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Using Mandates to Drive Change on the Soccer Field and in the Classroom

16 Jul 2015 by Jennifer Park

Congratulations to the USA Women’s Soccer Team! What an amazing accomplishment to be the best in the world. In listening to commentary on NPR, I heard a clip of a little girl saying that she wants to win the world cup when she grows up. I couldn’t help but think about how unlikely it would have been for the US Women’s team to be world champions absent the passage of the Title IX mandate.

Title IX was passed in 1972. This was a remarkable game changer (pun intended) for women’s sports. Title IX, requires gender equity in every educational program that receives public funds. Title IX continues to drive much of the funding for girls’ and women’s sports. This means that now, more than 40 years later, most of today’s mothers of girls experienced equity efforts at some level in their own childhoods. Moms like me grew up with access to school-based sports. Now our girls have pretty sophisticated school-based sports programming. 

Title IX is a mandate. Today we think little of the struggle to adopt and implement practices to adhere to this mandate. I suspect in 1972 there was a lot of resistance and perhaps even hysteria around how it was interfering with a system that was working just fine. In fact, this is why there is STILL organization around reauthorization of Title IX. And even today we are hearing about how some educational institutions may not be adhering to Title IX. Mandates can and should drive changes in behavior that serve a clear purpose, to improve programming and increase access for those who can be easily marginalized. 

Perhaps this success story about mandates and women’s sports struck a cord with me because of my early childhood background. Early childhood programs know all about accountability. We have so many requirements to adhere to, and subsequently we are required to demonstrate adherence to them. Head Start programs and state and local systems are adopting the CLASS and other mandated accountability measures. Much like Title IX, these mandates are intended to serve a clear purpose and these reporting requirements exist to change the delivery of services. All children deserve engaged, responsive, and intentional teachers. While these mandates may create more paper work, in theory, they exist to ensure our children receive high quality teaching and learning environments. Of course, not all mandates are perfect – and some do make life harder for educators – but many do in fact help change outcomes, whether it be for children in early childhood settings or aspiring female athletes.

 

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