Girls, boys, and gender bias in school part 2

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the gender bias in primary and high school favors girls. According to recent research, teachers evaluate boys based on their social and “non-cognitive” skills, not their actual academic ability. Teachers regularly graded boys below what their test results suggested they should receive. The articles I linked to mentioned this in general, but a another article adds some depth to the discussion.

Hilary White offered an analysis of the University of Georgia and Columbia University research and of the research from the Departments of Education and Justice in Northern Ireland:

A five-year research project, funded by the Departments of Education and Justice in Northern Ireland, has just been released that found “systemic flaws” in the way students are evaluated that leave boys disadvantaged. Boys from poor neighbourhoods in Belfast and other cities are especially vulnerable to learning underachievement and health problems.

Dr. Ken Harland and Sam McCready from the University of Ulster said that the problem has been clear for “several decades,” but that “it was extremely difficult for the research team to find specific strategies addressing boys’ underachievement.”

“Although teachers who were interviewed as part of this study recognised the predominance of boys with lower academic achievement, they generally did not take this into account in terms of learning styles or teaching approaches,” he said.

The Belfast Telegraph quoted a pupil who told the researchers, “Teachers should understand better the way boys think and why they do some things. They’re out of touch.”

Both studies show that the way teachers evaluate boys is the key factor in boys’ lower grades. According to Professor Cornwell from the University of Georgia, “Eliminating the factor of ‘non-cognitive skills…almost eliminates the estimated gender gap in reading grades,’ Cornwell found. He said he found it ‘surprising’ that although boys out-perform girls on math and science test scores, girls out-perform boys on teacher-assigned grades.”

That is a shocker. We constantly hear that girls are better readers than boys, and while basic observation would say that is not true, here we have some concrete results to show that the problem is not boys being dumber than girls or less capable of reading, but the way teachers grade them. This matches up with another observable fact: boys will read things that interest them. One wonders how much better boys would do if someone presented them with things they wanted to read rather than just what interests girls.

Cornwell also noted this:

The disparity between the sexes in school achievement also far outstrips the disparity between ethnicities. Cornwell notes that “the girl-boy gap in reading grades is over 300 percent larger than the white-black reading gap,” and boy-girl gap is about 40 percent larger than the white-black grade gaps.

“From kindergarten to fifth grade,” he found, “the top half of the test-score distribution” among whites is increasingly populated by boys, “while the grade distribution provides no corresponding evidence that boys are out-performing girls”.

These disparities are “even sharper for black and Hispanic children” with the “misalignment of grades with test scores steadily increases as black and Hispanic students advance in school.”

The study, he said, shows that “teachers’ assessments are not aligned with test-score data, with greater gender disparities in appearing in grading than testing outcomes”. And the “gender disparity” always favours girls.

When two independent research groups reach the same result in two different parts of the world that both changed their education system around the same time for the same reason, it is difficult to argue that something is not up. The gender disparity seems to begin at the same place: when the changes were made to assist girls in education.

This does not mean that the solution is to do away with the positive changes that helped girls. It does mean, however, that some of those changes were not positive for boys, and those do need to be changed.

Hilary White points the finger at feminists and cites a 2000 article Christina Hoff Sommers wrote in The Atlantic to shore up her argument. A case can be made that feminists exaggerated the rate of disparity against girls and schools have overcompensated as a result.

However, only part of the blame can lie with feminists because they are not the ones running the schools, dealing with the students, or seeing the results. At some point, teachers, parents, and principals had to notice the lower grades among boys. Yet instead of doing anything productive about it, they blamed the boys and their parents, and punished boys by holding them back a grade, drugging them, and telling them that girls are “just better”. Schools also allowed child abuse hysteria to scare off many male would-be teachers.

Schools bear the bulk of the responsibility because they are supposed to prevent this. At any point where it looks like they are losing certain students, schools are supposed to step in and make the changes needed to help those students. Instead, schools play to politics and fears of potential backlash, and appear to do little that actually works. By the time they do decide to step in, the problem is already at its zenith.

That said, we ought not discount the apparent cause of these problems: sexism that favors girls placed in the education system by feminist decree. There is just no getting around that. The gender disparity appears to be a direct result of feminist efforts.

3 thoughts on “Girls, boys, and gender bias in school part 2

  1. I’m going to stick with my old arguement from way back when.
    The disparity between male and female students if it even exists is exaggerated.
    I’m not sure how old other readers are but I graduated high school in 2011. I may not be a professional like the experts looking in from the outside but as a student looking in from the inside I can say with 100% certainty that the conditions in schools is not geared towards women over men. We all sit in the same classrooms, same textbooks, same homework. There are male teachers as well as female, I think it’s wrong to conclude “they don’t understand boys”.

    Other factors such as the general poor performance of the American education system overall plus other non standard factors such as school funding, student situations at home, etc. make an accurate study on the issue impossible.

  2. Madhippy, I graduated high school in 2001, however, I have young kids in my family. I see the difference all the time. In some places it is stark and in others slight, yet there is a difference in the expectations placed on boys versus girls and assumptions made about boys’ skills that have nothing to do with their academic ability.

    There are more male teachers in high schools than in primary schools, but most teachers are female. We also have research that directly questioned students, and even the students feel there is a bias that favors girls. So we have a legitimate problem that seems to come from gender bias.

  3. My personal observation is that boys are more result oriented, competitive, and don’t like being micro managed.

    When taking a test, showing mastery of a subject is simple. Answer the questions correctly and you win.

    Other criteria for grading like class participation, leadership ability, creativity etc. are areas where competition isn’t clear cut. There is no way to pick an objective winner therefore boys lack the motivation to work hard for those criteria.

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