Gender and Title IX: A study of the knowledge, perceptions, and experiences of middle and junior high school teachers and students
The purpose of this study was to investigate teacher and student knowledge, perceptions, and experiences with gender and Title IX in public schools. To this end, 440 students and 84 teachers in five diverse middle and junior high schools from Maryland, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia were recruited for participation. The schools varied in geographical location as well as in racial/ethnic and class diversity and included grades 6 though 9. All schools were coeducational, public institutions receiving federal assistance, and one was a charter school. Teachers and students completed their respective versions of the questionnaire Tuning into Title IX and Gender: Looking Behind the Schoolhouse Door. Quantitative data obtained through analysis of Likert-scale and closed-response questions provided information on teacher and student knowledge and attitudes related to Title IX and gender issues in education. Open-ended responses allowed participants to expand with detailed description to closed-response items, and made visible teacher and student thoughts and teaching/learning practices along with capturing their gender-related experiences in schools. Students also described their perceptions of gender roles through open-ended items. The first-person accounts of these students and teachers suggest that three decades of gender equity efforts have fallen far short of their goals. Contrary to the backlash argument that girls are now the advantaged sex, or the perceptions of many adults that both girls and boys are treated fairly in school today, these findings indicate that in terms of gender stereotypes, schools today are more similar than different from those that existed a generation ago. Findings reveal that gender plays a significant role in the lives of students, expanding some options, but more often limiting the academic and social development of females and males. While most teachers believed that gender is not an issue in their schools, students identified a myriad of persistent gender issues, including homophobia, academic difficulties, fighting, relational aggression, and sexual harassment and rape. Neither teachers nor students understood Title IX. Detailed findings as well as strategies to promote democratic, gender-fair instruction as well as school policies and practices are also explored.