Boys still struggling in schools

March 27th, 2010 by Pelle Billing

An article in Education Week highlights how girls have closed the gap to boys in mathematics, while boys are still trailing girls just as much in reading:

[...] male students in every state where data were available lag behind females in reading, based on an analysis of recent state test results. At the same time, in mathematics, a subject in which girls have historically trailed, the percentages of both genders scoring “proficient” or higher were roughly the same [...]

Luckily, educators are finally beginning to take these trends seriously:

“We’ve been talking about closing the achievement gap in so many different ways, … but we have not focused on the gender gap, which is very clear and startling in this report.”

To the best of my knowledge there has been quite a bit of focus on the gender gap–in math-where girls used to trail boys in their performance. However, the fact that there has been a reversed gender gap in reading has pretty much been ignored, so it’s good to see that it finally may gain some traction.

The gender gap in schools cannot be ignored since it carries over into higher education. In most Western countries more girls than boys are entering college and universities, and the differences cannot be said to be negligible. In Sweden, for example, almost twice as many women are getting a degree from colleges and universitities. What will these differences lead to in the long run?

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7 Responses to “Boys still struggling in schools”

  1. David Says:

    That’s one of the most disturbing things to me, Pelle, if not the most disturbing thing. Society will lose out in a big way if boy’s/men’s talents aren’t cultivated.

    Why it’s happening of course is a very big question.

    With regard to college admissions, there was a time when the balance was just the opposite, right? What forces created the situation we have today?

    In the U.S. recently the Civil Rights Commission began investigating whether there is a gender bias in college admissions. Of course there is; every college admits there is privately; the question is whether they will decide it’s a crime or not.

    I don’t imagine that they will, but it’s a little troubling that the Civil Rights Commission would investigate. I doubt very much they would investigate if there were more men being admitted and colleges favored women to maintain a balance.

    In any case, I think we need a different sort of investigation. Here is an article about the Civil Rights Commission investigation if you haven’t heard of it. Probably you have.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/13/AR2009121302922.html

  2. Pelle Billing Says:

    No, I hadn’t heard of it. Thanks for the link, David.

  3. David Says:

    Your welcome, Pelle. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.

    Here is a recent article by Christina Hoff Sommers on gender bias in the sciences that I happened to see in case you missed it.

    http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0301/opinions-women-national-science-foundation-on-my-mind.html

  4. Toysoldier Says:

    I think the gender-gap in reading levels for boys has a lot to do with the materials boys are given to read. Few people enjoy reading about things that do not interest them, yet a lot of the books on school reading lists do not appeal to boys. Even if the subject matter might interest them, often the books are classics that have difficult language to parse, leaving some boys frustrated. Obviously boys do read, so it is just a matter of putting things in front of them that interest them.

    I also think part of the problem is the lack of male teachers. Having men there might encourage boys to read books they are not interested in, and male teachers may better understand some of the difficulties some boys may have when it comes to reading and comprehension.

  5. Porky Domesticus Says:

    “What will these differences lead to in the long run?”

    A middle class workforce dominated by women, that’s what, which is one of the primary reasons why the rich and powerful don’t do anything about this – they know female doctors and lawyers will be easier to push around.

  6. Lövet Says:

    I think one should also consider the effect of “self fulfilling prophecies” or psychological priming. C fr for example: Bargh, John A.; Chen, Mark; Burrows, Laura (1996). “Automaticity of Social Behavior: Direct Effects of Trait Construct and Stereotype Activation on Action”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 71 (2). Other similar studies have indicated that afro-american students taking SAT test after having filled in a form where they had to indicate “race” dropped significantly in results compared to those afro-americans who’s forms didn’t have “race” in them.

    What about this continous flow of “lazy boys”, “boys are anti-school”, “It’s unmanly to achieve good results in school” etc? What does this achiev in stereotyping boys?

    …and for that matter what does all this “girls suffer stress from hard studying” do to the girls?

  7. Lövet Says:

    …and then again, of course one might ask what it does in the way of priming the teachers expectations when it comes to assessing the boys’ and girls’ results?


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