The Intersectionality of Race and Gender in PUSD and California Schools

June 6, 2021

(Updated on June 9, 2022)

by Sean Kullman

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Like many school districts in California and across the nation, Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD) in Pleasanton, California finds itself engaged in cultural conversations regarding equity and inclusion programs and the outcomes of children in its schools. The district’s push toward equity and inclusion, as an extension of equality, is at the core of a PUSD topic that started at least as early as 2016 and was reinforced at a March 25, 2021 Board Presentation.

“Equity and equality are not interchangeable terms. The concept of educational equity goes beyond formal equality -- where all students are treated the same -- to fostering a barrier-free environment where all students, regardless of background, have the opportunity to benefit equally. We believe that equity must be measured by access and outcomes.”

Formal equality truly is the highest measure because it promotes individual justice. In its essence and practice, formal equality employs fairness, morality, and ethics rooted in the consistent and fair treatment of all peoples. The district desire to measure access and outcomes must begin with identifying and measuring data to solve real challenges and also recognize impactful programs.

Many local, state, and national educational institutions (including PUSD) tend to conflate and present data as part of an historical practice, and their methods are emblematic of a systemic problem and long history of schools failing to disaggregate the intersectionality of race and sex data more openly. In many instances, contextual analysis becomes muddled and misleading.

In a January 2021 article on Boys, Race, and California Schools, Global Initiative for Boys and Men (GIBM) presented a more open approach on data collection for districts to use, so parents, administrators, teachers, and board members have a clearer understanding of outcomes. It is essential that local, state, and national education data disaggregate student outcomes that includes total-number cohorts as well as race/ethnicity and sex breakdowns, particularly when presenting percentages. Without context, percentages are unable to be properly assessed for statistical significance.

In PUSD’s March 25 Board meeting, PUSD mentioned that African American students represented 10.17% of student suspensions within their own racial group. What it failed to address is that African American males were 11.32% of suspensions and African American females were 2% of suspensions according to data received by GIBM from PUSD on May 21, 2021 after a public records request.

Data from the request differed from the data presented at the March 25 Board meeting, where the public records request showed a suspension rate of 6.79% for African American students (males 11.32% and females 2%). The total number of suspended African American students in PUSD for the 2019-20 academic year was 14 of the 206 students. Despite these differences in reporting, there is little doubt disaggregated data reveals the Boy Gender-Gap when it comes to suspensions.

Boys accounted for 78.7% of suspensions in 2019-2020 and 82% of suspensions from 2016 to 2020. The most consistent measure is that boys of all races are suspended more than their female counterparts of the same race. Over the past four years, PUSD suspended 2.28% of its student body. But African American, Hispanic, White, and Biracial males were well above the 2.28% school average while African American females were the only female group above the average by 0.94% and included only 13 suspended students over the course of 4 years. Additionally, these reports need to address suspensions by degrees of severity into tiered categories. There is little doubt some of the suspensions are warranted and some of the suspensions are debatable, but there is no doubt that suspension for assault is different from other types of suspensions.

Data that is not disaggregated by gender and race (and other categories) tends to conflate outcome reporting in abstract fashion. The GIBM tables below present district suspension rates for the 2019-20 academic year as well as a compilation of data from 2016 to 2019. In doing so, the data more accurately addresses the systemic challenges of boys in PUSD. Specifically, the male to female suspension ratio for the last four years (2016 to 2020) was 4.5:1 and 3.7:1 in 2019-2020. (It should be noted that a portion of in-class sessions were interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this may have impacted suspension numbers).

To see complete list of student suspensions, including students with disabilities, please go to table B1 in the appendix below. Table B1 was included in the appendix after a request by a parent on June 6 regarding data on students with disabilities.

Systemic Challenges for PUSD and California Schools

The presentation of most educational data tends to obscure details, in part, because of the systemic ways educational systems have historically collected and presented data. In other words, PUSD, like much of CA, needs to retool its data practices.

In a recent Pleasanton Weekly article, Nicole Anderson (a Pleasanton Unified School District consultant hired to look at unconscious bias and systemic racism in PUSD) says "it's important to recognize the historical context of public education, which wasn't originally intended to educate women or girls, poor people or minorities…When you fast forward to where we are in 2021, some of our policies and practices have a lot of mirroring to the past.” Anderson’s comments echo those of the PUSD School Board, which has become increasingly concerned with implicit bias, unconscious bias, and systemic racism in the district, authorizing $248,000 to Anderson’s consulting firm.

Anderson’s and PUSD’s historical overview conflicts with the contemporary data of the educational-outcomes of boys in PUSD, California, and nationally. The intersectionality of race and gender is often understated as educational systems openly present data that does not extend into the collective and racial academic outcomes of all boys. There is no denying boys of color and Native American boys are faring much worse than any other groups on a national level and CA state level. Although Anderson makes a valid comment regarding the historical framework of educational systems and minorities, including women into the category does not correlate with the statistical realities of today. Women have outnumbered men in 4-year undergraduate degree granting institutions by 2 million or more every year since 2003 and between 1 million to 2 million every year since 1988 according to data from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) and reported in a February 2020 analysis by GIBM with links to original NCES information.

To better understand student outcomes and academic performance, GIBM analyzed four years of data from the California Department of Education and disaggregated race and gender into 16 distinct categories that make for a more representative identification of student outcomes. Females represented 3 of the top 4 cohorts meeting University of California/California State University (UC/CSU) standards. Most significantly, males were collectively 6.7% behind females in high school graduation rates, but males were 11.5% behind females in meeting college readiness standards (refer to appendix below).

In PUSD, males are 7.6% behind females in meeting UC/CSU requirements, but a detailed look at the data reveals that males are much further behind in all race/ethnicity groups but one: Asian females are only ahead of Asian males by 1.4% while other ethnic groups are much further behind.

  • Hispanic males are behind Hispanic females by 13.5%.

  • White males are behind white females by 12.1%.

  • A few PUSD staff mentioned the decreasing number of white males enrolling in Advanced Placement classes*

Although the data of other race/ethnicity groups are included in the table below, the population of other cohorts, however, is statistically small but correlates with statewide data patterns. If we look at state standards in the appendix below (Table 1), we can see that PUSD follows the same pattern when it comes to the Boy Gender-Gap in meeting college readiness and other measures.

(Collecting the data above is a 32-step process, an 8-step process for the first year of data collection and a 6-step process for each subsequent academic year.)

The Boy Gender-Gap in Literacy

Part of this might be explained by looking at the English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) scores of males and females in PUSD and statewide. After analyzing data from nearly 40,000 PUSD Smarter Balance Test scores, GIBM found that males are behind females at all grade levels in English Language Arts/Literacy by 8% on average. The same systemic problem holds true after analyzing the data of nearly 16-million statewide test scores, where the average Boy Gender-Gap in English Language Arts/Literacy is 11%. (Refer to appendix below).

GIBM also compared the ELA scores of Pleasanton Unified School District 7th grade students in 2014-15 to their later scores in 2018-19 by analyzing over 1,160 and 1,198 test scores respectively. Progress remained steady, but the percentage of students who met 7th grade test scores remained essentially unchanged over the next 4 years, with both boys and girls showing a statistically insignificant decline of 1%.

This table was updated on June 12. To see year by year data collection on PUSD from 2014 to 2019 go to Tables D and E in the appendix at the bottom of the page.

One parent in PUSD whose son had a reading difference said, “Our son would not have progressed if we did not have the finances to pay for private tutoring.” Other parents have commented on the number of students who use private tutors that may account for some of PUSD’s success. Some have suggested the use of an anonymous survey to gauge the number of students who receive private tutoring, but the district is resistant to conduct such a survey. In a community meeting a few years ago, a parent asked Superintendent David Haglund about surveying PUSD parents and their hiring of private tutors for their children. The parent knows other families who use private tutors and thought a survey on the topic might provide valuable insights. The parent reported Superintendent Haglund does not judge how parents choose to spend their money. GIBM has emailed Superintendent Haglund regarding this topic and is awaiting a response.

But the use of private tutoring raises an interesting question regarding equality, access, and student outcomes. It is an opportunity for the district to identify particular types of student outcomes and its association with private extra-curricular intervention.

Boys and Girls Equally Meeting Math Standards in PUSD. But Boys are Behind Girls in CA in 8th and 11th Grades

In a review of meeting and exceeding Smarter Balance Math standards in PUSD, GIBM analysis of nearly 40,000 test scores reveals no statistical significance. While boys are ahead of girls in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, girls are ahead of boys in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade by 1-2%. Overall performance and 11th grade performance is approximately 1% difference.

In a review of students meeting and exceeding Smarter Balance Math standards in California, GIBM analysis of data from 16-million test scores reveals girls are doing better in 8th grade and 11th grades by 4%. On a statewide level boys are behind girls in meeting and exceeding English Language Arts/Literacy standards by 11% and Math standards by 4% in 8th and 11th grades after reviewing five years of Smarter Balance testing. (Refer to appendix below).

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 You can also email us at

*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.

Appendix of Tables

Table B1 disaggregates suspension rates including students with disabilities. In the 10 cohorts listed, boys are 4 of top 5 in percentage of 1x suspensions, 5 of top 5 in multiple suspensions. The ratio of male to female students with disabilities for 1x suspensions and multiple suspensions is 6.7:1 to 9.2:1 respectively.

Yearly data shows that male students are behind female student each year and at every grade level for meeting and exceeding yearly literacy standards.

Table 1 disaggregates college readiness and other data of nearly 2 million CA students by race/ethnicity and sex. Data shows males of all races are behind their female counterparts of the same race in meeting UC/CSU requirements.

Updated on June 9, 2022 (American Indian/Alaska Native numbers were updated. Only 27% meet UC/CSU Requirements not 29%). Original source, click here.

Table 2 is an analysis of data on16-million students meeting and exceeding English Language Arts/Literacy Standards from 2014-15 to 2018-19 by sex. Boys are behind girls at all grade levels by 11% on average. The Boy Gender-Gap ranges from 8% to 13%. Data was not readily available for disaggregating by race/ethnicity and sex. GIBM is looking into disaggregating this data further.

Table 3 is an analysis of data from 16-million test scores and reveals girls are doing better in 6th, 8th and 11th grades in math by 4%. Data was not readily available for disaggregating by race/ethnicity and sex. GIBM is looking into disaggregating this data further. Girls are also slightly ahead in 7th grade.

On a statewide level, five years of data reveals:

  • Boys are behind girls in meeting and exceeding English Language Arts/Literacy standards by 11%

  • Boys are behind girls in meeting Math standards by 4% in 8th and 11th grades

Ways to donate to the Global Initiative for Boys and Men

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