Why all Boys?
Green Tech High’s choice to be an all-male school is underscored by national, state, and local research illustrating that our society is at risk of losing a generation of young men. These “lost boys” are dropping out of high school, hitting the streets, joining gangs, turning to drugs, and as often as not, becoming caught-up in the criminal justice system.(1) These young men have very little chance of ever making it to college; their futures are just as likely to involve incarceration as education.
Here in Albany, the statistics for minority boys are grim:
- High Dropout and Failure Rates: Dropout rates are high for all children in Albany, but are especially so for minority students and for boys in particular.
- Majority of Court-Placed Youth: The data indicates that minority males also comprise the overwhelming share of youths placed by the courts into juvenile delinquency facilities and programs In 2002, of the 2,142 youths ordered into such programs, 83 percent were minorities and 83 percent were males.(4)
- High Juvenile Arrests: According to the data, 76 percent of juveniles arrested by the Albany City Police Department were African American, only 24 percent were white. 73 percent of arrestees were male, 27 percent female.(5)
- Heavy Involvement in Gangs: In recent years, youth gang activity in the City of Albany has reached disturbing levels. The dominant rival gangs have essentially split the city into uptown and downtown territories.(6) Probation officers in Albany “have been struggling with what they believed to be escalating violence being committed by local youth who were involved in organized gang activity.”(7) These gangs, which traffic in drugs, firearms, and explosives, and commit acts of violence ranging from burglary to murder, are recruiting boys as young as seven or eight years old into their ranks. The common age range for gang members is from 14 to 26 years old.(8) Gang members are overwhelmingly African American and Latino.(9)
- Interestingly, research has shown that poorly performing schools contribute to the growth of gangs. A study conducted in Rochester, New York, identified three school-related variables as significant risk factors for gang membership: (1) low expectations for success in school by parents and students; (2) low commitment to school by students; and (3) low attachment to school teachers.(10)
- High AIDS Rates: In Albany, the latest data reveals an alarming number of AIDS cases, with a disproportionate impact on minority youth. The rates of HIV/AIDS hospitalizations are greatest among blacks, particularly black males,(11) and the rate of new cases of AIDS is nearly 10 times higher for blacks (58.2 per 100,000) than for whites (6.1 per 100,000).(12) According to the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York, new cases of teenagers infected with HIV doubles every 14 months. Contributing factors include drug use and early sexual behavior.
- Green Tech High is uniquely designed to address each of these variables
With nearly nine out of every ten African American and Latino students in Albany failing the state’s 8th grade reading and math tests,(13) it is understandable that many become frustrated and drop out of school.
Naysayers may assert that these children cannot be “saved,” let alone be prepared to attend the nation’s top colleges and universities. Attempting to justify these low expectations, such critics cite the prevalence of low-income families, single-parent households and other demographic factors in which these children are raised. One thing is certain, however: these teenagers will not be saved if all that is offered them is more of the same type of public education that has already failed them.
Green Tech High is proposing an all-boys school in order to effectively serve Albany’s most challenged high school student population.
Research confirms that young men, particularly minorities, are the most educationally at-risk. Dr. Cornelius Riordan, an educational researcher and professor of sociology at Providence College, noted that: “…Boys are less likely than girls to be in an academic (college-preparatory) curriculum. They have lower educational and occupational expectations, have lower reading and writing test scores, and expect to complete their schooling at an earlier age.”(14) The U.S. General Accounting Office found that urban males benefit from single-sex schools: “Many educators are convinced of the value of single-gender settings for urban minority males. Several program officials…reported improved test scores, better attendance, or improved behavior among students in single-gender settings.”(15) This is supported by Dr. Riordan’s research. He found that the performance of African-American and Hispanic students in single-sex schools is stronger on all tests, with scores, on average, almost one academic year above that of their peers in coeducational settings.(16)
The success of “no excuses”-type high schools such as KIPP (Houston, TX and Gaston, NC), Academy of the Pacific Rim (Boston, MA), Noble Street (Chicago, IL), YES College Preparatory School (Youth Engaged in Service, Houston, TX), and MATCH (Media and Technology Charter High School, Boston, MA) have shown irrefutably that potentially negative demographic factors can be overcome by well-designed schools that combine innovative educational approaches, longer instructional time, high academic standards, and strong behavioral expectations.
Drawing from the best practices of these successful small schools, Green Tech High will provide a high-quality alternative for the students most at risk of falling between the cracks. To ensure that each of its students attain mastery in the fundamental subjects of English language arts and mathematics, Green Tech High will offer two hours of instruction in composition and literature daily; 90 minutes of math instruction daily; and will set-aside substantial time each day for tutoring and other instructional assistance. All students will receive weekly instruction in preparing presentations and in public speaking. Students also will be able to contact their teachers at any time, seven days a week, via cell phone for help with homework or other issues. This level of direct interaction is unheard of in Albany’s district schools.
1. Blumstein, Alfred and Elizabeth Graddy, “Prevalence and Recidivism Index Arrests: A Feedback Model,” Law and Society Review 16:265-290, 1981.
2. State Education Department, Overview of District Performance in English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science and Analysis of Student Subgroup Performance for Albany City School District, February 2005, 23.
3. Ibid, 15 and 18.
4. U.S. Census Bureau, Poverty Status in 1999, Census 2000 Summary File 4, www.census.gov.
5. New York State Office of Children and Family Services, Division of Rehabilitative Services.
6. Data compiled by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services for 2004 (August 2005). Juveniles are defined as all ages under 18.
7. Albany’s gang expert, Ron “Cook” Barrett, head of the Gang Prevention Center, a project of Albany’s Department of Youth and Family Services, as quoted in David King, “Nights at the Y,” Metroland, Summer 2005.
8.. Letter from the County of Albany Probation Department’s Deputy Director to Mayor Jennings, sent March 21, 2001, available online at www.nysgangprevention.com.
9. See www.nysgangprevention.com, for example.
10. National Youth Gang Center, Institute for Intergovernmental Research, http://www.iir.com/nygc/faq.htm.
11. Thornberry, T.P. 1998. “Membership in youth gangs and involvement in serious and violent offending,” Serious Violent Offenders: Risk Factors and Successful Interventions, edited by R. Loeber and D.P. Farrington. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
12. “Health Profile Report to the Capital District Community and Sponsors,” Albany County Department of Health, May 2002.
13. AIDS Council of Northeastern New York’s statistical website for teens, www.aidscouncilofneny.com/teenStatsSpeaking.htm.
14. State Education Department, Overview of District Performance in English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science and Analysis of Student Subgroup Performance for Albany City School District, February 2005, 18.
15. Cornelius Riordan, “The Silent Gender Gap,” Education Week, November 17, 1999, 46, 49.
16. Public Education: Issues Involving Single-Gender Schools and Programs (Washington, D.C.: General Accounting Office, 1996).
17.Cornelius Riordan, Girls and Boys in School: Together or Separate (New York: Teachers College Press, 1990). See, also, Cornelius Riordan, “Single-Gender Schools: Outcomes for African and Hispanic Americans,” Research in Sociology of Education and Socialization (Vol. 18, 1994), 177-205.