kitchen table math, the sequel: meanwhile back on planet earth

Friday, May 2, 2008

meanwhile back on planet earth

I have concluded, belatedly, that pundits and policy wonks Have. No. Idea.

Last year females attained 58% of 4year college degrees and males 42% - the ratios for african american and latino females are more than 2 to 1.The causes are unknown and under researched. We have indicators but scant hard evidence. One symptom was released thursday by the National Assessment - NAEP. 41% of the eigth grade girls compared to 20 % of the boys were proficient in writing! Can this be explained by patterns of instructional interactions between teachers and boys? I doubt it.

The College Puzzle

And that's that. He doubts it. It's a big mystery!

Couldn't this expert maybe have Googled the whole issue before deciding school couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that boys aren't learning in school?

Speaking as a person who has actually had boys in school for lo these many years, I have no problem imagining that patterns of instructional interactions between teachers and boys might be just the tiniest bit non-optimal for boys. Especially seeing as how homeschooled boys seem to be doing just fine.

why we're not going to be getting more guys teaching school any time soon
In this paper, we compare subjective principal assessments of teachers to the traditional determinants of teacher compensation – education and experience – and another potential compensation mechanism -- value-added measures of teacher effectiveness based on student achievement gains. We find that subjective principal assessments of teachers predict future student achievement significantly better than teacher experience, education or actual compensation, though not as well as value-added teacher quality measures. In particular, principals appear quite good at identifying those teachers who produce the largest and smallest standardized achievement gains in their schools, but have far less ability to distinguish between teachers in the middle of this distribution and systematically discriminate against male and untenured faculty.

Principals as Agents: Subjective Performance Measurement in Education


sauce for the goose
Happy Father's Day
questions & answers for Niki Hayes


TurbineGuy said...

Crap... and I wanted to go into teaching.

Mark Roulo said...

I have this dim recollection that the college male/female ratio is changing because more women are attending college, but male attendance is flat. I view this as a different problem from one in which men are being driven away from college. Does anyone have actual numbers?

Plus ... one way to put a positive spin on this for males is to consider that the men who do make it to/through college have a much better dating/marrying environment than the women :-)

Lastly ... any breakdown on male/female ratio by *majors*. Honestly, a number of the newer majors (and some of the older ones that have been ... modernized) are pretty content-less. If the bulk of the male/female difference is in these majors, I'd be more worried about the large number of women racking up college debt to get basically worthless degrees.

-Mark Roulo

Catherine Johnson said...

Rory - you must go into teaching and you must start a boys school!

We had a guy teacher subbing in the middle school for a while who was fantastic (C. didn't have him - other moms of boys told me about him).

The moms said there was no way on earth he could stay in this school in this district. He was so out of place he finally told the boys, toward the end of the year, that he wouldn't be able to stay. (I doubt they gave him the option of staying, but I don't know.)

My district is now completely female dominated. Utterly. And the females are all of a type.

Specifically, they are not of the Girls just wanna have fun type.

I myself have a broad streak of GJWHF tempered by raging obsession.

Catherine Johnson said...

Dunno about women increasing versus men staying flat (though that's not good, either).

The major situation is fascinating.

Ed was telling me the other day that ALL of the humanities are female now --- except history.

History somehow, for some reason, just carries on being a guy thing.

History has been subject to all the "history" of our time - the 60s, relativism, postmodernism, etc., etc. - but as a field it is amazingly resilient and impervious to claptrap. (Well, of course, Ed would say that!)

Nevertheless, he's right.

It's still predominantly a male major. (I'm going to check this last statement - he may have been talking about historians, not history majors.)

Mark Roulo said...

"Dunno about women increasing versus men staying flat (though that's not good, either)."

It isn't good, but it is a different type of bad.

Unless the women are mostly going into the content-less majors. In which case the men may be making better choices then the women.

-Mark Roulo

Mark Roulo said...

Google turned up this:

"Here we can see that males were over 50 percent more likely than females to be enrolled in college in 1972. At that time, about 11 percent of all males between the ages of 17 and 50 were enrolled, while just 7 percent of females were. By 1997, males were over 15 percent less likely than females to be enrolled. It was still the case that about 11 percent of males were enrolled, but now almost 13 percent of females were enrolled."

From p9 of "Where the Boys Aren’t: Recent Trends in U.S. College Enrollment Patterns"

-Mark Roulo

Mark Roulo said...

Some digging turned up this (blogger will destroy any formatting, so I'll just try to keep the lines coherent ... a table would be much nicer).

Bachelor degrees by major:

1970-1 2004-5 Diff

Total: 840K 1,439K +600K

Business: 115K 312K +200K
Communication: 10K 73K +65K
Health: 25K 81K +55K
Psychology: 38K 86K +50K
Visual & performing arts: 30K 81K +50K
Liberal Arts: 7K 44K +35K
Biology: 36K 65K +30K
Interdisciplinary: 6K 30K +25K
Physical Science: 21K 19K -----
History & Soc. Studies: 155K 157K -----
English: 64K 54K -10K
Math: 25K 14K -10K
Education: 176K 105K -70K

From here:

I'll note that much of the 4-year degree growth has been in ... um ... less rigorous majors. The top growers are:
Business (what is a BA in business worth? What can a 20-year-old learn about business in a classroom?). This may be a proxy for accounting in some cases, in which case it is more rigorous than I think (but why do we need 200K more accountants each year?)


Health appears to be real ... pre-RN, physical therapist, etc. I think pre-meds tend to wind up as bio majors.


Visual and Performing Arts

Liberal Arts. This is probably a proxy for the decline in 4-year education degrees. In states in which you *can't* get an undergrad degree in Ed., this is the default major. It is close to content-less.

It looks like a large portion of the college growth in the last 35-40 years has been in the less rigorous majors. I guess this shouldn't be a surprise as we are basically sending kids to college who can't perform at what was a traditional college level. I'm starting to feel more that the problem isn't too few men, but too many students (given the 4-year degrees pursued). I don't for a minute believe that most of the kids in psychology are pursuing this for 'personal growth.' They know/think they need a 4-year degree and this seems like a good way to get one without requiring lots of hard math or excellent writing and/or analytical skills.

-Mark Rouo

Anonymous said...

I'm a (old) guy teaching in middle school. Actually this year I'm coaching in middle school after 3years teaching math in grade 6. Here's some anecdotal fodder for discussion.

My teachers from grade 5 on, at least the ones I remember, were all male with only two exceptions. I'm talking about grades 5-12, 4 years of engineering school and 3 years of post grad work. This of course could be a memory failing but I don't think so. Even If I had females they, apparently, weren't memorable.

As a coach today, I see a lot of classrooms and trust me I don't see more than 5-10% male teachers through grade 8. I also would add (probably off topic) that I'm in a district which is >80% hispanic and the hispanic teacher population is equally low and mostly in the para ranks.

I went on to electrical engineering. Could that be connected to the role models I had? Do boys today, especially in middle school which I consider to be a critical tipping point in education, have adequate role models?

My observation after four years in middle schools is that I would crawl on broken glass to have an exclusively female classroom. They are orders of magnitude more ready to learn, are intellectually curious, and for some inexplicable reason I haven't figured out yet, they really enjoy math. Unfortunately this enjoyment seems to fade by the end of middle school (another off topic, sorry).

The boys? They seem to me, compared to my generation at least, to be extremely immature, babyish even (in grade 6).I was a kid in a white suburban neighborhood and these 'tough guy' inner city kids are, by comparison, really wimps under a tough exterior. They come to me for bandaids to place on invisible cuts. They can't take a hit without whining and telling on each other. I can make them cry with a quiz.

I'm not kidding when I say that most of these boys would be laughing stocks in my 50s middle school. When we got cut on the playground we rubbed dirt on it and kept playing. These kids want to go straight to the emergency room.

I don't get it.

Catherine Johnson said...


interesting first thought - and I'm going to delete this comment if it's offensive or upsetting to anyone (I hope it's not) - has to do with what I've seen at the Catholic high schools we visited.

The schools talk to the boys about becoming men. That's the word they use: "men." Moms of boys who've gone to the schools have said the same thing to me - "They make them into men."

Also, one of the admissions directors told us, "[SCHOOL NAME] isn't a mommy school. Other Catholic schools are mommy schools. We're not a mommy school."

Ed and I had no idea what to make of this. The guy we were talking to was a dead ringer for the best teacher Ed ever had, who became a beloved principal later on, he was fantastic. And he's sitting there saying in a tone of great cheer, "We're not a mommy school." Given the culture around here, Ed and I were both thinking, "Already with the helicopter parent cr**?"

One last data point.

At one of the schools, we talked to a mom at some length. She LOVED the school, and her son had done well; he'll be going to a major university on a football scholarship next fall.

She had an unbelievably intense life. She was running her own business in Manhattan AND commuting at 5 am every day from NJ so she could accompany her son directly to the school's door. She hadn't allowed him to take the subway without her until senior year, and she still sounded nervous about it.

She was right to do that; one person told me the high school kids who commute in can get mugged, and I would imagine that's true. Still, she was a tiny little person and her son is going to be a college football player -- the image was funny.

She was also Hispanic; she'd immigrated recently enough to have an accent.

One of the administrators at another school told us, with great affection, "These kids think they're tough, but they'd never make it in a public school."

I was shocked by that, too --- why would he say such a thing about his own students? And yet clearly he meant something good by it; we just didn't understand the meaning.

Last anecdote: when I went to my first school event - a fundraiser put on by the mothers for the mothers (no daddies!) - I found a pretty intense group of women. These gals could see me and raise me. One of them said her son had gone to the school's summer program, which apparently prepares the kids to take the TACHS exam (Test for Admittance to Catholic High School, I believe).

Then she said he hadn't needed to go; she'd prepped him so extensively there was nothing more to be gained.

Now THAT'S a mommy!

I can only DREAM of being able to prep my one typical son to the point of prep courses being irrelevant!

I'm reading whole books on behaviorism and positive reinforcement to figure out HOW to get my kid to cooperate with 3 years of test prep!

Anyway, long story short: my first guess would be that your middle school has "wrong sociology." You've got a school staffed with women teaching a population of boys who absolutely must have men running the show at this point.

I believe that's true of the boys here, almost none of whom are Hispanic. They need guys running the school - or at least teaching in the school.


C. has his first real guy teachers this year. One of them, in particular, is a high school teacher who went to Bronx Science. He teaches a math lab for the 8th graders. The boys ADORE him.

When I took C. to his meeting with the freshman guidance counselor to sign up for courses, he said, "I want to take computer science."

The guidance counselor said, "Oh, you're a fan of Mr. L., aren't you?"

I swear.

Every kid in math lab must go on to take computer science.

Catherine Johnson said...

What happens with the girls and math, do you think?

Catherine Johnson said...

As a coach today, I see a lot of classrooms and trust me I don't see more than 5-10% male teachers through grade 8.

Same here.

And now almost all of our administrators are women.

The district is deeply, deeply female-dominated.

It's not good at all.

Catherine Johnson said...

Liberal Arts: 7K 44K +35K

What do these figures mean?

"Liberal arts" should mean liberal arts: math, science, history, literature, languages, philosophy.

(Doug Sundseth brought up rhetoric a few months ago. I asked Ed, who said that rhetoric comes under "literature.")


I've just noticed you've got the liberal arts subjects pulled out.

oh gosh

Catherine Johnson said...

Actually, psychology is starting to be barred to kids who can't do math.

Psychology in a lot of colleges is becoming a hard science; it's basically biology.

Catherine Johnson said...

I asked Ed about history.

It's not a "guy" major --- what he meant was that history still draws tons of males, both into the classes & into the profession.

He thinks that if you took a head count you'd probably find somewhat more men than women but he doesn't know.

Anonymous said...

I also think the lack of writing skills isn't helping.

I say this as someone who is going over the end of the year worksheets and projects of my middle schooler and seeing reams of papers filled with misspelled words, lack of punctuation, and on and on, all uncorrected.

I imagine many boys (and girls) need more direct and explicit teaching of basic writing skills. It often seems the only place my son gets that is from me.

My son has no special needs problems, he just does what most kids will do in the same situation--just enough. Just enough to get by.

The crayola curriculum is wreaking havoc on a lot of kids. The writing section of the SAT (something many of us oldsters never had) isn't just about writing an essay. The multiple choice writing questions are pretty specific.


Catherine Johnson said...

That's not gonna be a problem around here anymore!

We've implemented Assured Writing Experiences!


The h.s. principal told parents that from now on all Honors selections would be based on writing samples because we've implemented Assured Writing Experiences.

Assured Writing Experiences turns out to mean: every kid is "assured" of having the same writing assignments throughout his K-8 career.

No need to find out whether having Assured Writing Experiences is actually teaching anyone to write. Assume it!

Of course, in this case no harm, no foul since the high school has always based Honors selections on writing samples. Assured Writing Experiences has nothing to do with it.

Another district factoid down the memory hole.

Anonymous said...

"Liberal Arts: 7K 44K +35K

What do these figures mean?"

They are *supposed* to mean that in 1970-1 7,000 bachelor degrees were handed out with a major of "Liberal Arts" (I shortened the category ... the full title was "Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities"). In 2004-5 44,000 of these degrees were handed out, which is an increase of 35,000 (which is wrong, I should have written 37,000).

As you observed, all the *real* Liberal Arts degrees have already been pulled out. But ... at CSU Hayward one can actually *get* a degree in "Liberal Studies". My wife has one (long story short ... she reached a career point where if she had *any* 4-year degree her salary would double [for the same work] ... so she went and got one and then went back to work). You can also get a degree in "Liberal Arts".

Both "Liberal Arts" and "Liberal Studies" are what my friends and I called "extended undeclared" 20 years ago. You get a bachelors degree, but you've basically taken a large number of intro/sampler courses in a large number of disciplines (a few lit. classes, a few history, a few econ, ...). You don't go into anything in depth.
[Many of California's aspiring teachers are in one of these two programs ... my wife had classes with them ... it was one of the reasons she insists that we homeschool.]

Robert Heinlein has an essay in which he refers to a girl he knew in Colorado in the 1960s who graduated college with a "general diploma" ... she had no major. I conclude that these programs aren't unique to California.

Which is one reason I classify this as non-rigorous.

-Mark Roulo

le radical galoisien said...

Of course, there are a lot more "opportunities" for boys (or at least so they think) in non-4-year programmes than there are for girls.

Didn't do so hot in high school? Boys get bombarded with all sorts of occupations they could do without having to go to a 4-year school. Some are questionable. Be a pro basketball player, use your skilz and be a rapper. At least these professions I do respect. When it comes to the life of a thug, boys may be attracted to it for the glamour, and at the media portrays girls' doing drug dealing as more of a necessity. For realistic professions, whenever the TV comes on with schools that advertise skilled vocational positions, it seems that most of the advertisements are often over-represented by males. Need I say that more males will think of the military as a way out? I did this college application season ... my acceptance to UVA saved me.

There are many debates going on in linguistics (such as Whorfism versus universal grammar), but hardly any of them centre around differences linguistic abilities between girls and boys, for the reason that any significant difference has not been supported by mainstream linguistic evidence.

This doesn't include taking MRI's of girls and boys doing problems without controlling for variables and calling it a "study," and assuming that "more brain activiy" == "smarter thinking" (it could actually be, "less automatic, work harder to get the same result...")

When it comes to evaluating the *process* of language acquisition (tested through things like the Wug test) for instance, phonemic discrimination, and other psycholinguistic tests, there have been no significant difference between girls and boys.

But when you move away from tests of ability to carry out universal linguistic processes and add tests that have cultural contexts (such as the SAT or other "standardised tests," which one wonders if they are truly standardised because they are not culture-neutral), then you start to see differences. And I suspect the same goes on with science and math too.

Anonymous said...

I was speaking to a few grammar school teachers the other day, and they were cautioning a man we knew against applying to be a substitute teacher. They said bluntly that in their district, "all men are seen to be pedophiles, anyway".

I didn't ask if they meant THEY thought they were, or if it was just that we've reached the stage in society where any man wanting to be near any child is by definition a dangerous beast, but it certainly was a wake up call to the man.