Boys and Girls Together, Taught Separately

March 11, 2009 Boys and Girls Together, Taught Separately in Public School By JENNIFER MEDINA Michael Napolitano speaks to his fifth-grade class in the Morrisania section of the Bronx like a basketball coach. “You — let me see you trying!” he insisted the other day during a math lesson. “Come on, faster!” Across the hall, Larita Hudson’s scolding is more like a therapist’s. “This is so sloppy, honey,” she prodded as she reviewed problems in a workbook. “Remember what I spoke to you about? About being the bright shining star that you are?” They are not just two teachers with different personalities. Ms. Hudson, who is 32 and grew up near the school, has a room full of 11-year-old girls, while Mr. Napolitano, a 50-year-old former special education teacher, faces 23 boys. A third fifth-grade class down the hall is co-ed. The single-sex classes at Public School 140, which started as an experiment last year to address sagging test scores and behavioral problems, are among at least 445 such classrooms nationwide, according to the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education. Most have sprouted since a 2004 federal regulatory change that gave public schools freedom to separate girls and boys. The nation’s 95 single-sex public schools — including a dozen in New York City — while deemed legal, still have many critics. But separation by a hallway is generally more socially and politically palatable. And unlike other programs aimed at improving student performance, there is no extra cost. “We will do whatever works, however we can get there,” said Paul Cannon, principal of P.S. 140, which is also known as the Eagle School. “We thought this would be another tool to try.” Over the years, Mr. Cannon had experimented with after-school tutoring, playing sports with students and their fathers on weekends, and creating welcoming science and computer labs. Test scores improved enough to remove P.S. 140 from the state’s list of struggling schools, but Mr. Cannon noticed that fifth graders’ results were largely stagnant, a slump common across the city. He heard about a school in North Carolina that had all-girls classes and was inspired. So he decided to try it — under the Bloomberg administration’s philosophy of letting principals run their schools as they wish, it was as simple as that, with no special training or monitoring. A few parents expressed reservations at first, but it was popular enough that this year, the middle school around the corner followed suit with its sixth grade. “Before it was all about showing the girls who was toughest, and roughing up and being cool,” said Samell Little, whose son Gavin is in his second school year surrounded only by boys. “Now I never hear a word from teachers about behavior problems, and when he talks about school, he is actually talking about work.” But Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said separate classrooms reinforce gender stereotypes. “A boy who has never been beaten by a girl on an algebra test could have some major problems having a female supervisor,” she said. While some advocates believe that girls are more likely to participate in class when no boys are present — and that boys, particularly those from low-income families, tend to focus better without girls around — academic research is inconclusive. “The question always must be: What are you trying to accomplish with separating the students and how will you do it?” said Rosemary C. Salamone, a law professor at St. John’s University and author of “Same, Different, Equal: Rethinking Single-Sex Schooling.” She added, “If you don’t do it thoughtfully, you run the risk of reinforcing stereotypes and playing to students’ weaknesses.” In California, a high-profile governor’s initiative that split six middle schools and high schools into single-sex academies in the late 1990s ended after a few years, and few students showed sizable improvement. At the Bronx’s Eagle School, there is also little evidence so far of improvement, at least of the easy-to-measure variety. Students of both sexes in the co-ed fifth grade did better on last year’s state tests in math and English than their counterparts in the single-sex rooms, and this year’s co-ed class had the highest percentage of students passing the state social studies exam. But these numbers are as much a reflection of who is in which room. In general, struggling students are steered toward the single-sex classes (anyone who objects can opt out). While test scores might not show it, Mr. Cannon and his teachers said there have been fewer fights and discipline issues, and more participation in class and after-school activities, since the girls and boys were split up. Mr. Napolitano, one of four men among the school’s 30 classroom teachers, said he thinks of his students as “23 sort-of sons,” and engages them with Marvel Comics and chess. He proudly held up the book “Patrol Boy,” with a picture of a young man with a large tattoo on his back, as an example of material he would not have used in a co-ed class. “There’s an aspect of male bonding, a closeness that we wouldn’t otherwise have,” he said. “I feel more like I am teaching them about right from wrong than I might have normally.” And he said he can “be a little more stern” with his students now. “If I get in the face of a girl, she would just cry,” he said. “The boys respond to it, they know it’s part of being a young man.” Indeed, when asked the best part of being in an all-boys class, Jorge Jimenez, 11, responded confidently, “I am learning how to be a man.” Asked to explain himself, he announced, “To learn how to put on deodorant.” (A few days earlier Mr. Napolitano had handed out small bags of soap and deodorant samples as part of a brief lesson in body odor.) There is a sisterhood equivalent in the girls’ classroom, where a recent assignment was to research influential black women (several wanted to interview Ms. Hudson, but she directed them to the Internet for higher-profile subjects like Harriet Tubman and Michelle Obama). Ms. Hudson often has the students work in small groups, which she said fosters both independence and a sense of community. And, as Guadalupe Bravo, 11, put it, “drama.” Take the recent afternoon when the students were making posters on the Revolutionary War. As the class broke into two-person teams, one girl was left on her own, her face buried in her hands. Ms. Hudson approached the two students at the next desk. “You notice that someone is on their own without a group and you don’t do anything about it?” she asked, mindful of lingering feelings of some perceived slight. “I am surprised at you, really. If someone apologizes, you try to forget about it and move on.” Moments later, the three girls were trading markers and debating what words best described the frustration of the revolutionaries. “Even when there is an argument brewing, they can get past it,” Ms. Hudson said. “The truth is, that’s an important skill, too.”


DPS Official: Parents could be an obstacle to reform

DPS official: Teachers, parents could be obstacle to reform


WASHINGTON — Detroit’s school board president took to heart U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s message Monday that additional funding could slow to a trickle if stimulus cash isn’t used for needed reforms.

But Dr. Carla Scott, a pediatrician, had her own message for Duncan, saying that if teachers, their unions and parents aren’t on board, the reforms Duncan — and President Barack Obama — are calling for could fail for lack of trying.

“We can’t have an extended school day; it’s against the teachers’ contract. We can’t have school on Saturdays; it’s against the teachers’ contracts. The engineers aren’t willing to come in on Saturdays, it’s against their contracts,” Scott said. “That’s why everybody has to be at the table to say what kinds of changes do we need to make and what kind of changes are you willing to put into your contract.”

Officials from more than two dozen urban school districts, including Scott, visited the White House as Duncan told them that if funding from the $787-billion stimulus bill is used to perpetuate the status quo, the funding will dry up. Money is expected to be doled out a bit at a time and will eventually flow more to districts making successful changes.

Scott said that will require more than just school boards and superintendents being involved, adding that she’d like to see a standard national contract for schools drawn up that indicates where unions are willing to give in order to put reforms into place.

The Detroit school district, with a deficit of more than $200 million and a new state-appointed financial manager, is in bad shape. But it also is set to get $530 million, though its financial manager said that money won’t likely be used to plug the deficit because that would just delay making necessary changes.

Bring the Boys Along!

Bring the Boys Along
The White House Council Obama Forgot

By Kathleen Parker
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; A13


With a flick of his pen, President Obama finally laid to rest Freud’s most famous question and iterated one of man’s hardest-learned lessons: Women want what women want.

And the wise man sayeth: “Yes, dear.”

Thus it came to pass that the president created the White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure that all Cabinet-level agencies consider how their policies affect women and families. Presumably, men and boys may expect to benefit from what is helpful to women and girls. We shall see.

There’s little profit in criticizing a move to make life better for the fairer sex. Still, one does have to suppress a chortle as we pretend that the First Father’s rescue of damsels in distress is not an act of paternalistic magnanimity. Chivalrous, even.

Oh, well, irony is hardly a stranger to gender. Neither are exaggeration and myth. If I may . . .

First, the statistics Obama cited as rationale for the council weren’t quite accurate, though they were, to borrow from Stephen Colbert, truthy. And surely the president can’t be ignorant of the fact that boys in this country are in far graver danger than girls in nearly every measurable way.

Where’s the White House Council on Men and Boys? Okay, let men fend for themselves. But boys really do need our attention, not only for themselves but also for the girls who will be their wives (we hope) someday. We do still hope that boys and girls grow up to marry, don’t we? Preferably before procreating?

Certainly, the Obamas seem to have this hope. A model family, they undoubtedly want their girls to excel and, eventually, to marry equal partners. But boys won’t be equal to girls if we don’t focus some of our resources on their needs and stop advancing the false notion that girls are a special class of people deserving special treatment.

There isn’t space here to fully critique each statistic mentioned by the president, but here’s just one: Women still earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.

As has often been explained, apparently to deaf ears, this figure is derived by comparing the average median wage of all full-time working men and women without considering multiple variables, including the choices women and men make. A more accurate picture comes from a 2007 report prepared for the Labor Department by CONSAD Research Corp.

Although women do not lead as many Fortune 500 companies (only 3 percent, according to Obama), they account for 51 percent of all workers in the high-paying management, professional and related occupations, the study found. Women outnumber men, for example, as financial managers, human resource managers, education administrators, medical and health services managers, and accountants and auditors.

Otherwise, wage differences can be explained by “observable differences in the attributes of men and women,” including, among many, the fact that a greater percentage of women than men take leave for childbirth and child care, which tends to lead to lower wages. Also, women may place more value on “family-friendly” workplace policies and prefer non-wage compensation, such as health insurance or flexibility.

The statistical analysis, which included these and other variables, produced an adjusted gender wage gap between 4.8 percent and 7.1 percent. The gap shrinks to almost nothing when men and women of equal backgrounds and tenure are compared, according to another study of young, childless men and women.

While no one would argue that women shouldn’t be compensated as well as men for the same work, it isn’t quite accurate to suggest a widespread problem of wage discrimination.

Or, as the Labor Department labor study warns against, to justify policy-level correctives.

Whatever imbalances remain should be self-correcting as women and men achieve educational parity, but that’s if boys get some help. Indeed, men and women reached educational parity with college graduation rates in 1982. Today, women receive 58 percent of bachelor’s degrees and represent half of graduates in medical and law schools.

Boys, meanwhile, are the ones dropping out of school or being expelled. They’re the ones failing, abusing drugs and committing suicide. What kind of men do we expect them to become, assuming they survive?

As a father of two girls, Obama wants to do the right thing by women. A noble purpose. But if he wants America’s girls to find proper mates, he might create a White House Council for Boys and, perhaps, Fathers.

It’s the right thing to do for a nation that aspires to equality. Just say yes, dear.

Arne Duncan- Can he save Urban Education?


While the world had me looking at Michelle Rhee and Linda Darling Hammonds as possible  candidates for the top job in Education, here comes Arne Duncan. Without me being too sarcastic, I hope that the only reason that our President elect did not pick one of these two very talented women is because they don’t play basketball…lol

In 2007, only 17 percent of eighth graders tested at or above grade level in reading in Chicago Public Schools – the school system administered by Arne Duncan since 2001. 

President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday tapped Duncan to become secretary of education in the upcoming administration. 

Duncan, hailed by Obama as a reformer, said he would like to take the lessons he learned in Chicago with him when he moves to Washington. “I’m also eager to apply some of the lessons we have learned here in Chicago to help school districts all across our country,” Duncan said after Obama formally named him to the job in Chicago.

I agree with David Boaz who states ” In seven years running the Chicago public schools, this longtime friend of Obama was apparently not able to produce a single public school that Obama considered good enough for his own children.”


I am anxious to see what programs Mr. Duncan has in store for schools around the country.  Because he has experience leading an urban school system, I hope that he will introduce policies that will be a win-win-win for students, parents and educators.

180 days and counting……….

Some school years go beyond state-required 180 days

By tradition, Labor Day marks the great divide between an 11-week summer vacation and the start of school for most students.For a small but growing number of children in the Philadelphia area and around the country, however, it’s just another three-day holiday weekend.

Students at the KIPP Philadelphia Charter School have been in class since Aug. 11. The school’s 340 students, in grades five to eight, get 193 days of instruction, far more than the state-required 180 days. It also has a longer school day and students come in on Saturdays for extracurricular activities.

School CEO Marc Mannella said the added time was needed because many students were years behind academically when they enter fifth grade. “As far as I know, there’s no pixie dust that I can sprinkle over a child’s head to make up for years of wasted educational opportunity. It simply takes more time to catch them up,” he said.

Students buy into the idea. “The long hours are so they can actually teach you and help you achieve your goals and do good in class,” said fifth grader Alissa Smith. “They want to help us learn and help us get a better education so we can go to a good high school and college.”

Others say all American students need more time in class to compete with students from other countries who often get more instructional time and score higher on standardized tests.

The United States ties at 28th out of 29 countries in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development at 22.2 hours of instruction per week. South Korea ranks first at 30.2 hours.

“We believe that the extra time in school in other countries has had a significant impact” on their achievement, said Jennifer Davis, who heads the National Center on Time and Learning in Boston, which advocates more time in school.

Strong American Schools, an education reform group, advocates more school time to increase America’s ability to compete in the global economy. Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Poland, South Korea, and other nations have school days that are on average as much as 25 percent longer than in the United States, the group said.

Though the attention being paid to the issue is growing, the topic is not new: 25 years ago, the Nation at Risk study of American education called for seven hours of classroom instruction each day and 200 to 220 days in school.

In most schools, not much has changed. A recent survey by the National Center on Time and Learning had 28 states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, requiring 180 days of instruction, 12 with fewer days and only four – Hawaii, Kansas, Michigan and Ohio – with more. Six states set only total hours of instruction or leave it to school boards to decide.

Still, an increasing number of states, districts and charters have extended-time programs. In Massachusetts, 26 schools, most of them low-performing, will begin this year with students spending at least 30 percent more time in school. The state pays $1,300 more per student.

That initiative inspired Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy to introduce the Time for Innovation Matters in Education (TIME) Act in August; it calls for $350 million in federal funding to set up similar programs.

In New Orleans, former Philadelphia schools CEO Paul Vallas extended the school day until 4:30 p.m. for the 12,500 students in the Recovery School District. He seeks to extend the school year by 20 days.

In Florida’s Miami-Dade district, students in 39 struggling schools have an hour a day more in school and five more school days a year.

In Pittsburgh, eight low-achieving schools added 45 minutes to the school day and 10 days to the school year.

Charter schools around the country often feature longer school days and years. “There are no shortcuts for success. If we want our students’ scores to grow academically, we have to put in a lot more time and effort,” said Jeremy Esposito, the head of Freedom Academy Charter in Camden, a KIPP school in session since Aug. 11.

In Pennsylvania, 254 districts reported an average school year of 181 days, up one day from four years ago. New Jersey does not keep student year statistics, but Department of Education spokesman Richard Vespucci said that most have 180-day schedules.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey require students to spend less than six hours per day in class: five hours and 53 minutes in New Jersey and five and a half hours a day in Pennsylvania.

Central Bucks Superintendent Robert Laws favors a shorter summer vacation and increasing the school calendar to around 200 days. His district now has 184. “If education is to be valued in this country, we should look at the calendar,” Laws said. “I don’t think it’s an urban issue, and I don’t think it’s just for the low-achieving. If we compare ourselves with other countries, we’ve got fewer days.”

The cost of extending school time works against change, because teachers unions say they want their members to be paid for more school time.

In Pennsylvania, 31 out of 501 districts have gotten state funding to expand school time, including Unionville Chadds Ford in Chester County and Jenkintown in Montgomery County. Jenkintown added 15 minutes to the school day, eliminated some half-days and plans to add two days, going from from 183 to 185, during the next two years.

“It’s simple: Kids learn more when we have more time to teach them,” said Tim Wade, superintendent.

Arlene Ackerman, Philadelphia’s new superintendent, says lagging students in particular need more time. “We have to give them more time if they need more time,” Ackerman said. She’s put the issue on her wish list for teacher negotiations.

Unions say they are not opposed to longer days but caution that more time in school is not the only solution to low achievement. “Everyone wants to find one silver bullet to close the achievement gap. There isn’t one,” said James Testerman, head of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

Nicholas Ignatuk, Ridley superintendent, says extending the school year is not possible without federal funding.

“If it means raising local taxes, it is not going to happen,” he said.

Ignatuk said districts already extend the day and year with after-school tutoring and summer school. “The question is: do all students need it? If the vast majority of our seniors are graduating, getting good jobs and going on to good colleges, it may not be necessary for everybody.”


Contact staff writer Dan Hardy at 610-627-2649 or

**In my district, students can stay afterschool for one to 2.5 hours per day. They take art, physical education and remediation classes. I have always taught my students twice a week for an extra hour and a half per day. Sometimes I was paid and sometimes I wasn’t but the payment for me was building up a child’s skills in a small group or individualized setting afterschool so that they can do better in my class during the school day. Most of the time afterschool was spent teaching students skills that they missed in the earlier grades, filling in the holes in their academic foundation skills.
Students from affluent communities have the resources to take karate, dance, gymnastics, swimming and tutorial classes. Students in poor urban communities don’t have those resources. The issue that I have with KIPP is that this is an example another charter school that requires a student/parent/teacher to fill out a contract concerning their behavior and the extra days of schooling.
What about the schools who don’t have those types of contracts? What about the schools that rely on regular communication between the parent and the teacher? What happens when you make a contract with parents who did not like school and maybe never graduated from school?  When I talked to my parents about their child staying afterschool, I always have a few who do not follow through with making sure that their children stay. They allow their children to come home afterschool or they want their children to come home and babysit younger siblings.  When children do not take advantage of these opportunities to master the basic skills, it ultimately catches up with them in high school and beyond.  I can not tell you the number of high school students that I have had  to teach missing elementary and middle school skills to. Most school districts subscribe to the strategy that if you teach a skill in first grade and the child doesn’t get it, that is fine because the child will see the skill again in second grade, third grade and fourth grade, etc. I don’t subscribe to that learning strategy.  If a child is not learning a particular math concept, then that child needs to stay afterschool so that we can figure out exactly what is preventing that child from learning. Most of the time it is because that child did not learn a skill that was taught in earlier grades.
180 days is not sufficient if we are really committed to preparing our children to work in a global society.

A Good School = Behavior Contract


A Good School
Can Revitalize
A Downtown

August 30, 2008; Page A9

Little Rock Ark.

Fifth and sixth grades are in the newsroom, middle school dominates the Clinton campaign’s War Room, and seventh-graders have the run of the sports department.

While some cities try to lure athletic teams, mega-retailers or a few large employers to revitalize their downtowns, Little Rock is getting an economic-development boost from an unlikely source: eStem charter schools, which have taken over the old Arkansas Gazette building and is bringing new life to a formerly abandoned part of the city.

[A Good School Can Revitalize a Downtown]
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/ Benjamin Krain
EStem charter school at the Arkansas Gazette building in Little Rock, Ark.

The Gazette won two Pulitzer Prizes in 1958 for its courageous coverage and editorials on the Central High desegregation crisis, but lost a drawn-out newspaper war with the Arkansas Democrat and closed on Oct. 18, 1991.

After that, the Gazette’s building was used temporarily by the Clinton presidential campaigns in 1992 and 1996, and by an occasional retailer. But for the most part, it sat vacant. Over time, the surrounding neighborhood began to slump as well. A grand, wide-columned building across the street once called home by the Federal Reserve is empty. A building catty-corner from the school — an urban-renewal atrocity that once headquartered Central Arkansas’ NBC-TV affiliate — sits idle too. Before eStem schools opened, you could work downtown and never find reason to pass by the Gazette building. (Full disclosure, the Gazette building is owned by the newspaper I work for, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which leases it to eStem.)

Now it’s busy enough that some folks worry about traffic jams, as parents drop their kids off and head to work, or pick them up for lunch.

On July 21, eStem schools opened the doors. There are actually three schools in one historic 1908 building: an elementary, middle and high school. The schools’ name stands for the economics of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And their curricula, which emphasize languages like Latin and even Mandarin Chinese, as well as economics and the sciences, are proving to be popular.

This first year, eStem has welcomed 856 students in grades one through nine (the schools will add one grade a year until they offer K-12 education). More than 2,200 students applied for spots, and more than 1,000 are still on a waiting list.

“We have people coming in every day still wanting to get in for this year,” Roy Brooks, the chief executive officer of eStem Public Charter Schools, tells me.

Teachers too, are lining up to get in the door. There is a backlog of teacher résumés, says John Bacon, eStem’s executive director of schools. “We have 54 teachers for the three schools,” he told me. “We had 250 to 300 applications for those spots. And we’re still getting applications.”

One attraction, outside of the quality education, is that the school requires good behavior — students, parents, teachers and administrators must all sign a contract agreeing to follow the school’s principles and code of conduct.

**Here is my question: What happens to the child who signed the contract but still has a problem with their behavior? Is this child sent back to the neighborhood  public school? Part of teaching is helping a child to grow not only academically but socially. If my child comes to your school and their behavior is already good, how are you going to help my child grow? Now don’t get me wrong, who wouldn’t want a classroom full of well behaved students? But by taking all of the well behaved children from the neighborhood public schools, Are teachers in the neighborhood public schools  left with the children who have behavior problems? I just have a problem with this policy that allows charter schools to pick and choose. They should accept children just like the church accepts people, “Just as they are!”

Dr. Julia Hare- If you don’t know her you better ask somebody!


My favorite part of Dr. Julia Hare’s speech at the State of Black America – 2007 is:

When they took discipline away from the parents, we found out that:

The teachers were afraid of the Principals.

The principals were afraid of the Superintendents.

The Superintendents were afraid of the School Board.

The School Board were afraid of the parents.

The parents were afraid of the the children.

The Children WERE NOT afraid of anyone!!!

I read two articles today, “Fixing Washington D.C.’ s School system by Jeff Chu” – Fast Company and “A Teachable Moment by Paul Tough” – New York Times.  Both articles support what Dr. Hare was talking about, however in Washington D.C., they have taken the school board out of the equation. In New Orleans, the district written about in “A Teachable Moment”, they are going back to site based management and if you as a principal don’t produce the results dictated by the district then you will be replaced by someone else or another charter school management group.

In both articles, the goal of both districts is to improve the type of instruction being provided to poor students in those cities. As an administrator or teacher, if you have stopped having and working towards high expectations for your students, then please retire!

Two school districts , using two different types of managerial styles but expecting the same results. I look forward to following these two school districts as well as Chicago, New York , Philadelphia and Atlanta this upcoming school year. Because if any of these school districts produce the types of high results mandated by NCLB, they will become the blueprint for other struggling school districts.

Sidenote: Even though New Orleans acknowledges the mental support that is needed for the students in their district. Budgetary constraints prevent NOLA from staffing the schools with the necessary Social Work, Psychological, Counseling Professionals needed to help children be all that they can be! I haven’t read about Chancellor Rhee’s plan in regards to the psychological needs of the children. Right now, her major issue changing the current teacher senority-pay system. Reinstating music and art programs in all of the schools is very much needed but so are Social Workers, Counselors, Psychologists and Psychiatrists.