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March 17, 2010

Boys lag behind girls in reading in every state

The Center on Education Policy has released a report that should be of great concern for those in education, but it may well receive only shrugs because the reasons and solutions seem so elusive.

The CEP looked at how boys and girls score on state reading and math tests around the nation. The Washington-based nonprofit found that boys trail girls in elementary, middle and high school in reading. CEP president Jack Jennings concludes that the lag is "no fluke. It is a clear and unmistakable national trend." What is more, girls are now scoring equally as well in math as boys.

Jennings said in a press call with reporters that even in the states, like Maryland, that have been considered leaders in education reform, the statistics are not good. In Maryland, he said, there is a 10 percentage point gap between girls and boys in middle school in reading. Boys would need another 8 years of education before they could catch up, and they would only get there if girls growth remained stagnant. In Maryland, girls have a four percentage point advantage by middle school.

The gender gap in education has been reported before, but I am not aware of another study that took a comprehensive look at state test data across the nation. What do teachers and administrators believe needs to be done to change the trend? CEP suggests that boys only want to learn about what they are interested in and that textbooks are much more geared toward girls. Once the report becomes available online I will provide a link.








Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Around the Nation


No question about it for me. Boys need to have material they are interested in. I was that way in school and my son is the same way.

The article doesn't address the question: are girls getting better or are boys getting worse?

If its the latter, then there may be some real issues in boys' education that need to be looked into. But if its a matter of girls improving while boys stay stagnant then I don't see this as a problem at all.

It seems pretty obvious to me that the problem is educators insisting on shoving "the classics" down boys throats, instead of what they're actually interested in. I myself have always loved reading, even in school, but i hated the assigned curriculum. I guarantee you if schools started teaching comics, Tolkein, Bradbury or Neil Gaiman rather than "Romeo and Juliet" or "Tortilla Flats", boys would read more. Forcing quote unquote literature doesn't engender a love of reading; a love of reading engenders a love of literature.

One could argue that this points to racism against boys because so many teachers are women.

Absolutely! The material read at the elementary school level more often than not is interesting to girls, but certainly not boys. We need to have other options that interest the boys as well. It is definitely girl heavy. AS a parent of a boy and a teacher, I see it.

I have seen this story time and time again. I have also read some very interesting studies on why this is happening. Newsweek did a very thorough article on this topic several years ago. Much of this problem has been attributed to the push to get girls to catch up to boys that started way back in the 70's and 80's. Well, that push continued on even after the girls had caught up in the 90's and now they have surpassed the boys. Also, another contributing factor is that today's teachers don't understand the fundamental differences in the behavior of boys and girls and how to take a different approach to address those behaviors to get the kids to grasp the information.

As far as giving kids something their interested in, I think that's just an excuse. We all know that life doesn't work that way. Some things you just have to do whether you like it or not. Too many of our kids both boys and girls are not being taught this. I personally hated reading Shakespeare in school but I knew that in order to achieve my HS Diploma that I just had to do the work. The same went for college.

Thirdly, parents need to take more of an active role in their sons' education. Start them off reading when they are young so that they learn to enjoy it early in life. If you do that, it won't be such a chore for them later...or at the very least they'll be proficient at it. Have them put the game controllers down and make them pick up a book.

@ Benjamin: Racism? I think you mean sexism.

And I highly doubt that teachers are releasing their pent up aggression against the male species in their classrooms by not teaching their male students how to read as well as their female peers. Plus, a teachers perfomance is based on how well their students do on classwork and standardized tests (which include reading comprehension portions).

I would like to see a neurological study done on this considering that the male and female brain work differently in many ways - my guess is that it has something to do with comprehension and the retention of information.

Who could forget the comments made in 2005 by former Harvard President Lawrence regarding the nature of intelligence for men and women, and specifically, about men's "innate" penchant for the quantitative sciences?
Now that news of the diminished gender gap has emerged, women everywhere should feel vindicated. (I know that I do.) Finally the evidence converges for us and not against us after centuries of being systematically and uniformly deemed the "intellectually inferior sex" by the male-dominated powers that be.

@Benjamin: There are a variety of studies that show that teachers do not, in fact, favor girls in the classroom. And despite your surmounting disbelief, it is well known that teachers, despite their best efforts, actually cater to the educational needs of boys.

It seems that despite this condescension, males cannot keep up with the newly emerging gender-gap in education that favors women. (Can you believe that a larger proportion of women attend college than men, too?)

Perhaps we will have another five-thousand years of female intellectual domination to make up for the many many centuries that women have been disenfranchised, but this seems unlikely.

It seems to me that women have risen to the challenge, and now set the standards for intellectual and developmental benchmarks. It is now up to males, still the more privileged of the sexes, to strive to achieve what women have (despite the challenges we have faced).
We must devise a way to promote equal education for children from all backgrounds (as is their right).
It is up to all of us to be accountable to the equal rights to education for all.

My 11th graders read independently for about 15 minutes near the beginning of every class. My bookcases are stocked with high-interest books for boys. I've found that boys seem to shun reading on principle. I'm still not sure what the principle is, but they have the same aversion to homework. Most of the boys proclaim proudly every semester that they don't read and that they don't do homework. Boys have major prejudice against reading, and the only guess I have at it so far is that they believe reading is a "girls-only" activity.

We also need to examine the role models for males. If you look at television, movies and the media, males are presented as violent or idiots. Honor, integrity and intellect are viewed as weaknesses. Visit a high school and the "cool" males uaually are not in the advanced classes. At some point we have to admit that the problem with education is our society and just blaming the teachers will not fix the problem.

Sexism, I stand corrected.

Since group A does worse than group B it is sexism and must be someone else's fault.

This is Baltimore after all.

I find this information alarming but not surpirsing. Being the mother of two boys and one girl, I see how their interests even before they started reading differ significantly. I find this difference to be a fundamental factor in their interest in reading. My boys at least were much more interested in movement, interactive activities while my daughter is able to sit in her room for hours "reading" to her dolls. I do not think it's the material in school that is the problem, I think that the differences in learning styles between boys and girls need to be addressed.

Several studies have shown that boys learn differently than girls. That is why both boys and girls who attend single sex private schools do much better than their public school counterparts. This difference really shows itself in the middle and high schools. Single sex schools do not have the boy/girl distraction and focus in these schools is strictly on education. I am sure all boys schools like Loyola, Calvert Hall and Boys Latin don't have problems with their students reading any subject, whether it is Shakespeare or Tom Clancy.

Boys generally develop verbally later than girls. This natural lag could be following them to preschool academics (pushing too early to read) and then onward. Unfortunately, our culture has drifted towards less literacy in general ( TV and screen games) and it really should not be so surprising that boys enjoy passive learning experiences less, and therefore schoolwork less.
Research is showing boys bearing the brunt of damage (dyslexia and processing problems) from reading instruction that starts too early. countries that start formal reading instruction later do better in the long run.
We need to go back to developmentally appropriate tasks/curriculum in the early childhood years to prevent some of these issues.

Correct me if I'm wrong (I know you will anyway!) but men still earn more than women in the workforce. Does it really matter that men don't read as well? They must catch up somewhere along the line or maybe the particular skill sets men have help them earn more. I'd be more interested in finding out why men still earn more than women in the same jobs, so women can learn to earn more, too.

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