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Published in Hispanic Outlook, 02/25/2000, pp. 28-30, Vol. 10, No. 11

Assessing Equity for Women

Latina Earnings Lowest: 58 Cents on the Male Dollar

by Marilyn Gilroy

The good news: women are now the majority (56 percent) of students enrolled in both undergraduate and graduate institutions and, as a group, have surpassed men in degree attainment at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's levels. The bad news: on average, a White mm with a high school diploma still earns more than a woman college graduate of any racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, or ability group. Women overall earn 74 cents for every dollar earned by men; Latinas earn 58 cents, African American women earn 67 cents, White women earn 75 cents, and Asian American women earn 80 cents.

These findings were issued recently by the Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) Equity Resource Center at Education Development Center, Inc., as part of its compilation of existing research on equity for women and girls.

"There is still a real concern for equity issues," said Katherine Hanson, director of the Center. "Women and girls need a lot of resources and help." The WEEA Equity Resource Center was started in the mid-1970s to work with schools, community organizations, businesses, and individuals to: publish and market gender-fair education products; fight against discrimination based on gender, race, class, language, and disability; and disseminate the latest resources for multicultural gender-fair education.

The Center is an outgrowth of the Women's Educational Equity Act, a U.S. Department of Education program started in 1974, dedicated to reducing the educational disparity between men and women. It is the only federally funded program devoted exclusively to promoting gender equity and has been a major catalyst for infusing equity into educational systems. The WEEA program has awarded more than 700 grants to schools, universities, community organizations, and individuals. It also funds the WEEA Equity Resources Center at Education Development Center.

Although WEEA can boast a number of dramatic gains toward the goal of equity in the last 25 years, statistics show that there is still a long way to go.

"There has been an incredible amount of change since the enactment of Title IX," said Hanson. "But a lot of that progress has been for White women. That's a real concern for us."

The situation is especially critical for Latinas, who often lag behind women and girls in all categories of achievement. For example, the percentage of all females ages 16-24 years who are not in school and have not completed high school is 10.9 percent; for Latinas, it is 28.3 percent, almost triple the overall rate.

"We find that Latinas lag behind other groups in part because they are socialized to think of motherhood as their primary role," said Hanson. "The challenge is to try and increase their options."

WEEA has funded a number of grants that specifically targeted younger Latinas as well as those in college. The projects included one at six California elementary school sites where 120 Hispanic girls in grades drive through five were introduced to math and science through intensive tutoring, guest speakers, and counselors who tackled self- esteem issues. The girls also attended a six-week summer institute that included programs for their parents.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Westchester Community College, located north of New York City, targeted Hispanic women whose first language is not English and provided support for study in technological fields (engineering and computer sciences). In addition to offering academic support, this two-year program provided women with career counseling and mentoring from individuals who worked in local businesses.

The Resource Center works with these schools and other grantees of the WEEA program to translate the latest grssroots research and development into replicable models. These "field tested" methods are used to encourage innovation in schools, universities, and community organizations throughout the nation.

WEEA has also published bilingual resource guides for educators, single mothers, and community leaders who want to encourage gender equity (see end of article).

All of these efforts have raised awareness of the critical need of continuing toward the goal of equality. But even a concept as democratic as gender equity can have its critics.

"Some people believe that boys are losing out because of the emphasis on gender equity for girls during the last 20 years," explained Hanson. "They believe that these efforts have been damaging to boys. That is clearly not true from the most recent statistics on test scores and achievement."

Moreover, says Hanson, society in general benefits when everyone, regardless of gender or race, is included and provided with equal opportunity. And indeed, that is the true definition of gender equity, which is defined as a set of actions, attitudes, and assumptions that provide opportunities and create expectations about individuals regardless of gender.

In order to help turn this goal into reality, the WEEA has gone beyond grant programs and publications. Like many other organizations, the Center has been turning to the Internet and the World Wide Web to help it reach new audiences.

For example, it has sponsored the Educational Equity Discussion list (EDEQUITY), an international online discussion about all aspects of educational equity in a multicultural context. EDEQUITY gives people an opportunity to ask questions and exchange information about teaching strategies, useful texts and films, innovative programs, current research, and funding sources.

"We have had a wonderful response to this," said Hanson. "Our last online forum drew 680 participants who signed on for a discussion about the current status of gender equity initiatives."

The Center is also offering an online course for teachers who want to explore ways to engage middle school girls in math and science. It was developed in response to research that shows that middle school is a critical transition period for girls. In analyzing achievement test scores, results show that through 5th grade, girls and boys score nearly identically in math and science; after that, girls' scores begin to plummet. As girls reach middle school, they are also less likely to take elective courses in math and science. The downward spiral is even more severe for Latinas, who might come from poorer families where English is a second language.

"This course deals with the whole range of equity issues due to gender, race, ethnicity, and disabilities," said Hanson. "It also explores the power dynamics in the classroom."

Of course, the overall purpose of the course is to help teachers increase the interest and achievement levels of middle school girls in math and science, thereby laying the foundation for a variety of options in college and, later on, management-level careers research.

The course is comparable to 16 hours of traditional instruction, and participants can receive credit toward their professional development requirements.

To round out its array of materials, the Equity Resource Center has also developed the WEEA Digest, available in print and online. The Digest offers articles and discussions on equity theory and research from national authorities on education. It is often used as a tool in teacher education courses and workshops.

For those who think that the battle for gender equity is slowing down, the WEEA Equity Resource Center provides new energy and tools to face the challenges that remain. Its mission is clearly defined and best expressed in the words of a former WEEA project director: "Gender equity is an alive and vital discipline that continues to evolve and change, just like the entire field of education. It is an issue that needs to be continually examined, revised, and supported. Even though it changes over time, gender equity is a real issue that needs to be addressed anew every year."
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The following is a partial fist of publications that can be ordered through the WEEA Equity Resource Center's Web site: www.edc.org/Women'sEquity:

Raising the Grade: A Title IX Curriculum

A collection of fun and interesting activities that will strengthen 6th through 12th graders' abilities to work together effectively across the diversity of gender, race, national origin and disability. Raising the Grade will help students recognize that they can take action to make gender equity a reality in all areas of their lives. (WEEA Equity Resource Center, 1999)

La Igualdad de Genero para Educadores, Padres, y la Comunidad (Gender Equity for Educators, Parents, and Community) from the Equity in Education Series

For X-12 teachers, administrators, parents, and community programs. This booklet (translated to Spanish by the Western Area Vocational Gender Equity Center) challenges the thinking that limits expectations for girls and boys. It illustrates gender stereotyping and its relationship to students' success, and explains what Title IX is and how it supports equitable education. It teaches how to recognize and respond to gender bias, and provides gender equity awareness exercises for teachers to use in K-12 classrooms. (WEEA Publishing Center, 1995)

Las matematicas, las ciencias y su hija from the Encouraging Girls in Math and Science Series

Open the doors of opportunity for girls in math, science, and engineering with a pamphlet that translates current research on math and science and girls into practical suggestions and concrete action steps. Las matematicas, las ciencias, y su hija helps parents encourage their daughters in math and science and overcome the barriers of sex discrimination by learning about the roles women play in science.

These pamphlets are especially appropriate for distribution at workshops and conferences.

(Dr. Patricia B. Campbell, Campbell-Kibler Associates, 1992)

ESL: The Whole Person Approach - for K-12 bilingual teachers

An innovative approach to ESL teacher training, this guide introduces to the practitioner a holistic, humanistic method of bilingual education. The text fully integrates bilingual education with gender equity concepts both to improve Latino/Hispanic students' English proficiency and to remove gender bias from multicultural curricula. (Cynthia Ramsey and Trinidad Lopez, National Institute for Multicultural Education, 1989)

Guia de Recursos para la Madre Sola (Single Mother's Resource Handbook)

For teen parenting programs, middle and high school teachers, counselors, resource centers, and individual mothers. An important addition to all programs serving pregnant and parenting teens, this all-time bestseller helps single mothers develop positive self-images, recognize available alternatives, better express their needs and feelings, positively influence their children, and use problem-solving skills to make better decisions. Updated in 1992 and translated into Spanish by the WEEA Equity Resource Center. (Annette Fernando and David Newbert, Head Start Child Development Corporation, revised 1992)

Checklists for Counteracting Race and Sex Bias in Educational Materials

For over 15 years, this easy-to-use handbook has helped parents and teachers evaluate bilingual and multicultural curriculum materials for the presence of race and gender bias. (Martha P. Cotera, 1982)

The Equity Principal: Administrator's Handbook

The Handbook provides practical workshop plans to help administrators promote equity as a criterion for excellence in today's increasingly diverse population of learners. (Dolores A. Grayson, GrayMill Publications, 1988)

GESA: Generating Expectations for Student Achievement - Teacher Handbook

This invaluable GESA (Generating Expectations for Student Achievement, formerly Gender/Ethnic Expectations and Student Achievement) handbook identifies five major areas of classroom disparity and offers research-based strategies to counter inequities. It will help teachers look at the impact of gender, race, and ethnic biases in their teaching and discover what happens when they reduce bias in their classrooms. (Dolores A. Grayson and Mary D. Martin, GrayMill Publications, 1997)

Going Places. An Enrichment Program to Empower Students

Dropout prevention begins by helping students deal with self-esteem issues early in their school careers. Going Places, based on a project conducted in the San Diego City Schools, targets those middle school students most at risk of dropping out. The 18-week curriculum helps students build up their self-esteem, believe they can succeed in school, and work toward positive self-image and, eventually, high school graduation.

The publication focuses on enrichment and hands-on, cooperative group learning. it develops and builds self-esteem, improves problem-solving and decision-making skills, and develops leadership skills - all designed to help middle school students begin high school with a successful experience.

It details how to implement the "Going Places" program, explains how to recruit students, and guides teachers through the daily plan for 18 weeks. Finally, it emphasizes support groups, a sense of belonging, and parent involvement in the education of their children. (San Diego City Schools, 1991)

The Hidden Discriminator: Sex and Race Bias in Educational Research

The Hidden Discriminator provides an in-depth examination of stereotypes and bias in educational research. It explores the hidden effects of bias on decision-making and program design. It reveals numerous examples of bias in research - past and present - and concludes with guidelines for evaluating and eliminating sex and race bias in research. The set consists of a book and one each of the five pamphlets. The pamphlets are especially appropriate for distribution at workshops and conferences. (Dr. Patricia B. Campbell, Campbell-Kibler Associates, 1989)

Infusing an Equity Agenda into Education

The Infusion Process Model uses existing organizational structures and communication systems to generate broad-based advocacy for educational equity and infuses equity concepts into all levels of school district operation. (Dolores A. Grayson, GrayMill Publications, 1996)


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