THE boys at Toledo Public Schools' single-gender school are not doing as well academically as their female counterparts. But judging from the changes at Lincoln Academy for Boys, there are possible explanations for why they are lagging behind their peers at Stewart Academy for Girls. And it's far too early to think about abandoning the three-year-old, single-gender school effort that has brought TPS national attention.
Students have a hard time excelling academically when the administration constantly changes and the teachers are inexperienced. Those could be reasons why the boys at Lincoln have not done as well as the girls at Stewart. While the girls are beginning to show school pride, there has been a new principal at Lincoln in each of the three years, and many of Lincoln's teachers are new, too.
With those kinds of changes, no wonder the sixth-grade boys' test scores in 2004-05 plunged in every subject compared to the previous year. Only a disconcerting 12.9 percent were rated at least proficient in reading; 53.6 percent were so rated in writing, and an embarrassing 6.5 percent were proficient or better in math. In 2003-04, those percentages were not much better: 16.2 percent, 57.9 percent, and 18.4 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, sixth-grade girls at Stewart showed a marked improvement in reading, writing, and math last year. Those scores were 89.4 percent, 80.4 percent, and 59.6 percent. In 2003-04, they were 17.2 percent, 75.9 percent, and 34.5 percent proficient or better in the subjects.
Clearly, there's a lot of work to be done. Lincoln's staff has researched how boys learn. Now that they have that figured out, they can put what they have learned to work to be help their young charges excel. One theory holds that boys tend to learn at a slower pace than girls anyway.
Every bit of progress cannot be determined by a test, however. For instance, the pupils at Lincoln behave better than their male peers at co-ed schools. They are also more likely to show interest in the arts and foreign language.
But those advances by themselves won't help Lincoln get rid of the "academic emergency" rank the state has given it. Once the school is on firmer footing in terms of a stable and more experienced staff, the young men's academic performance should improve because there isn't any doubt they can meet the challenge.
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