Steinhardt’s Metropolitan Center for Urban Education and the George Jackson Academy –an independent school for fourth through eighth grade black and Latino boys–brought together over one hundred educators, parents, school administrators, and researchers for a symposium entitled “What Works for Boys: Promising Practices.”
Led by executive director Pedro Noguera (pictured left), the Metro Center recently released its findings from a three-year study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of seven single-sex schools for black and Latino boys. The research sought to shed light on the increasingly popular practice of single-sex schools for low-income boys of color, a group that is disproportionately likely to drop out of school and is at risk for other negative social outcomes.
Noguera, who is the Peter L. Agnew professor of education at NYU Steinhardt, said in his keynote address that all-male schools “are an intervention that has taken off without much research” to support claims of effectiveness.
George Jackson Academy provides a challenging curriculum for high-performing boys who have become disengaged or harassed in their previous schools. While acknowledging that single-sex schools can produce high achieving boys, Noguera cautioned against assuming that separating out boys from their female classmates was the “magic bullet” that would help close the achievement gap.
The findings of the Metro Center report, available here, suggest that it is not clear that separating boys from girls is wholly responsible for raising achievement of the boys in the sample. In the study, several comparison co-ed schools outperformed their single-sex peer schools. Noguera suggested that the success of some single-sex schools could be attributable to good teaching and strong leadership.
He also noted that the push towards single-sex schools for low-income boys is “an intervention in search of a theory.” Unlike single-sex schools for girls, which are based on the theory of expanding gender role options for girls, single-sex schools for boys are not based on a “shared understanding” of what boys need. A common theme among the schools, however, is that boys need to be saved from poor academic trajectories and from negative social environments that de-value education.
Also common among the single-sex schools in the study are powerful school cultures that challenge racial stereotypes; an emphasis on cultivating strong parental involvement and a sense of community; and a commitment to hiring black and Latino teachers and administrators.
The schools also create safe environments in which the boys could learn. The emphasis on building strong relationships among the boys, teachers, and staff help engage the boys in the learning process. Indeed, according to Noguera, “relational engagement was the strongest predictor of achievement.”
Preceding Noguera’s remarks wer an introduction by David M. Arnold, head of George Jackson Academy (GJA) and a panel discussion and Q&A on the practice of single-sex education for low-income boys. Panelists included Brother Brian Carty, FSC, founder of George Jackson Academy and principal of De La Salle Academy; Antwan Allen, assistant head of school for curriculum and faculty development, GJA; Lynn Algrant, consultant and researcher; Katie Scuirba, lead researcher, Metropolitan Center; and David C. Banks, president and founder, Eagle Academy for Young Men.