The Right Kind of Rejection

Submitted By:
Meghan Tally, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA

“Gender Achievement Gaps in U.S. Schools Districts” by Sean F. Reardon, Erin M. Fahle, Demetra Kalogrides, Anne Podolsky, Rosalía C. Zárate
Stanford University: Center for Education Policy Analysis, June 1, 2018

Stanford University researchers from the Center for Education Policy Analysis present this riveting research paper, the first systematic study of its kind, based on data from 10,000 U.S. school districts, 2008-2015, for third through eighth grade students. Uniquely, this study measures achievement gaps locally, not just nationally, and ultimately reveals fascinating and, for educators, intensely relevant relationships between academic achievement and gender, socio-economic status, and race. For instance, CEPA researchers find that math achievement gaps favoring boys correlate with adult gender disparities in socioeconomic status; in communities where “men work and earn much more than women,” boys surpass girls in math. Additionally, “living in high-poverty and high-crime communities more negatively affects males’ achievement than females’ achievement.” The paper essentially finds significant correlations between achievement gaps and implicit messages to children about gender norms, expectations, and role models – messages that make up what some educators call the “hidden curriculum” in our schools and communities. The paper shows how children become aware of gender (and other) stereotypes as early as second grade and how “their educational opportunities can be impeded by negative stereotypes.” Thankfully, we should take note, “parents’ rejection of these stereotypes can also moderate their negative effects”—a compelling call for everyone working closely with children to reject stereotypes about gender, race, and class and to communicate those rejections clearly to students. There is much to ponder in this fifty-page paper, full of empirical evidence confirming patterns we have observed for decades—a worthy, enlightening read for anyone working in schools.