The Challenges with Implicit Bias and Unconscious Bias
The district is attempting to move toward intervention in a new way; relying on terms like “unconscious bias” and “implicit bias” to fund and forward well intended hopes to improve the academic performance of children in its district. There are similar approaches statewide and nationally. Although these terms have become popular in contemporary educational institutions, unconscious bias and implicit bias is an unreliable measure at best. Psychologists know unconscious thoughts are not necessarily a part of people’s conscious actions. And even the idea of unpacking unconscious thoughts is a herculean if nearly impossible task in a district that employees approximately 400 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) of Classified Staff as well as others who work for the district.
Some psychologists assert unconscious bias and implicit bias training are statistically not significant, something acknowledged by psychologist Anthony Greenwald, the initiator of the Implicit Association Test (IAT), in Knowable Magazine and later republished with permission by PBS News Hour in June of 2020.
“I’m at the moment very skeptical about most of what’s offered under the label of implicit bias training, because the methods being used have not been tested scientifically to indicate that they are effective. And they’re using it without trying to assess whether the training they do is achieving the desired results.
“I see most implicit bias training as window dressing that looks good both internally to an organization and externally, as if you’re concerned and trying to do something. But it can be deployed without actually achieving anything, which makes it in fact counterproductive. After 10 years of doing this stuff and nobody reporting data, I think the logical conclusion is that if it was working, we would have heard about it.”
Any serious attempt to demonstrate equality, access, and outcomes cannot take place without disaggregating the intersectionality of race and gender and acknowledging the Boy Gender-Gap by instituting policies and proven programs to close that gap. In doing so, the district can improve the standards of all students (boys and girls) in a number of measurable outcomes. GIBM encourages the district to consider the following and invites parents to encourage the same:
Disaggregate data using the Global Initiative for Boys & Men Intersectionality of Race and Gender Templates
Introduce successful intervention and curricular programs that result in increasing student outcomes in Math and ELA
Encourage Anderson Consulting to look deeply into the Boy Gender-Gap
Consider teacher-training programs with proven results on educating through a gender lens
Consider single-sex and coeducational course options in a coeducational school to address the ways boys and girls learn differently
Close the Boy Gender-Gap in literacy, meeting UC/CSU requirements, and other areas
Apply for COVID education grants to fund pilot programs
While Pleasanton schools and schools statewide attempt to grapple with educational outcomes, these systems must look at a number of factors contributing to the Boy Gender-Gap in American education and American life. Policy actions that rely on outdated models of data collection will continue to conflate data and underrepresent the collective outcomes of boys, missing opportunities to direct resources at programs that improve the educational outcomes of our sons, and in doing so, increase the educational outcomes of our daughters.
Pleasanton Unified School District and other districts across the country can begin by disaggregating data, so data is a representative identification of student outcomes. More often, conflated data hurts boys more than girls because girls outperform their male counterparts of the same race in most measures.
To learn more, please join GIBM on Thursday, June 17, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. for a free webinar followed by a question and answer session for a fuller conversation on the Boy Gender-Gap, challenges, and solutions. Register at www.gibm.live/pusdsons. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Notes: GIBM has collected the data of 26,000 AP enrollments from 2012 to 2019 and is in the process of analyzing the data. Early analysis shows female students outpace boys in AP class enrollments even though males outnumber females in PUSD high schools.