Are Boys Falling Behind Due To Lack of Male Teachers?

Former teacher Liam Day examines the achievement gap in education that is leaving boys behind.

There are two academic achievement gaps in this country. One, the racial achievement gap, has received a great deal of attention from media and public policy experts. Rightly so. Unfortunately, the other, which is no less dire, is less commented on.

By almost any measure of academic performance, girls in this country outperform boys. The proportion of students enrolled in a 2 or 4-year college in the United States who are male is roughly 43%. So too the proportion who go on to graduate from college.

The gap in high school graudation rates is similarly significant. 74% of girls graduate, only 67% of boys.

But the gender achievement gap isn’t unique to the United States. The data appear to be consistent with trends in the United Kingdom, where a new study from the Center for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics has just been released. The study identifies as a possible culprit for boys’ poor academic performance a lack of male teachers.

In the UK, only 25 percent of all teachers are male. In primary schools, that percentage falls to 15%. Here in the United States the proportion is only slightly higher. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 18% of all elementary and middle school teachers are male.

Frankly, none of this comes as a shock. All one has to do is walk into an elementary school anywhere in the country to see the imbalance. When I taught 6th grade in a grade 5-6 building, I was one of 9 males out of a total of 70 faculty and staff. A good friend who has served as a recruiting officer for both Teach for America and a charter management organization complains about the proponderance of young white women he interviews for teaching and administrative positions in predominantly black and Latino schools.

Of course, there are historical reasons – both pernicious and persistent – for this. 60 years ago, education was one of the few professions it was acceptable for an educated woman to pursue. Today, the gender stereotype lingers at the elementary level.

Neither should we be surprised at the potential damage this imbalance is wreaking. Yes, it is only one study and more research needs to be done, but there’s existing data that help tell part of the story. For instance, boys in grades K-3 are four times more likely to be identified with a learning need of some kind and placed on an individualized education plan. Do boys really have neurological or physiological problems at rates four times higher than girls? I can’t imagine.

Anti-intellectualism isn’t a new strain of the American male psyche. There has always been the perception of a divide between those who do and those who think, the jocks and the nerds, the freaks and the geeks, for those of you who remember the too-short lived TV show.

This perceived divide is at least partly due to the belief that doing well in school is somehow to be feminine, to act like a girl, and I can’t help but wonder whether this belief isn’t due to the preponderance of female role models in our elementary schools. When you’re 6, 7 or 8 years old and all your teachers are women, it isn’t exactly unreasonable to assume that school is for girls.

What do you think? Is it “girlie” to achieve in school these days? How can we change this male:female teacher ratio to help boys get back on track?

 

More on boys and education

Photo courtesy of hoyasmeg

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Liam Day

Liam Day has been a youth worker, teacher, campaign manager, political pundit, communications director, and professional basketball player. His poems have appeared at Slow Trains Apt, and Wilderness House Literary Review. His op-eds and essays have appeared in Annalemma Stymie, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald. He lives in Boston, where he works as a public health professional. He is the Sports Editor at The Good Men Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @LiamDay7.

Comments

  1. The solution for the gender divide in academic performance is to have separate schools for boys with male teachers and girls with female teachers.

    • How does that knock down the public perception of molestation? Is it a chicken or egg? Are men de-emphasized because they are seen as kinda creepy, or do men see the writing on the wall and just avoid the profession? Out of what woodwork will these male teachers suddenly appear? The lack of male achievement is the lack of male teachers as role models and the lack of male teachers is because most parents would rather deal with the non-threat of a woman teacher.

      The lack of male teachers starts in kindergarten and is rampant through grade school. So what are boys to make of it? Obviously guys have better things to do with their testosterone than teach and nurture. Like free solo rock climbing, racing stock cars, shooting guns, bull riding, jet skiing, blowing stuff up and just doing a general whoop ass on society. All worthy endeavors.

  2. I am raising an 11 yo son who has ADD, dyslexia and learning disability…that said, he is the sweetest, loveliest kid ever…he loves making stop-action videos starring his LEGO dinosaurs on his NINTENDO-3DS…he loves LEGO Robotics and is under the tutelage of an an Ivy League computer guy and an international venture capitalist, who travels between the Asia and America looking for the next big thing….he loves Greek mythology and the Percy Jackson series and spinoff series ….along with Harry Potter…

    My son is so different from me and my husband when we were growing up (although maybe not so different)…it is a challenge trying to get his attention and focus on academic things (he’s OK with ancient Greek and Mesopotamian history, but not so much with spelling and math calculations)….Luckily he is in an excellent middle school with some of the greatest teachers who keep him engaged and progressing at his own pace…he enjoys TECH class (they build bridges and other cool things) and FAMILY & CONSUMER SCIENCE (Home Ec, as they used to call it in the old days) as much as he enjoys his other classes….He loves school even though he struggles with parts of it…

    I listen to my colleague talk about her kids and nephews getting into Ivy League schools and competing in Math and Science Olympiads and taking AP classes galore…and I know my child will probably have to blaze his own trail at his own pace….I’ve have tried to let go of my own rigid Tiger Mom upbringing to try to go with the flow and let my son take the lead to see where his interests will take him…right now he is intent on making silly comedy and LEGO videos to eventually post on youtube (a la Ryan Higa)….so be it! I think my job as the parent is to try to stimulate him and keep him engaged….Maybe he could design a more interesting computer game to teach math subjects….!

  3. wellokaythen says:

    First of all, I don’t see how it could *hurt* boys’ educational achievement to have more male teachers, so that’s not inherently a bad idea, in my opinion. (The downside to that is that if you make some sort of pro-male affirmative action program, you may get perfectly qualified female teachers passed over for mediocre male ones. That’s hardly a winning strategy.)

    One could actually get a handle on how much it matters by comparing different subjects or different classes at the individual student level. Look at how an individual boy performs in classes with male teachers compared to the ones he has with female teachers. (Assuming they have enough male teachers to make any valid comparison.) Aggregate them all and see if there are any statistically significant differences.

    My totally wild guess is that it makes a big difference if a boy has NO male teachers, but past a certain point having more male teachers makes no big difference. Having ten is probably not significantly better than having five.

    But, there is a lot more to the achievement gap than the way that a teacher pees.

    At the post-secondary level, we have to look at student choices, not just student preparation. The enrollment and completion levels of male college students have a lot to do with choices that those students make. They have agency. They bear some responsibility for their educational outcomes. Not all of it, but sure as hell some of it. I would hate for society to treat college-level outcomes exactly the same way as kindergarten outcomes. At some point the individual student has to be held partly responsible for his fate.

    And, clearly there’s some kind of larger cultural factor. Teaching has been overwhelmingly a female job for a long time now. In the past, boys did better than girls did at a time when there were even FEWER male teachers. So, obviously the gender of the teacher is not the only thing going on. If the teacher’s gender were decisive, then this girl-over-boy gap would have been going on for centuries.

    Having so many boys channeled into special needs programs is a double-edged sword, in my opinion. It gives the boys extra help to succeed but also tends to channel them into separate pathways. It winds up being a sort of gender segregation. I don’t have an easy solution for it. ADD is clearly over-diagnosed, but no parent is going to risk a false negative diagnosis. Better safe than sorry, on the individual level.

    Oddly enough, in my college classes it’s female students who are the vast majority of students who have special testing arrangements because of learning disabilities. In any given term I have 3-4 students who have learning disability accommodations. Out of a dozen in any given year, maybe one or two are male. I don’t know if all the male students with disabilities simply never make it to my classes or simply don’t identify themselves as such or don’t ask for help the way that female students do.

    As for anti-intellectualism, that probably has a role to play, but let’s not take that too far. It’s kind of cute that people still think that K-12 education has any real connection to being intellectual. The American education system punishes intellectual pursuits almost as much as it rewards them. Getting really high grades and being intellectual are not necessarily the same thing.

    • “(The downside to that is that if you make some sort of pro-male affirmative action program, you may get perfectly qualified female teachers passed over for mediocre male ones. That’s hardly a winning strategy.)”
      Sounds familiar with reverse genders:P

      • Archy, have no fear. There are unofficial pro-male affirmative actions programs in place in most school systems and teaching colleges, even for sub-par male candidates. The quality of the entire candidate pool continues to drop because of the growing inverse relationship between job responsibilities and salary.

        • Actually, colleges are trying to not allow the gap to spread beyond 60/40 or 65/35. If they didn’t it would be 70/30 or 75/25 by now. However, their concerns are social campus life not boys’ education. They believe that it makes for a less inviting environment for girls if there is a 70/30 or higher spread.

          • Eric, teaching colleges are jumping through hoops trying to attract prospective male teachers and can guarantee multiple job opportunities. There just aren’t that many young men interested in teaching.

            • Due to 3 factors, money vs responsibility, “woman’s job”, and the new pedophile hysteria which is a major reason I myself didn’t want to be a teacher and find it hard to work with kids at all due to the public perception of men with kids in Australia at least. Personally I believe many men are scared off from the profession, and in fact any role with kids. I know quite a few guys who are nervous around children because of the hysteria.

              It seems we’re getting worse in stereotypes of the genders in an age that is meant to have big pushes for equality and understanding. There isn’t much to attract women to the job these days, let alone the men, and having both parents as teachers I was completely turned off to wanting to teach because it’s too much bullshit for no real reward. If I want that kind of stress and workload, I’ll go work the mines for 2-4x the money.

  4. I don’t know. I’ve learned a lot BECAUSE of some male teachers. And I’ve learned DESPITE some other male teachers.

    It’s like the question of being raised by two people or one person. Having no father around is better than having a terrible father around. Same with teachers.

  5. Another great article by a male teacher addressing why we need more male teachers.

    http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/put-your-hands-up-and-step-away-from-the-child/

  6. I’m not really sure the gender of the teachers enters into this at all.

    Back in 2006, Goldin, Katz, and Kuziemko presented pretty convincing evidence that there were three principle determinants of whether or not someone would complete high school and attend college:
    their scores on standardized reading tests
    their scores on standardized math tests
    the number of math and science class they took

    All three variables were positively correlated, so the higher the score, or the more classes the student took, the more likely they were to finish high school and go to college.

    Historically (and continuing to a statistically significant degree today) boys have outscored girls on standardized math tests, and historically (though the gap has since closed) took more math and science courses.

    Meanwhile, girls have historically (and it continues today) outscored boys on standardized readings tests.

    The past 3 decades have seen a major push to improve the math scores of girls, and to get more girls into math and science classes. It then comes as no surprise that the number of girls finishing high school and attending college has ballooned as these efforts have intensified.

    Yet there has been no similar attention to the reading score gap with respect to boys. Instead, there is a tendency for educators to throw up their hands and claim “Boys develop verbal skills later,” or the dreaded “They must all have ADHD.”

    Until we see a concerted effort to close the reading score gap, that mirrors the intensity and attention given to the math-and-science gap during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, there is no reason to expect this trend to reverse. The gender of the teacher is not likely to have much to do with this, it is the programs and the curricula that will make the difference.

    • Mike, I agree with you that the gender of the teacher does not really affect grades, although more male teachers might help boys relate better. Most boys develop reading skills later and girls develop math skills later (see my post below), and the perception that there is a standard all kids must achieve in every subject year by year is seriously flawed.

      Schools need to develop the whole student, especially now with single parents and two working parents. Art, music, gym and shop are essential to student development and should be regarded as core curriculum – not elective, or worse, not available. Unfortunately, the more kids are labeled special ed,”or ADHD or mildly autistic, the less money there is for these subjects that these kids need so desperately. Any parent can take their normal child to a psychologist and come out with a negative diagnosis and a prescription for some drug. If these frauds didn’t diagnose kids negatively, they wouldn’t have any business – and often they’re indirectly paid by the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the drugs they prescribe.

      The greatest determinant of a child’s academic success is their parents’ financial status. Kids from wealthier families have more diverse and enriching experiences and more educated parents. The single most important step for the U.S. is to level-fund school systems by state, not according to property taxes by towns, where wealthy communities have good school systems and poor communities have poor school systems.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    Strange thing, I think, happened last week. We were vacationing at a condo with my son and his family. My older granddaughter is a very bright, extraordinarily beautiful girl of four and a half. Her proportions are ahead of her age– leg vs. torso length, etc–so that she seems older than her age. A boy from another family, age eight, who could swim like a fish, asked her to throw certain rings into the water so he could swim down and get them for her. That went on for twenty minutes. I was wondering if he’d offer to buy her a drink.
    Another case: Terrible boating accident a couple of years ago. I was talking about it with some other guys of my–advanced–age and remarked, “The most dangerous thing in the world for a fourteen year old boy is a fourteen year old girl watching.” Parenthetically, that didn’t seem to be the issue in the accident. But my friends all agreed emphatically. We’d all been there, back in the God blessed days of all balls and no judgment.
    Point is, boys are different from girls from the first day and expecting women to know the difference if they’d been educated in current ed schools, and introduced to short blocks on ADHD or other toxic aspects of being a boy is silly.
    Besides, when you talk about women having new opportunities including not needing husbands, you also might want to think about new opportunities for men who don’t follow the college-only educational tracks. See IT, for example.

    • Sorry, but I don’t think it’s too much for a grown woman to step outside the box and learn about boys. I’d be willing to do the same if I were a male teacher for girl students.

  8. Anthony Zarat says:

    There are 1000 related reasons. This is just one of them. Boys are failing because our government engineers them to fail.

  9. Thanks for writing this, but sadly I hold out little hope that there will be any acknowlegement of even the existence of the education gap as a problem by anyone with power to effect equality.

    It’s politically incorrect to acknowelge the gender education gap because boys are on the short end of the stick. Acknowledgement of the education gap being more than a curiosity, and actually doing anything to address it would be considered sexist discrimination and the feminist movement would be sure to raise cane about it with the policians. As a result, nobody with any power dare mention that boys not graduating from high school and young men not graducating from or even going to college is even a minor problem. After all, they enjoy male privilege whether they graduate from high school or not.

    • Eric, more extreme than the gender statistics are the racial statistics, where black boys and girls fail and drop out at an alarming rate across the board, much more than any other demographic.

      • Actually the broadest gender education gap is between black girls and boys, with black boys far behind girls. As if young black men didn’t have it hard enough, we are intentionally further disenfranchising them by standing by idly while they grow up to be under- or un-educated, which will make for a generation of frustrated and angry under- or un-employed young black men who WILL be fathers for the next generation, where things (based on the current trend) will be even worse.

  10. I believe that study also shows female teachers award females higher marks, and male teachers award males higher marks so due to there being far more female teachers…the bias will harm the boys.

    Other theories I’ve seen have mentioned the feminization of learning, bias in teachers towards genders, ie Expecting boys to misbehave more and thus being more critical on them for their behaviour (which for me made me shut down in school more).

    I noticed when I was in school I was bullied quite a bit for being “smart”, doing good, answering questions and participating in class, I was getting a’s but the bullying was getting to me and my grades slipped, I didn’t want to participate as much because it wasn’t cool to be smart. Intelligence seemed like a negative compared to sporting ability, especially for the boys.

    What stops men from entering the profession? 3 things I’ve seen reported by people in the field, 1, Pay, men are pushed heavily towards jobs that bring in more cash with gender roles whereas it seems women aren’t expected to earn as much and can choose fields that are more humanity based instead of pure income. 2, Notions of it being a woman’s job. 3, the new one, and possibly the most dangerous…Pedophile hysteria, ESPECIALLY in primary, preschool, and kindergarten levels where men have parents asking for them to be fired just because they are male. I was told I’d make a good teacher but HELL NO, my parents were teachers and I heard how bad the profession was with stress, lack of discipline in kids and the pedohysteria against the men especially.

    We need an equal level of teaching by each gender but there are roadblocks to that currently and that seems to be harming our boys whilst the girls seem to be excelling. The above comment on the lack of effort towards reading skills for boys to address the imbalance seems to be a very plausible reason (girls had it with math which was addressed). I think it’s a variety of problems that boys face, and not easy to limit to one main issue.

    One additional reason I’ve heard talked about is lack of exercise, less activity and having people sit down for long periods for classes. Is it possible this affects boys more than girls? ADHD-like symptoms made worse? I found I was less disruptive after wearing off excess energy so this could be an avenue to investigate.

    • Archy, your information is way off. There is no reputable study relevant to the U.S. with these results.

      • I’m reasonably comfortable extrapolating UK results to the US given the high degree of similarity between the systems and their products. At least I would recommend a immediately commissioning a similar study. The methodology were not all that complex and it shouldnt be too difficult.

        OR we could hide our heads in the sand and say “your information is way off….”

        I’m not a teacher but I do know a thing or two about research.

        • The UK and US educational systems are very different, not really comparable. For starters, they graduate at 16. The U.S. would be smart to adopt that plan, and at that point students would either be routed to a rigorous pre-college program or a trade school. There are too many kids mucking about as juniors and seniors in high and in college, taking remedial courses and getting special ed and they really don’t belong there.

          • explain to me the relevance of graduating at 16. OK- boys are underperforming girls at 16 in our current system. problem perpetuated. nothing solved.

            Find me a difference that is relevant.

      • Which parts in particular? Some of what I said was opinion and may not have clearly indicated.

        Pedophile hysteria has been talked about though in Australia, the UK, and I’m sure even the US. ht tp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-443552/Paedophile-hysteria-putting-men-teaching-says-Boris-Johnson.html

        As for the results, above commenters discussed it and this article too
        http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/female-teachers-accused-of-giving-boys-lower-marks-6943937.html
        “It also shows their suspicions are correct – female teachers did, on average, award lower marks to boys than unidentified external examiners. Male teachers, by contrast, awarded them higher marks than external examiners.”
        “It also revealed that girls tried harder if they had a male teacher because they believed they would get better marks. Their suspicions were not borne out, though, as the male teachers tended to give them exactly the same marks as the external examiners.”

        So this study is for the UK, and is the one discussed in the authors post, so how exactly is this information way off? Care to offer something that challenges these findings because they do paint female teachers in a negative light, and for a legitimate reason – It seems female teachers are worse for boys in grading whereas male teachers seem to be ok for girls. To me that is a major problem, both need to stop over-marking, but female teachers need to stop UNDERmarking especially as females are the majority of teachers. How do we eliminate the bias and create a level playing field?

        This problem of marking could be limited to the uk, or it might extend to other countries. What would cause the issue in the first place? These are questions that need to be addressed.

  11. The study has 4 interesting findings:

    1. Male teachers are biased in favor of boys when compared to an objective standard.
    2. Female teachers are biased in favor of girls when compared to an objective standard.

    Taken alone this could create major difficulties for boys in education. Obviously, with more women than men the female bias is magnified.

    Here is where it gets interesting.

    3. Male teachers show no bias against girls when compared to an objective standard. Basically, Men tend to make boys a little better than they deserve and mark girls exactly where they deserve to be marked.
    4. Female teachers are biased AGAINST boys when compared to an objective standard. Women tend to make girls a little better then they deserve and mark boys worse than they deserve to be marked.

    Let point 4 sink in for a second.

    We have a system that is biased in favor of one gender and against another. The countermeasure of increasing the proportion of male teachers is important but for the sake of the kids we have got to do something about the anti-male bias (measured and demonstrated- your anecdota is not data) in our schools. Even a 50/50 split of teachers would be somewhat anti-male. This is as systemic and institutionalized as it gets.

    • Point 4 is scary and shockwaves need to be sent throughout the entire system. Why would females mark boys lower, when males don’t mark girls lower than the standard? What is biasing their views and marking? That is what truly makes me worried that there is some form of bias being passed along and being more prevalent in the female teachers against male students as it doesn’t seem to apply for the reverse as you say.

      • what just fries my circuits- this study is a strong statistical indication of a systemic bias against boys in western education and all it rates is 16 comments. Most of the commentators haven’t even read the study as you can so clearly see from their comments. Here is problem solving 101- if two groups show disparate impact in the same system the solution is NOT FIXING THINGS FOR EVERYBODY. FIRST- do some root cause analysis- identify and correcting the reasons for bi-modality. Address the greatest pain points first.

        I guess the readers and writers here would rather go on and on about switching clothes (I’m 6 inches taller and 50 lbs heavier than my wife- it would look stupid, not provocative- I’d rip her shirt trying to pull it over my shoulders and she’d look like a clown.)

        • See my comment above. It’s been intentionally made to be politically incorrect to address an issue where boys are on the short end, which includes education and other issues.

          The lack of response here mirrors the reality. Nobody with influemce cares risk being called a sexist by of the movement that claims to be for equality but denies, ignores, or fights progress on addressing issues where boys are disadvantaged, via political pressure and by any means necessary to ensure the status quo is maintained, which means the edication gap will continue to widen.

  12. Good story. The shortage of male teachers probably contributes to the comparatively lower results* of boys, but it’s one of many reasons. Yes, I’m a teacher.

    First, teaching is a low-paying job with huge responsibility for all the kids under your supervision in classes and study halls, so fewer men are interested when they can get a job for more money and less responsibility. I can practically guarantee that if two equally qualified candidates (or even if the male is less qualified) apply for the same job, the male will get the job because there is general agreement that there are too few male teachers.

    Both male and female teachers try never to be alone with a student. This is not just a worry for male teachers, but females too. Kids, often sexually active at 12, have seen too much hetero/gay sex on TV and Internet and act on their impulses or retaliate against teachers. There are also overly anxious parents or parents angry at his child’s low grades who start rumors and accusations..

    Second, there is too much pointless testing and excessive use of “special ed” status, which requires an additional lesson plan for each kid – which can be half the class – and generally makes grades meaningless and multiplies a teacher’s work. The elimination of gym, art, music and shop (because now that money goes to special ed) makes the job more difficult because kids normal energies are diverted into negative behaviors and limit your ability to teach. There are also too many juvenile delinquents in the schools who disrupt classes and intimidate other students, so that teachers must focus on keeping order instead of teaching. Not satisfying work for an educated person.

    Lastly, the philosophy of our education is harmful, where it is deemed that all students, male and female, must achieve at a certain level in all subjects at every age to be normal. This is false.

    First, the hormones that spark brain development in certain areas happen at different times for boys and girls. The part of the brain that “reads” is sparked by hormones released by girls at an earlier age than by boys. So you can give these boys all the “reading recovery” you want, but it’s like asking them to lift something that is simply too heavy for them. But don’t worry, because when those hormones are released a few years later they’ll learn to read just fine, and even slightly surpass girls’ language skills by their junior or senior year. But teachers and parents are programmed to require a certain level of competence of each subject at each age, instead of capitalizing on what kids enjoy and can do well.

    The mathematical part of girls’ brains gets stimulated in the 13-17 year period and they improve in those areas. During this time, they’re generally thinking “male” so they’re vulnerable and need to be protected because they’re physically women and sexually mature, but they are not thinking like women and can’t relate to women very well. It’s like boys driving at 16, which is a couple years behind girls’ ability.

    Additionally, there’s another kind of learning going on at an early age, when young kids see boys in reading recovery and girls not doing well at math and think “boys aren’t good at linguistic skills” and “girls can’t do math/business” and that kind of first impression can stay with people a lifetime, even though it’s false.

    * Learning success is also influenced by the financial and educational levels of kids’ parents, the stability of their homes and racial discrimination.

    • Lots of words but nothing that explains the bi-modality of educational success at the terminal level.

      • CW, read it again.

        1) All kids will not achieve at the same level in the same subjects at the same time. That also includes WITHIN the boys demographic and WITHIN the girls demographic as well as boys/girls. The emphasis on comparative evaluation is misdirected.

        2) It’s unhealthy to force boys to try read when their brains are not properly developed yet. It leads to misbehavior and then their parents medicate them, which makes the situation worse. There are plenty of other things they can be learning at that time.

        3) Providing kids (including boys) core classes in which they can be successful (and include more physical learning) such as art, gym, music, shop, etc., helps kids brains develop, keeps them engaged in school and feel a part of a group, and allows them to achieve success.

        • 1. The emphasis on comparative evaluation is not misdirected when the overall performance of boys vs. girls is reasonably consistent across all grades, socioeconomic classes and racial groups.

          2. I agree.

          3. I agree.

        • forgot one point- the existence of variation within subgroups does not preclude variation between subgroups. Distributions have tails and two unequal distributions can have significant overlap. Central tendancy is the name of the game.

  13. Richard Aubrey says:

    CW. The overlap is not relevant in this discussion. Raw numbers above or below a number considered importatn are important, as is the mean above or below.

    • Hi Richard- we’re in agreement. I was referring to the fact that 2 distributions can be significantly different (in terms of central tendency) even if there is overlap of the tails.

  14. CW, there is something else to consider. Young girls now regularly do typically boy-oriented games and activities as well as traditionally girl-oriented activities, such as sewing, crafts, and cooking. These “girl” activities require very specific skills and thinking that can be applied to other kinds of later learning. So girls who engage in both gender-typical activities gain a wider knowledge base to draw on as they grow, and boys exposed to dual-gender activities also. But I’m guessing most boys do not have as much of those dual experiences because their parents are nervous about raising a “cissy” or retaliation from other boys.

    My purely anecdotal experience is that boys who engage in dual traditional gender activities at a young age have gone on to achieve high academic success. (And no, these young men are not effeminate.) That might be coincidental as these young men come from very good, educated families, but it’s something to consider. If girls have a wider base of learning now, perhaps it’s giving them an academic advantage over boys. I don’t know if there have been studies on this, but it’s possible there is a relationship.

    • You go with that. I’ll stick with the growing body of credible research that points to disparate treatment leading to disparate educational outcomes between boys and girls.

      • CW, specifically, what kind of specific treatments (on an individual level) do you think leads to disparate gender outcomes? Scoring in science and math classes is mostly numerical, true or false, or multiple choice. There is tremendous focus on objectivity in scoring, as historically grading has favored white boys. There is no emphasis on downgrading boys’ scores.

        The most serious current problem is the inflated grades of special ed students, who are never failed and often are awarded one or two letter grades above what they’ve earned. In response, teachers grade hard-working good students As instead of Bs, because poor work (D) by special ed students is often graded B by standard, official procedures, which obviously is not accurate or fair on aggregate or on college applications..

        • And now we’ve come full circle- I refer you back to the study referenced above. The study found disparate grading based on gender. Positive bias for like genders for men and women. Neutral bias when men were grading girls. Negative bias when women were grading boys.

          • CW, I can assure you that is not the case. If boys are not achieving at the same level as girls, there are several factors that could contribute to that.

            1. Obsession with video games. Girls do not spend nearly as much time here, where boys often game three-six hours a day.

            2. Girls are engaging in traditional boys activities as well as traditional girls activities, giving them a broader base of knowledge and an advantage.

            3. Bullying. Although girls are bullied also and perhaps with the same frequency and viciousness, the bullying boys experience is often more physical. The physical bullying of boys (by boys) puts them in a situation comparable to battered women, where they’re too stressed to focus on achieving and they don’t complain because it’s humiliating and they’re afraid complaining will make the situation worse.

            There was a smart, overweight boy in one of my classes who was failing. He was so worried about being bullied to and from school he began to carry a knife. The knife was discovered in his backpack at school and he was expelled and then extent of the bullying situation came to light. No wonder he couldn’t focus on his classwork.

            • Katie,

              Thank you for your interest in both the article and the topic of education generally. I’ve been following the discussion between you and CW and I wanted to jump in to reiterate CW’s previous point. The study I cite pretty clearly points to a grading bias.

              The only way you can assure CW that it isn’t the case is if you detected a methodological flaw in the study that was large enough to warrant its dismissal. One could conceivably argue the study pertains to the English educational system and, thus, the data have no bearing on the American educational system. But, again, you wouldn’t be able to assure CW that grading bias doesn’t exist without the evidence of an American study that corroborated that belief.

              Just because we don’t want to believe something, and, in this case, I don’t think anyone wants to contemplate that women (and women generally, not all women) might possess a negative bias when grading boys, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. If that’s your belief, you need to go out and find the data to back it up.

              Thanks again for interest, though. I do appreciate it.

              Liam Day

            • Liam, besides the comment below, teachers are required to provide each student with visual, charted rubrics for every major assignment breaking down exactly the grade percentage for each value included in the assignment.

              That’s right, besides creating a class lesson plan (by day), teaching a subject, creating a test, project or paper, grading their work – we have to adhere to a static charted rubric, which some kids follow more closely than the assignment, finding ways to scam the rubric. When you pass this out, some kids spend more time – waste everyone’s time – questioning the minutiae of the grading than they do analyzing the assignment. When they get their grades, they waste everyone’s time arguing for undeserved points by finding loopholes in the rubrics to allow their sloppy work.

              There is way too much emphasis on grades. This is one of the reasons why the quality of the overall pool of teachers keeps falling.

  15. Liam, from your bio, it’s not clear if you’re a licensed teacher in any state of the U.S. or not, but if you are, forgive the forthcoming background.

    Becoming a licensed teacher in most states in the U.S. has become an ordeal, with the majority of studies and testing revolving around – not the subject matter – but state and national law and regulation, educational studies and brain learning studies. We eat academic studies for lunch.

    There are myriad academic studies of all kinds perpetually generated about education and when you break down and discuss the data – as teachers are required to do in regularly scheduled professional development days – you can find flaws in them, even the ones you agree with. To extrapolate findings from an academic system of a foreign nation and apply it across the board to American education across all demographics – city, suburban, rural in SouthWest, NorthEast, Heartland, Hawaii, California, etc. is not appropriate and misleading, except from a discussion standpoint.

    We both speak English, but the U.S and England are two very different nations.

Speak Your Mind