Fact: girls, both in the U.S. and around the world, do better in school than boys.
Girls earn higher grades in every subject, even ones like science where boys are conventionally thought to be superior. Using U.S. Census data, the Pew Research Center found that college enrollment rates for young women don’t just surpass those of young men, they’re climbing. While enrollment rates for young men have stayed flat since 1994.
The performance gender gap begins in kindergarten. As reported on The Atlantic, the children who do best in today’s academically oriented kindergarten classrooms (oh, how I wish my son could have a more play-oriented experience like the one I had!) demonstrate strong self-control and regulation. They raise their hands before they speak. They wait their turn. They listen to and follow the teacher’s instructions. They remain in their seats until told it’s time to stand.
A researcher at the University of Virginia found that the kids who had these skills were praised by teachers for paying attention, completing their work, and staying organized. The same researcher discovered that, on the whole, kindergarten-age girls are almost a full year ahead of boys when it comes to this kind of self-regulation.
Their advantage continues into young adulthood. Studies have found that in middle school, girls begin their homework earlier in the day and spend almost twice as long working on it than boys. Girls are more adept at reading and following directions. They are, in general, better at planning in advance for assignments.
In today’s education system, students need these traits to succeed. Portfolio-based assessments means that work is gathered and graded over time — kids can’t just cram for the final exam, they need to submit quality assignments on-time throughout the semester. In writing and reading workshops, teachers grade on process; students must demonstrate revision over several drafts of an analytic paper, for example. The cumulative failures that come from missing homework assignments or not participating in discussions pull down boys’ grades, which can have a negative effect on their overall engagement in school.
What works, in general, for boys? Taking tests, which fires up their competitive nature. The stress of high-stakes testing weakens girls’ performance, but it strengthens boys’. (Though this wasn’t the case for me. I hate test-taking! I’d much prefer a long creative assignment.)
The Atlantic reports that, in an effort to address the strengths of both girls and boys, one school in Minnesota changed it’s grading system. Students now get a “knowledge grade,” based on performance in tests, and a “life skills grade,” based on work habits, participation, and classroom behavior. They also stopped counting homework toward the final grade.
I like the sound of this, but this is just one example of how a positive change could be made. Another would be delaying the intense academic curriculum for a few years, until both boys and girls are able to complete it with success. We should not expect our five-year-olds to be able to sit at desks (or on a rug) for five hours a day practicing their letters and literacy. Nor should we be asking them to complete homework assignments. My son has encountered both of these things in his public school classroom.
Furthermore, boys need to be taught the advance planning and organization skills that seem to come more naturally to girls. When I was a middle school teacher, and later, as a tutor, I did just that. I instructed my students directly in how they should keep their work organized and neat, and how to move step-by-step through a project. It is unfair to expect students to do these things, but not educate them on how to do them.
What can parents do? Provide encouragement, especially when your boy is struggling, so that he doesn’t give up. Too often we raise our boys with a sense of privilege, as if everything will be alright for them even when they aren’t being their best selves, or working as diligently as they should be. We need to stop coddling our boys, and actually give them the help that they need. Besides direct instruction, they sometimes require gentle correction, and, more importantly, positive coaching, so that they don’t get frustrated.
I think that boys, more than girls, tend to want to destroy what they can’t understand, and they tune out when they feel they’re not able to be successful. I certainly see that in my own little boy. It’s important we keep our boys engaged and feeling good about school, and that we help them develop the work ethic that they’ll need to succeed academically and in life. Otherwise, these alarming trends will never reverse.
By Brian Gresko, for Babble.com
Link to original article here
My take: I have been saying this for decades. It is bad enough when they ask boys to fit into a system that is completely geared towards the way girls process things, but now it is even worse as they have begun to do away with all of the physical outlets that a boy has. Less time in Gym class. Recess times being shortened or taken out completely. Boys are wired to move and need physical activity. It is not fair to strap them to a desk and force them to process in ways that are less natural for them and then expect them to achieve. Worse yet, to punish them when they don't. You can also read my article "Is the Educational System Fair to Boys?"
Additionally, helping boys to learn to process information in ways they are not used to can be helpful as well. Contact me for more info on that.
What do you think?...
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