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We've Come a Long Way--Maybe: New Challenges for Gender Equity in Education


by Renee Spencer, Michelle V. Porche & Deborah L. Tolman — 2003

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between school-wide gender equity efforts and seventh grade girls' and boys' educational outcomes and psychological functioning. In this paper, we detail the components of the study, which included documenting that this school did in fact have a gender equitable environment; measuring students' perceptions of gender equity in their school experience, academic achievement, self-esteem, and gender ideologies; and conducting classroom observations, focus groups, and individual interviews with a subset of this sample. Our findings from these efforts yielded an unexpected and intriguing contradiction. Overwhelmingly, teachers and students reported in surveys that they perceived their school to be gender fair. Yet classroom observations and interviews with students bring into view serious differentials in how boys and girls experienced, behaved and were treated in their classrooms. The students read these differences in classroom behaviors as reflecting inherent or natural differences between boys and girls; thus, these differences were experienced as equitable. The article concludes with a discussion of how these findings raise questions about, and issue challenges for, current conceptions of gender equity in schools.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 105 Number 9, 2003, p. 1774-1807
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11564, Date Accessed: 12/13/2017 9:39:29 PM

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About the Author
  • Renee Spencer
    Boston University School of Social Work
    E-mail Author
    RENEE SPENCER is an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Social Work. Her research focuses on adolescent development; in particular, how strong relationships with adults foster positive youth development and how gender shapes adolescents’ experiences. Her publications include ‘‘On the Listening Guide: A Voice-Centered Relational Method’’ with C. Gilligan, M. K. Weinberg, and T. Bertsch, in P. M. Camic, J. E. Rhodes, & L. Yardley (Eds.), Qualitative Research in Psychology (2003), published by the American Psychological Association; and ‘‘Someone to Watch Over Me: Mentoring Programs in the After-School Lives of Children and Adolescents,’’ with J. E. Rhodes, in J. L. Mahoney, J. Eccles & R. Larson (Eds.), Organized Activities as Contexts of Development: Extracurricular Activities, After-School and Community Programs published by Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Michelle Porche
    Center for Research on Women, Wellesley College
    E-mail Author
    MICHELLE V. PORCHE is a research scientist at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College. Her research interests include cognitive and socioemotional factors related to school achievement for children and adolescents. Her publications include ‘‘From Preschool to Middle School: The Role of Masculinity in Low-Income Urban Adolescent Boys’ Literacy Skills and Academic Achievement,’’ with S. Ross and C. Snow, in N. Way & J. Chu (Eds.), Adolescent Boys in Context, published by New York University Press, and ‘‘Project EASE: The Effect of a Family Literacy Project on Kindergarten Students’ Early Literacy Skills,’’ Reading Research Quarterly (2000), with G. Jordan and C. Snow.
  • Deborah Tolman
    Center for Research on Women, Wellesley College
    DEBORAH L. TOLMAN is a professor in the Human Sexuality Studies Program at San Francisco State University. Her current research program on adolescent sexuality includes developing positive and comprehensive models of male and female adolescent sexual health, the relationship between adolescents’ television viewing and their sexuality, including the role of gender ideology, and theorizing female sexuality development. Her publications include Dilemma of Desire: Teenage Girls and Sexuality, published by Harvard University Press; ‘‘Sowing the Seeds of Violence in Heterosexual Relationships: Early Adolescents Narrate Compulsory Heterosexuality,’’ Journal of Social Issues (2003), with R. Spencer, M. Porche, and M. Rosen-Reynoso; and From Subjects to Subjectivities: A Handbook of Interpretive and Participatory Action Research Methods (2001), with M. Brydor-Miller published by New York University Press.
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