[EDEQUITY Equity Now]Opening statement by Barbara A. Bitters

From: Barbara A. Bitters, Director (barbara.bitters@dpi.state.wi.us)
Date: Mon May 20 2002 - 08:53:15 EDT

I started my gender equity career as an instructor of college level women's
studies classes after advocating for the creation of a Women's Studies
Program at UW-Madison launched in the fall of 1975. I was hired to
implement a WEEA grant awarded in the first year of the program in 1976.
The focus of our project was to develop four inservice training modules on
how Title IX and "sex role stereotyping" (the term sex equity had not yet
been coined) affected: guidance and counseling; vocational education;
curriculum and instruction; and parent and community relations. In 1978, I
was appointed the sex equity coordinator for k-12 vocational education
programs in Wisconsin. In 1980, I served for 14 months at the U.S.
Department of Education as a national leader in sex equity in vocational
education. I returned to Wisconsin and sex equity work for another ten
years. Since 1990, I have been the team leader for the equity mission
team-learning about and providing assistance in all the parallel equity
issues. My most recent interests have centered on: how to infuse equity in
federal programs, such as the No Child Left Behind; achievement gaps for
students of color; and defining equity competencies for educators.

I think it is important to reflect on the many successes of Title IX and
consider that changes were accomplished with little or no money across the
nation. I think about the equalizing of educator salaries, the
desegregation of most classes and schools on the basis of sex, the increase
in athletic and other extra-curricular opportunities for all students. I
also think about the dramatic changes in post-secondary educational
opportunities and degree attainment for females. Title IX has contributed
to changes in our workforce, our families, our communities and our
government. I am proud of the hard work and dedication of so many
educators, parents and students. I am especially grateful to be a member
of a national core of passionate and expert gender equity leaders who have
been critical to shaping the vision, working out the kinks and supporting
the efforts of so many people. Title IX has been wildly successful in
many ways.

I confess that I focus far more on concerns and issues related to Title IX
than on the successes. These include:

The alarming lack of knowledge and expertise on Title IX requirements or
"best practice" implications within local or state education agencies and
educator preparation programs. The educators who received training and
coaching about Title IX in the 70's and 80's are retiring. (Expertise)

An ongoing unwillingness to take sex discrimination, bias, role
stereotyping and harassment seriously for both males and females. Sex
discrimination is seen as a small and marginal issue outside the core of
teaching and learning. Funding or the technical assistance services funding
provides does not realistically exist for most local educators, schools or
districts. (Marginalization)

A lack of concern about growing challenges to Title IX and the principles
of sex equity in public education. This includes proposed redefinitions of
the Title IX regulations on single sex education and divisive discourse
about the "true causes, issues and victims" of sex discrimination.

A continued struggle to recognize and honor the diversity of gender and the
gender equity issues related to all parallel forms of diversity. Title IX
is too often seen as a law to benefit girls (or more specifically female
athletes) only. This is often due to people seeing Title IX as primarily
related to access issues. Male (and female) gender equity issues most
often require a focus beyond access to the highly complex and dynamic
issues related to how gender affects learning, achievement and development.

Title IX work today is most often complaint-triggered and reactive, not
proactive or preventative. The work is done in an atmosphere of conflict
and opposition instead of in a partnership between educators and families.
(Complaint Trigger)

A lack of leadership development resources to ensure that sex equity
principles and practices continue to evolve. The elimination of federal
funding for sex equity specialists, research, model programs, networks,
training and development have created a void that volunteers and the
private sector may not be able to fill. (New Leadership)

I look forward to the discussion.

Barbara A. Bitters, Director
Equity Mission Team
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
P.O. Box 7841
Madison, WI 53707-7841
fax 608-267-0364

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