The 16 projects funded by the Women's Educational Equity Act (WEEA) in
2001-2002 build on the legacy of decades of cutting-edge work supported by
this program. Since its inception in 1974, WEEA has promoted gender equity
in education by providing incentives and guidance to schools and community
groups, states, and other entities. Fulfilling its mission of supporting
implementation of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments?the federal law
that prohibits sex discrimination in education?WEEA has funded over 750
field-based initiatives and research on educational equity issues. The
WEEA Program has been a pioneer in funding efforts to address issues of sex
and race, ethnic origin, limited-English proficiency, disability, or age
since one of the principal goals of the program is to promote equity in
education for women and girls who suffer from multiple forms of
discrimination. In fact, Catching Up: A Review of the Women's Educational
Equity Act Program?a national report funded by the Rockefeller Family
Fund?credits WEEA with being a leader in funding programs that do the
· Target resources on the educational needs of disabled women (the first
federal program to do so).
· Open math, science and technology courses and careers to women and girls
and encourage their participation by supporting important programs to
overcome past stereotyping.
· Open doors for girls and women in nontraditional vocational education,
funding projects to eliminate bias and discrimination against women and
girls in the trades, apprenticeships, and vocational programs.
· Improve educational opportunities and career choices for low-income
women?to help break the cycle of poverty, unemployment, and
underemployment of women.
· Support programs on double discrimination based on both sex and
race/ethnicity. (Citizens Council 1984)
WEEA grants have been awarded to schools, universities, community
organizations, and individuals?all playing a key role in developing model
education programs and materials to create a gender equitable society.
These grants have served learners of all ages and in various sites around
An integral part of the success of the program, the WEEA Equity Resource
Center has served as a technical assistance and dissemination center for
the WEEA Program since 1977 when the U.S. Department of Education first
contracted with Education Development Center, Inc. During that time, the
WEEA Center has provided customized assistance to meet each grantee's
needs. The WEEA Center has also published the work of hundreds of WEEA
projects, as well as developed its own curricula, topical digests, working
papers, and other materials. All of these products are marketed to
educators and administrators throughout the country and form the core of
gender equity work in schools today.
As educators, communities, and families strive to improve student
achievement and promote a gender healthy educational climate for girls and
boys, the WEEA Center has expanded it efforts to meet these needs. While
it continues to work with WEEA grantees in the production of materials, it
also provides assistance to the larger education community in the
implementation and expansion of gender equity programs. It provides
information and training on educational equity; helps to integrate
promising practices and research into ongoing gender equity programs;
develops opportunities for peer exchange and learning; and highlights
emerging issues and cutting-edge resources.
The early years of the WEEA Program focused on awareness of gender equity
issues, career counseling (for women reentering the workforce or
education), recruitment of women into nontraditional occupations, math and
science education, and displaced homemakers. Interestingly, many of the
2001-2002 projects address the same topics though also showing how our
learning has evolved over time.
This publication highlights the current WEEA grantees?as they continue the
work begun by earlier efforts and also respond to a new generation of
Recent reports like Tech-Savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age by
the American Association of University Women (2000) have indicated that
expanding all women's career options will require career development
programs and classes that reduce gender stereotypes through exposure to a
wider variety of work environments, role models in nontraditional
occupations, mentors, classroom discussion about occupational stereotypes,
gender-fair assessments, curriculum innovations, and changes in classroom
practice. Five current WEEA grantees are incorporating many of these
components in their efforts to broaden career options for girls and women.
The Try a Trade, Try a Technology Project in Auburn, Washington, is working
to increase the number of women enrolled in trades and technology-related
postsecondary programs and apprenticeships, areas where women continue to
be underrepresented. In 1999, for example, women were awarded only 7
percent (31,208) of the 432,000 registered apprenticeship training
positions in the U.S. Established by the South King County Tech Prep
Consortium and Green River Community College, this four-year project
(1998-2002) addresses three critical needs: limited exposure in K-12 to
trades, technology, and other nontraditional career information for young
women; teachers', counselors', and parents' lack of information about
trades and technology career options; and lack of community involvement in
providing realistic career exploration opportunities in the schools.
The project uses hands-on events, like Camp Try a Trade, to expose young
women and girls to different job opportunities. At these events, student
ambassadors promote awareness of nontraditional career options. The
project also offers ongoing professional development opportunities
including refresher courses and adult mentors. Additionally, the program
is developing workshops for high school and postsecondary counselors,
career specialists, teachers/instructors, and parents in order to educate
them about the trades and technology-related career pathways and how young
women can successfully access these careers.
Two projects are focusing on career education issues that impact women and
girls with disabilities. At the high school level, the Equity for Young
Women with Disabilities Project in Billings, Montana, is developing a more
effective curriculum and transition-planning model to increase gender
equity in employment and career preparation for young women with
disabilities. The four-year program (1999-2003) seeks to increase the work
experiences of these students during high school, introduce them to
nontraditional occupations for women, bring them in contact with adult
mentors, and develop training materials on how to engage friends and family
to develop vocational contacts.
Enhancing the participants' self-esteem is a core component of this program
located at the Montana Center on Disabilities at Montana State University.
Mentoring connecting high school women with disabilities with successfully
employed women?is one means the project uses to accomplish this goal.
However, finding women who could be strong mentors has also been one of the
project's greatest challenges. It has responded by matching one mentor
with up to four high school students, rather than the one-to-one matches it
had intended. One of the surprising lessons learned by the project thus
far is that mentors need training in disability awareness and self-advocacy
themselves. An unexpected outcome has been the creation of a support
network among the mentors.
Mentoring is also a key strategy for the Working It Out Together II:
College Women with Disabilities and Employment Project in Boston,
Massachusetts, which is working to increase the higher education and job
options of women with disabilities. It addresses the fact that only 16
percent of all women with disabilities are likely to have any college
education, compared with 31 percent of nondisabled women and 28 percent of
men with disabilities. In addition to implementing a mentoring curriculum
at postsecondary institutions, the five year project (2000-2005) is
building the capacity of the colleges' disability services and career
services staff to assist women with disabilities launch their careers, and
developing a statewide coalition dedicated to improving their employment
The project is focusing its efforts on three sites in Massachusetts ? Cape
Cod Community College, Massachusetts Bay Community College, and the
University of Massachusetts?Boston. The program involves working with
disability services and career services staff at each college to develop a
student-centered, student-driven mentoring program for women with
disabilities. To assist the colleges in providing accessible and informed
services to students with disabilities, the project offers consultation and
support to each college on an as-needed basis (i.e., information and
resources on creating accessible career services, disability and employment
rights and issues, etc.).
Although it is still in the early stages of development, a critical impact
has been the increased communication between career services and disability
services offices within and among the institutions involved in the project.
Surprisingly, many of the players at the individual colleges did not know
each other or know others in similar positions beyond their own
institutions, prior to involvement in this project. Disability services
focused on the in-school experience and needs of students with
disabilities, and career services focused on the career needs of the
general mainstream. This project is fostering connections and mutual
understanding of employment and disability issues, and creating
opportunities for lasting collaborations within each college and among all
Expanding Your Options: The Road to the Future in Pierre, South Dakota, is
focusing on training in its career education efforts. The project is
developing train-the-trainer workshops on issues such as creating equitable
classrooms, sexual harassment prevention, conducting equity climate
self-evaluations, and developing life action plans. The project will also
assist the South Dakota school-to-work system by developing models for
equity and career awareness, career exploration, and career planning for
all K-14 students, with an emphasis on developing equitable learning
environments and promoting high-wage careers that lead to self-sufficiency.
The target population is quite broad and includes girls in K-12, pregnant
and parenting teens, school dropouts, alternative school students, single
mothers, and displaced homemakers. There is also an emphasis on serving
Native American and other women and girls of color. Economic and
educational needs are the primary criteria for choosing participants. The
project also serves educators and administrators including classroom
teachers, counselors, school administrators, support staff, personnel at
the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal schools, parents and community
The five-year project (2000-2005) is a collaboration of South Dakota Women
Work!, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women from diverse
backgrounds and assisting them to achieve economic self-sufficiency, and
Southeast Technical Institute, a two-year institution whose mission is to
develop and provide high-quality technical education.
Finally, the Addressing Women's Equity Issues in the 21st Century Project
in Alcorn, Mississippi, seeks to improve the participants' overall quality
of life by enhancing their self-esteem, job training skills, and work force
preparation through a school-to-work program. The four-year project
(1999-2003) is housed at Alcorn State University, the oldest historically
Black land-grant university in the U.S. The surrounding area in the
southwest region of Mississippi is one of the most economically and
socially depressed rural areas in the country. The project promotes gender
equity in education in the fourteen counties served by the university
through its cooperative extension program.
Preparation for Higher Education
Although the overall high school dropout rate for women has decreased
significantly in recent years, 23 percent of Latinas dropped out of school
in 1997 (the most recent data available). This compares to 14 percent of
African American women and 7 percent of white women. Moreover, only 10
percent of Latinas 25 years or older have four years or more of college.
The rates are 29 percent for white men, 24 percent for white women, 14
percent for African American women, and about 13 percent for African
American men (National Center for Education Statistics, 2000). Three
current WEEA grantees are encouraging Latinas to stay in school and
preparing them for higher education when they graduate.
The Educational Enhancement for Mothers and Daughters Program at the
University of Texas-El Paso? addresses two major barriers to Latinas'
participation in higher education: low educational and career expectations
of girls and their parents and lack of knowledge about how to prepare for,
finance, and succeed in college. The project is providing girls in grades 7
?10 with guidance, direction, counseling, and positive reinforcement;
providing mothers with guidance so they can support their daughters and
explore their own educational opportunities; creating an educators'
institute for teachers, counselors, and principals to enhance their
knowledge, desire, and ability to improve the preparation for higher
education of young Latinas; and producing a comprehensive curriculum guide
and training materials.
The program works to strengthen the instructional program for girls in
reading, math and career options and assists teachers in working with the
girls' mothers on academic support activities including homework support
and mentoring. The participants in this four-year project (1999-2003) are
selected from families with no previous experience with college who also
have economic need.
The program at the University of Texas was the model for the
Mother-Daughter Program at the San Mateo Office for Education. It provides
direct service to 100 participants?50 fifth grade mother-daughter pairs.
The participants are Spanish-speaking, limited English proficient girls and
their mothers from three elementary schools in San Mateo County in the
Redwood City School District (Fair Oaks School, Garfield Charter School,
and the Hawes School). The four-year project (1999-2003) focuses on
building girls' self-esteem, orienting them to higher education and
professional careers, improving the quality of academic preparation for
higher education, and increasing parental commitment through active
involvement in the education of their children and the youth of their
The greatest challenge faced by this project has been maintaining
consistent participation of mothers and daughters in their first year of
the program. It has addressed this challenge in a number of ways,
including having a site coordinator at each school who facilitates the
involvement of students and parents, using the parents' first (home)
language as a means of communicating in meetings, scheduling university
field trips and sessions at which mothers tell their life stories on
Saturdays, and developing alumni "Mother Leaders" who nurture and reinforce
the participation of new mothers.
The project leaders have found that this is a powerful program model that
makes a significant impact on the participants. The girls explore career
options that they had not before even considered. The mothers learn what
they need to do to help their children achieve their academic aspirations.
They also discover that they have something to learn from each other and
that they can pursue their own educational goals.
Finally, the Gateway to Success Project in Humacao, Puerto Rico, is working
specifically to increase the number of Latinas with college degrees in
science, engineering, and mathematics. The project helps participants
develop proper study habits, a scholarly attitude towards school/university
work, and a dedication to academic excellence; trains them to use library
resources to include electronic information retrieval systems and
independent bibliographical research; and helps them develop effective
communication skills. Perhaps most importantly, the project provides
participants with role models of women science, engineering and mathematics
teachers/faculty. This has been identified as the most important element
in early intervention with pre-college women.
The project design is based on the successful experience of University of
Puerto Rico Humacao in the admission and retention of women in these
fields. Components include a summer English immersion program, hands-on
work at a high technology laboratory, a leadership seminar with science
teacher/faculty mentors, a computer literacy and information systems
workshop, an effective communications program, a graphic calculator
workshop, and a standardized test achievement and skills workshop.
Participants?selected from three public middle schools and three public
high schools?are sponsored through their secondary education and tracked at
the college/university level.
The success of the five-year program (2000-2005) will be measured by an
increase in the English language comprehension and fluency of project
participants as measured by standardized tests, and 85 percent of the
participants scoring at least at the 75 percentile of women taking the
College Entrance Examination Board test.
Gender Equity Awareness
Gender equity means creating an educational environment that encourages
females and males equally to develop, achieve, and learn?without setting
any limits on our expectations based on gender, race, ethnicity, or
disability. Yet, there are deeply ingrained attitudes and behaviors in the
educational system, and in our society as a whole, that perpetuate gender
stereotypes and maintain gender-biased systems. Gender bias, which is
often unconscious because we absorb it through implicit messages as we grow
up, remains a force in our society. Three current WEEA grantees are
working to increase awareness of gender equity issues and to develop
solutions to eliminate bias.
The Joint Awareness Non-Bias Education (JANE) Program seeks to ensure the
success of all children through a programmatic emphasis on equity and
excellence. The goal of the project is to achieve a demonstrable increase
in gender equitable practices in all of the Chicago Public Schools and
communities.The four-year project (1999-2003) is co-sponsored by the
Chicago Public Schools, the Robert Crown Center for Health Education, the
Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Chicago Women in Trades/Instituto
del Progreso Latino, and La Penseur Youth Services, Inc.
Proposed for implementation in all Chicago Public Schools, the project will
complement and refine existing activities conducted under Title IX of the
Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prohibits sex
discrimination in education. The project will produce a systemwide gender
equity policy developed through consultation with school personnel, local
school councils, community groups, and Chicago Public Schools Chief of
Policy for preschool, elementary school, and high school teachers; school
personnel; and community members. Additionally, the project will develop
strategies to increase awareness of educational practices that promote
gender equity in the classroom.
In addition to periodic feedback and formative assessment, a professor from
the University of
Illinois will also conduct a formal evaluation of the project. The results
will be disseminated to local and state participants as well as at seminars
at professional organizations.
Project EDGE: Education for Disability and Gender Equity in Albany,
California, is working to reduce bias and increase respect for gender
differences and disability-related diversity by providing high school
students with information about disabled women and men in history, biology,
civics, health, and literature. Very little information about women and
girls with disabilities is available for use in the curriculum, classrooms,
or libraries of high schools. This lack creates the impression that women
and girls with disabilities do not exist or if they do, that their
accomplishments and lives are unimportant. Disabled boys and nondisabled
peers and educators also need this knowledge to reduce stereotyping and
negative learning environments.
The Disabled Women's Alliance, under the sponsorship of the San Francisco
Women's Center, Inc., is conducting a research and development project to
create a website, CD, and teacher's guides that will address the need for
gender and disability sensitive high school materials. These materials
will incorporate the input of disabled and nondisabled girls and boys,
adult women with disabilities, and other experts in the development and
evaluation of products. The three-year project (2000-2003) will conduct
focus groups and pilot tests in four sites across the U.S. that will help
develop, test, and evaluate the impact and success of these materials.
Housed in the Washington Elementary School district in Phoenix, Arizona,
the Project for Equity and Gender Learning Experiences (EAGLES)is designed
to help female middle school students develop competence and confidence in
their abilities to learn, particularly in math and science. The four-year
project (1998-2002) is being implemented for seventh and eighth grade girls
at Palo Verde Middle School and its six elementary feeder schools. Palo
Verde is an urban school with a large number of girls and boys of color who
lack role models and family support to help them. Additional targeted
populations for the project include other students, parents, teachers, and
administrators. Project activities include gender equity training for
principals and teachers; career-related experiences such as mentoring,
tours, and shadow days for students; and math and science enrichment
activities for students and parents. Many of the latter present ways for
parents to support their daughters' interest in math and science and
increase their own knowledge of changing workforce needs.
The project is a partnership of educators, practicing scientists and
engineers, business executives, members of professional associations, and
education advocates who support this goal. The key partners include the
Society of Women Engineers (Phoenix section) and New Frontiers/Center for
Educational Development, an educational organization specializing in gender
equity. Ancillary partners include the American Association of University
Women (Arizona Chapter), Arizona State University, Glendale Union High
School District, and numerous scientific and engineering businesses such as
Intel and Motorola.
Approximately 800 girls at Palo Verde and the six feeder schools have
participated in or been exposed to program activities. Additionally, over
200 parents, 82 mentors, and 300 teachers and administrators have also been
involved with the project.
Three current WEEA grantees are working directly with girls and young women
to ensure that they recognize gender inequities?instilling in them the idea
that they have the power to change conditions that prevent them from
flourishing in their educational pursuits.
The Girls Leadership Project in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is developing a
model for promoting gender equity that places girls center stage in
assessing and improving their schools. This collaborative effort between
the Cambridge Public School System and the Cambridge Women's Commission has
established a program at five of the system's fifteen elementary schools.
At these schools, 60 girls in grades 5 to 8 participate in weekly workshops
designed to help them find their personal and academic strengths and to
more fully understand gender equity issues. These girls have been inducted
as commissioners of the City of Cambridge's Young Women's Commission, a
subcommittee of the Commission on the Status of Women. In that role they
formulate an annual gender equity report of their own design, serve as
advisors to the Superintendent of Schools and to the School Committee, and
ensure that their recommendations are implemented.
This four-year project (1998-2002) asks girls to define leadership for
themselves and provides leadership training based on their ideas; supports
and cultivates the cultural and social strengths that girls already have;
and uses girls' personal and private writings as a foundation for learning
skills for a public audience. Parental involvement is a critical component
of the project's design.
The Access for Young Women Project at Forest Hills Community House in
Forest Hills, New York, operates a gender equity program for girls and
young women ages 12 to 18.Working closely with schools, parents, community
residents, and other agencies, the Forest Hills Community House supplements
and expands educational experiences and opportunities through preschool
classes, after-school tutoring, homework help, mentoring, college and
career counseling, ESL and citizenship classes, GED programs, and computer
courses for young people and adults. The broad spectrum of services for
young people and their families creates an ideal environment for the Access
for Young Women's program.
This four-year project (1999-2003) targets low to moderate-income young
women of color or new immigrants for whom language or national origin
create additional barriers to equal educational opportunity. These young
women participate in activities that enhance leadership skills,
self-confidence, and self-esteem. They learn to enjoy math and computer
technology, and take part in SAT and high school entrance exam preparation
classes designed to level the gender gap in math scores. They, and their
parents, learn about and become interested in nontraditional careers that
offer potentially higher pay than traditional "women's work." They meet
female role models in business, trades, and nontraditional academic
programs. They become motivated to pursue programs of high school and
college education that will help them achieve new career goals. Of special
importance in New York City, an early-intervention approach for
middle-school girls helps them become aware of, enter, and succeed in the
traditionally male-dominated technical and vocational high schools and
programs that lead to higher-paying careers. Ultimately, participants learn
to identify gender inequities in their own educational environment and
become advocates and agents for change for themselves and other young women
in that environment.
The Young Women's Leadership Alliance in Santa Cruz, California, is an
effort to engage high school girls at three schools in the Santa Cruz
School District in activities to identify and address gender equity issues.
The five-year project (2000-2005) has three components: building equity
awareness through interactive workshops on the barriers to educational and
career advancement, conducting equity research to measure and document
areas of local inequity, and taking action for equity in which the girls
focus on creating systemic change in their schools based on their research
The project is a collaboration between Education, Training and Research
Associates, a nonprofit organization, and the Santa Cruz City School
District, Harbor High School, Santa Cruz High School, Soquel High School,
She Rocks, and the Santa Cruz Commission for the Prevention of Violence
Against Women. The program is designed to have an impact at three levels:
the 450 girls directly involved in the leadership groups, all students at
these schools, and the overall school and district policies and actions in
the area of gender equity in education.
The following outcomes are expected for the participants in the program:
· assertiveness to speak up about issues of inequity, to be a leader,
and to mentor peers to reach their potential
· optimism that they have a range of choices for future careers
· self-confidence that they possess marketable skills such as science,
math, and technology
· awareness of inequity; the skills to identify barriers for women,
cultural minorities, and those with physical disabilities; knowledge of
how gender; and role attitudes influence options
· strategies for overcoming barriers to careers and education
· perceptions of support and encouragement, including positive role
models, adults with women they can talk about equity, and increased
alliances with other girls
Although only in its second year, early indications show that the project
is meeting its objectives, particularly those related to the girls
themselves. Data collected from participants, including pre- and post-test
surveys, weekly reactions, and interviews with a subgroup after completion
of the program suggest that girls are experiencing an increase in
assertiveness and school leadership as well as marketable skills. It is
still too early to tell about the impact on school climate and school
programs and policies.
The final two WEEA grantees are helping women in prison and those who have
experienced violence improve their lives by increasing their literacy
The Hinds County Women Inmates' Literacy and Education Program in Jackson,
Mississippi, is providing female inmates in the custody of the Hinds County
Sheriff's Department with the same literacy, postsecondary, and vocational
education opportunities as those provided to the male inmates. The
services of this four-year project (2000-2004) include offering the female
inmates the chance to read and write so that they may continue their
education in the department's high school equivalency program, as well as
the opportunity to learn technological skills that will enhance their
opportunity for employment after they are released.
The Women, Violence and Adult Education Project in Boston, Massachusetts,
is a three-year project (1999-2002) providing effective literary services
for low-income women learners who have experienced violence in their lives.
The model of innovative staff and program development, collaboration with
other community agencies, and the development and dissemination of
teacher/student generated educational materials is unique to World
Education and has emerged from years of experience in adult literacy
AAUW Educational Foundation. 2000. Tech-Savvy: Educating Girls in the New
Computer Age. Washington, D.C.: AAUW Educational Foundation.
Citizens Council on Women's Education. 1984. Catching Up: A Review of the
Women's Educational Equity Act Program. Washington, D.C.: National Council
for Women and Girls in Education.
National Center for Education Statistics. 2000. Trends in Educational
Equity of Girls and Women. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.
WEEA Equity Resource Center Staff:
Sundra Flansburg, Director
Amie Jagne, Administrative Assistant
Hilandia Neuta-Rendon, Senior Technical Assistance/EdEquity Moderator
Kimberly Newson, Office Assistant
Julia Potter, Managing Editor
Susan. J. Smith, Director of Communications
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