Response to Susan

Humphrey, Karen (
22 Apr 98 10:56:11 PDT

This is a response to Susan's questions from Tuesday morning--sorry that I
didn't get back to it sooner but I spent most of the day in a meeting with the
grantees from the Single Gender Academies and the members of the
Superintendent's Advisory Committee. It was a regularly scheduled meeting that
happened to coincide with this dialogue, and it confirmed my earlier comments
that the programs are going well.

There is lots of anecdotal information about the positive impacts on the
self-esteem and "comfort level" of most of the students--female and
male--with the academies, as well as a sense that the students in these
programs seem to have made a shift from a sense of hopelessness about
their futures to one in which they envision opportunities they might not
previously have sensed. What seems to be happening for a lot of the kids
is they feel a sense of empowerment and ability to determine their own
future which they may not have demonstrated before. All the program
directors also noted a strong sense of "community" which they see
developing in their academies. These are all mostly qualititative
responses--test results will not be known for some time, but there are
some definite signs that these particular students are making some
academic progress.

Included in the discussion were two university researchers who are doing
a Ford Foundation-funded study of the California project. It won't be
complete for two to three years, but we expect it to provide some useful
information when it is released. They are doing a combination of
qualititative and quantitative research, and there was some discussion at
the meeting about the need to have both approaches to the research on
this issue.

For your background, the program grantees are expected to meet with
California Department of Education staff and each other twice a year in
Sacramento; in addition, CDE staff will visit the academies at least twice
a year to validate written Program Quality Reports submitted by the school
districts, and to provide technical assistance as necessary.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin has also appointed a
citizen's advisory committee of representatives from a variety of
organizations--AAUW, California Teachers Association, Boy Scouts, Girl
Scouts, YMCA, YWCA, Commission on the Status of Women and several others
representing youth, equity or education concerns (or two or three of them
at once) to give a community perspective on the administration of the
program and identify issues, questions and concerns which might be
considered as the program progresses. The committee is strictly advisory
in nature, but we expect some good discussions about a number of the
issues, including some raised in this dialogue, as they hold more

To answer Susan's questions, the "unique educational need" identified by
all of the academies was the underachievement of some of their students
and the belief by the students and/or their parents that these students
might improve their academic performance, as well as their attendance and
behavior, in a single-sex environment. Each grant has defined that need
and how to address it in somewhat different ways--the six programs are
quite varied in their programs and the emphasis of their activities (for
instance, some are more technologically oriented than others).

The various academies will measure their success by improvements in such
benchmarks as increases in reading levels, improved test scores and/or
grades, and increased graduation rates. They are also measuring certain
indicators of student behavior--reduced frequency of disciplinary
violations, improved attendance, etc. Some have unique elements in
their educational program; others are doing a fairly standard curriculum;
but all are emphasizing parental involvement, community partnerships and
an emphasis on staff development within their programs. While they do
target "at risk" students, the programs are not limited to those
students; voluntary choice of the single gender academy by the student
and/or his/her parents is key.

Generally, the racial and ethnic mix of the students in the academies
mirrors that of the surrounding student body. Most are fairly mixed, with
a large representation of Hispanic students; some African -American; some
Caucasian; and some Pacific Islander and Asian in a couple of the schools.
To the extent they are more diverse and represent more ethnic minorities
than the overall population, they tend to reflect the student population
in the particular school, which may be more ethnically mixed--and in many
instances more economically disadvantaged--than the overall community or

The question about building support in the communities is really for the
individual program directors to answer, as this was not the role of the
California Department of Education. (NOTE: I did send an earlier reply
that gave contact information--I assumed it was shared on this system).
Overall, several of the program proposers had done community work, first
to test interest and then to build support for their programs. That work
was primarily done after it became apparent there would be grant funding
available (to help decide if they would pursue a grant), not--to my
knowledge--before the legislation and budget were passed in mid-1996.

I appreciate a lot of the thoughtful replies that have been part of this
dialogue, and the questions as well. As a department, we have a
commitment to ensuring equal educational opportunity for ALL students.
That is a principle which underlies our administration of this particular
program, as well as the other work of the CDE. Single-gender academies
are being offered as a choice, an educational option for those who feel
they can benefit from them. While they are not specifically offered as a
strategy for achieving equity, we hope that information gained through
their operation can be used to promote a more equitable environment in all
California schools. It is clear from the statistics provided in some of
your replies--as well as our own observations in California--that there is
still a real problem, and we are committed to finding ways to solve it so
we can assure every student the high quality education they deserve.

Karen Humphrey

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