In The New York Times, Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys, discusses a new study looking at why boys tend to get lower grades than girls. A central cause identified by the study, she says, is that teachers tend to factor behavior into grades:
The study's authors analyzed data from more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that boys across all racial groups and in all major subject areas received lower grades than their test scores would have predicted.
The scholars attributed this "misalignment" to differences in "noncognitive skills": attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently. As most parents know, girls tend to develop these skills earlier and more naturally than boys.
The solution, Sommers argues, is not for teachers simply to turn a blind eye on some boys’ tendencies toward inattentiveness or disruptive behavior. Rather, she calls for a “concerted effort” to better support boys in schools. This would include, she says, initiatives already taking place in other countries “to help them become more organized, focused, and engaged” and to tailor school assignments and activities more to boys’ interests and need for active play.
She also highlights the promise of a new breed of vocational high schools that combine an emphasis on technical knowledge and hands-on craftsmanship with “serious academic requirements.”
Sommers, incidentally, is publishing a new version of The War Against Boys this summer with a subtly revised subtitle: “How Misguided Policies Are Harming Our Young Men.” Previously the subtitle implicated “Misguided Feminism” rather than “Policies.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.