Solutions to gender disparity sought for School District 20

Gender inequality continues to plague School District 20 as boys in the district are underperforming girls by 7% in required exams

Gender inequality continues to plague School District 20 as boys in the district are underperforming girls by seven per cent in required exams and completion rates across the board.

Although questions are being asked as to why this trend is occurring, answers aren’t easy to come by — and are made even more difficult this year due to teacher job action.

Bill Ford, SD20 director of instruction, said boys are a target area for several programs within the district’s achievement contract — which sets out standards for student performance and plans for improving achievement in the district — and a number of initiatives were arranged to deal with the disparity between the genders.

In the 2011-12 school year there were plans for teacher learning groups, specifically designed to target how boys were doing and how to better engage them.

“But we haven’t been able to move those forward because of the teacher job action,” said Ford.

The conversations continue, however, said Ford during last week’s board of trustees meeting in Trail. He pointed to a recent pilot program at Glenmerry Elementary they hoped would deal with the disparity as falling short of their expectations.

The pilot program split the school’s Grade 7 class into one class of boys and another with all girls to see if they could adapt curriculum and learning rates in the segregated scenarios.

During the year the project was initiated there appeared to be higher achievements and gains for boys, said Ford, but there was no legacy.

“As those kids left that program there was no holdover; the boys did not perform any better up at Crowe (Secondary) than the girls did,” he said.

As a matter of fact, what was reported at J.L Crowe was there were “significant social issues” as a result of having the kids separated in Grade 7, Ford told the board.

When SD20 staff had the opportunity to interview the students at Crowe about the experience, they actually said, in hindsight, they would have preferred to have been grouped together and not separated, Ford explained.

The issue of falling academic performances for boys has perplexed veteran school board trustee Mickey Kinakin for years.

He re-iterated his concern that something needed to be done to bolster boys’ engagement in the district schools.

“We are just not dealing with the issue at all,” he commented during the board’s inaugural meeting. “What do we have to do to get the message across?”

Despite teacher job action hindering the process the conversations are continuing, said superintendent of schools, Greg Luterbach, and the fact that boys are under performing compared to girls is now a provincial concern.

He said the Ministry of Education is attempting to design a system to engage kids through opportunities, making sure kids have choice in their education, making sure kids are engaging with the real world, and making sure kids are to use their hands in learning.

“There are lots of things being considered for boys,” he said.

Ford said the framework for a review is being put together on the percentage of boys and girls enrolled in the alternate school program at Trail Middle School, as well as why aboriginal students make up 40 per cent of the school’s population, yet comprise 10 per cent of the student body district-wide.

The final report is due out in March 2012, with some recommendations expected to follow. Ford said that report should help shed more light on the gender question in SD20.