The Achievement Gender Gap for Boys

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Today’s blog post was written by Jay Barry, a social studies teacher at Arlington High School. Jay has seen first hand the challenge of engaging boys in academics at the high school level. In his post, he describes that problem and his abbreviated effort to do something about it.

The Achievement Gender Gap for Boys by Jay Barry, Arlington High School

A few years ago I began to take greater notice of a trend that was becoming increasingly clear. Girls were outpacing boys academically in my high school social studies classes. I began to research the extent to which this was true throughout the school. What I found was that of the top 20% of students (based on GPA), 62% were girls. This percentage has held up since then and represents the average over the last ten years. Among teachers I spoke with at the time, many saw a school culture in which academic achievement is valued less socially among boys than it is among girls. In other words, for most boys it was not cool to do well in school, whereas this same sentiment did not seem to exist among girls. What also became evident is that this phenomenon was an emerging national trend.

The literature on this topic suggests some compelling reasons why this is happening. First, many boys stop reading for pleasure in middle school and those that are reading often choose books that do not challenge them as readers. I often see girls at school sitting with a book. Rarely do I see this with boys. Second, girls who have a close relationship with a teacher will not get negative feedback from other girls for it, but boys who do so risk being ridiculed for having such a relationship. This theory has been advocated by Dr. Leonard Sax in his book Why Gender Matters (2005). Third, girls will typically give greater effort to academic tasks because they view feedback on their performance as an evaluation of their abilities, whereas boys do not see their performance as reflecting their abilities and may not try their hardest. Over the years, when I have held review sessions before a major test, it is often all girls. When I encourage students to come by to discuss a paper assignment, many girls often do. Boys very rarely will.

These realities led me to form a group for boys called Ad Alta (had to go with a Latin phrase because everything else I could think of sounded goofy). I was only able to run the group for a couple of years but found it worthwhile and enlightening. We did a few service projects, a couple of college tours, and held morning meetings. I would bring doughnuts and juice and would try to generate discussion about topics I felt were important. This was not always an easy task, but several boys related experiences that highlighted the gender divide. One story that stands out is that of a boy who had often been made fun of by friends for telling them that he had to go home to do homework. It’s hard to imagine this same scenario playing out with girls. It was clear to me then and now that there is a stigma attached to certain boys who take their schoolwork seriously.

By Jay Barry, Arlington High School

 

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Comments 4

  • […] Adam Steiner (@steineredtech) recommends the blog post of social studies teacher Jay Barry, who notes the trend that “many boys stop reading for pleasure in middle school and those that are reading often choose books that do not challenge them as readers.” He believes that a disturbing cultural trend is developing across America where men are not taught the value of education. They are not encouraged to be thoughtful or scholarly because it’s not “cool” or “tough”. This growing cultural trend is detrimental to the educational opportunities of young boys. Read More. […]

  • […] Adam Steiner (@steineredtech) recommends the blog post of social studies teacher Jay Barry, who notes the trend that “many boys stop reading for pleasure in middle school and those that are reading often choose books that do not challenge them as readers.” He believes that a disturbing cultural trend is developing across America where men are not taught the value of education. They are not encouraged to be thoughtful or scholarly because it’s not “cool” or “tough”. This growing cultural trend is detrimental to the educational opportunities of young boys. Read More. […]

  • There are many reasons why girls are out performing boys none of which are because girls are superior as female supremacist would have us to believe. One reason everyone agrees on is girls work harder than boys.But what is not answered is why do girls work harder?I will suggest an answer is that women have been told that there is an old boy’s network in place that favors boys so that in order for girls to get their fair share of high paying jobs they must out perform boys. Merely doing as well as boys is not good enough. the key words are “out perform boys” thus the fear of not getting a high paying job motivates girls to work harder than boys. This also explains why women are now out performing males in the work place.

    women realize as they enter male dominated industries that if they fail its not just the individual girl that pays the price but the entire female gender fails.Therefor girls are fear motivated to out perform males and this explains why they work harder.A possible solution would be for guidance counselors to inform boys on an individual basis that if they want to have relationships with girls they must be seen by girls as strong men. Strong men to women are men that can be good providers. Girls are no longer interested in bulging muscels but in bulging brains. Therefor in order to get the girl they must first get a high paying job and before they can get a high paying job they must do at least as well as girls in education. thus fear of not getting the girl will fear motivate boys the same way girls are fear motivated and thus boys will start working harder.

    another reason for boys falling behind is because the majority of teachers are females who realize how important it is that girls do better than boys and thus at a subconscious level tend to give higher grades to their gender. this is only natural. It would be the same way if the majority of teachers were male that males would get better grades. The solution than is to get more male teachers.

    another reason girls excel over boys is because they introduced course work in to the curriculum which they knew girls would be better at and assigned a grade value of 70% to it. Thus this gives girls a huge advantage. Solution knock the 70% down to 50% and up the value of exam up from 20% to 50% and get rid of 10% for behavior because its not in the nature of boys to behave as well as girls.If this were done you would have equal value placed upon something that favors both genders.

    Still another reason women excel is because girls mature three to five years earlier than boys. this also is a huge advantage for girls. I don’t have a solution for this one I list it only because it is another huge reason girls out perform boys in education .

    However top priority must be given to closing the gender gap in education because girls are beginning to ask “Why do we need men any more. Warning bells are ringing,red flags are waving! Close the gender gap in education now because when one gender begins to ask why they need the other gender something wicked this way comes!

  • […] Adam Steiner (@steineredtech) recommends the blog post of social studies teacher Jay Barry, who notes the trend that “many boys stop reading for pleasure in middle school and those that are reading often choose books that do not challenge them as readers.” He believes that a disturbing cultural trend is developing across America where men are not taught the value of education. They are not encouraged to be thoughtful or scholarly because it’s not “cool” or “tough”. This growing cultural trend is detrimental to the educational opportunities of young boys. Read More. […]

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