girls averaged 10% higher and eigth grade girls 8% higher in the reading test and yes the girls averaged 4% higher on the math tests for the two grades. Why are boys faring so poorly in the New York City public schools?

First, the article stated some of the blame lies in the absence of male elementary school teachers to serve as role models for the boys. Second, is the emphasis on testing. The article states that testing means a more structured classroom and boys don't respond well to a structured environment. Therefore, they don't test as well as girls. Third, the emphasis on academics mean less time for recess and physical education which is an outlet for the energy that boys need to release. Fourth, school has become more academic and less vocational which affects more boys than girls. While all of these factors may (or may not) have an effect on the boys poor performance in school the main reason is being overlooked. The absence of a father in the family structure.

A liberal radio talk host, Sam Greenfield, stated that 90% of all men in prison came from a single family household, a shockingly high figure. It is safe to say very few of these single family households are headed by fathers. The importance of a biological father in the family unit has been time and again shown to be extremely important, especially to boys. However, for some reason it seems not to be politically correct to bring this up when talking about education. Ask any dean when they deal with problem boys how few have biological fathers in their family unit. Yet we seem to ignore this very important factor. Is it just coincidence that as an increase in the percentage of single mother headed households occur the boys are falling behind the girls in school? I don't think so.

Is it any wonder that the boys are doing poorly in school? Look who they have as a role model? A father that has abandoned the family, probably not financially supporting the children, and maybe in jail or disappeared? The pity is that many educators tiptoe around this reason why many boys are doing poorly in school. They bring up nebulous factors (lack of male teachers in the elementary schools-always been that way) and trying to connect two independent factors (testing and physical activity- a real streach). While I do agree that the lack of vocational courses can affect boys more than girls, the lack of a father is by far is the real cause of the poor educational results for boys.

It is time that the political, community, and educational leaders stop their grandstanding and take on the real cause of the boys poor performance in schools. The absent father in the family structure!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

DOE's Assault On The Large High Schools

In New York City, like most of the country "education reform" in the form of small schools is all the rage. The Department of Education (DOE) has touted the small school craze at the expense of the large traditional high schools in the city. It is common knowledge that small schools allow for a closer relationship between the students and staff and increases attendance when compared to the large high schools. However, there has been no long-term study showing that the academic performance in a small school environment is any better than in a similar large high school. In fact, when class size, economic, and community characteristics are similar in the two type of schools, there are little differences in the academic performance of the students. DOE however, has found a devious method to ensure that the student performance in a small school is statistically superior when compared to the large schools. How did DOE do this? They spiked the data to ensure the desired results.

First, the DOE took attendance figures that showed that the small schools had a 15% increase in attendance rates than the large high schools. However, what DOE failed to report that the 8th graders entering the small schools had a 91% attendance rate compared to a 81% attendance rate for the 8th graders attending the large high schools. The 5% difference can be attributed to the large school having more special needs students and poor academically performing students which will be bought up later in this article. Consequently, the small schools really did not show an improvement in attendance rates when compared to the large high schools.

Second, The small schools had a lower percentage of Special Needs Students (Special Education, Physical and Mental disabilities, and Non-English Speakers). The small schools averaged 12% of the student population in this category while the large high schools had 34%! Somehow the DOE failed to account for this difference in the student population of the two types of schools.

Third, the academic performance of the small schools showed a slight improvement over the large schools, based upon incomplete data (many of the small schools have not had a full four year graduation cycle). However, what DOE didn't tell the media was that the 8th graders entering the small schools averaged 15 points higher on the mandated English test and 20 points higher on the mandated Math test, when compared to the 8th graders entering the large high schools

Fourth, in New York State the students are classified by how well they do on state tests for English and Math. Students well below normal are level 1, students below normal are level 2, and students at or above normal are level 3. Interestingly the small schools, when compared to the large high schools had less level 1 students (poor academic performers) and more level 3 students. Listed below are the statistics.

Small Schools........................... Large High Schools
Level ............1.......... 2.......... 3 Level....... 1........ 2........ 3

English........ 10%.... 73% ....17% English... 35%... 56%... 8%

Math............ 38%.... 48%... 14% Math...... 64% ....30% ...6%

Fifth, Despite denials from DOE, the small school class sizes are capped (13-20 students per class) at levels below those found in the large high schools (30 students per class). Almost all studies show that the smaller the class size, the better the student academic performance. Furthermore, the small schools are allowed to screen the entering 9th graders to ensure the best possible student body, something the large high schools are not allowed to do. This screening is clearly reflected in the data above.

Finally, as more and more large high schools close down and the rich history and tradition with it, the excess students who do not get into the small schools (usually the weakest academic performers) are dumped into the already overcrowded large high schools further weakening the academic performance of the schools. The result, a new crop of small schools replace these high schools and the beat goes on.

I would like to thank Jonathan H., a chapter leader in a small Bronx high school for the statistics found in this article. Jonathan's article and comments can be found in Edwiz.