What’s Gender Got to Do With It?

Research shows that students, especially boys, benefit when teachers share their race or gender. Yet most teachers are white women.

By Claire Cain Miller

Sept. 10, 2018

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Zara Gibbon helps a new sixth grader at Animo Westside Charter Middle School in Los Angeles. A majority of teachers in American schools are white women.

As students have returned to school, they have been greeted by teachers who, more likely than not, are white women. That means many students will be continuing to see teachers who are a different gender than they are, and a different skin color.

Does it matter? Yes, according to a significant body of research: Students tend to benefit from having teachers who look like them, especially nonwhite students.

The homogeneity of teachers is probably one of the contributors, the research suggests, to the stubborn gender and race gaps in student achievement: Over all, girls outperform boys, and white students outperform those who are black and Hispanic.

Where Boys Outperform Girls in Math: Rich, White and Suburban DistrictsJune 13, 2018

Yet the teacher work force is becoming more female: 77 percent of teachers in public and private elementary and high schools are women, up from 71 percent three decades ago. The teaching force has grown more racially diverse in that period, but it’s still 80 percent white, down from 87 percent.

(Excerpted from NY Times, 9 /11/18)

Ray Myers

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Expanded AP Classes Draw More Girls, Minorities to Programming

AP (Advanced Placement) classes are now attracting a more diverse student population than in years past. Computer Science in particular may be the subject area that is creating the most interest. Ten years ago, girls were so scarce in American high school computer science classes that the number of female students taking AP tests in that subject could be counted on one hand in nine states. In five others, there were none. Latino and African American students were also in short supply, a problem that has bedeviled educators for years and hindered efforts to diversify the high-tech work force.

Now, an expansion of AP computer science classes is helping to draw more girls and underrepresented minorities into a field of growing importance for schools, universities and the economy. Testing totals for female, black and Latino students all doubled in 2017, following the national debut of an AP course in computer science principles. It joined a longer-established AP course focused on the programming language Java.

Maybe this growing interest in computer coding is driven by something more social in nature? One young female student said that the AP Computer Science Principles course had deepened her understanding of the powers of software to make objects come to life. “An iPhone, for example,” she said. “A block of metal, in all honesty. But when you add coding, it becomes something more.”

Ray Myers

Facebook in India – Poor Internet for Poor People?

Some may remember that I wrote about Facebook’s efforts in India at the end of December, and was not overly optimistic about their chances of success since the Indian government was just then instituting a “review” of Facebook’s practices.  Please belief me that I am not posting this follow-up blog with any sense of joy or vindictiveness.  India is a country with 1.2 billion inhabitants in a country approximately a third the size of the U.S.  While it may have 130 million Facebook users, second only to the U.S., telecommunications experts there note that more than ten percent of the country does not have mobile phone coverage, and that India’s progress in extending fiber-optic cable to village centers is proceeding at a glacial pace.

The current Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi has set a goal of linking 250,000 village centers with fiber-optic cable and extending mobile coverage under his “Digital India” plan by 2016.  Well 2016 has arrived, and reaching that goal by the end of this year, appears to be an impossibility.  According to a recent Indian government report, only 25,000 village centers have cable so far, and it is ready for use in only 3,200.  But maybe Facebook (Zuckerberg) is actually being used as a scapegoat for the failure of the Indian government to provide the basic technological infrastructure that is sorely needed.  Government broadband access often sputters, wages are low, and hours are long.  Girls and women have disproportionately been excluded from the educational and employment opportunities that technology offers.

Facebook has certainly captured the imagination of younger generations around the world.  It clearly provides students with individual access and connectivity on a global scale whenever they want and wherever they are.  As one young Indian villager noted: the first thing he would do when the Internet finally arrived is to sign up for Facebook.

Ray Myers



Woman’s Touch in EdTech

This is not an uncommon phenomenon.  Women often become the intermediaries or “translators” in moving from the theoretical to the practical.  Many also excel at the theoretical, but in a tech world that has become increasingly male dominated, they often play a more critical role in terms of integrating their technological skills to improving learning outcomes.

How’s that for opening a can of worms!  I think that the more critical issue is that we don’t continue to perpetuate stereotypical gender differences in the tech world.  Nor do I believe that appointing female CEOs of technology companies is the key to making everything right with the world.  This is not the answer, and does not really address how opportunities should be increased in both the business and education worlds for girls and women.

Our girls deserve a level playing field in applying all their skills in any field.  Technology may be the latest fast track to success in the evolving economy of the twenty–first century, but let’s ensure that it can benefit from the creative contributions of all its citizens.

Ray Myers