Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Schools Failing Boys

Too many boys are failing in school, and a new report suggests that the fault may lie with the schools.

According to a report by the Center for Education Policy, boys now lag firmly behind girls when it comes to reading. And while boys used to have a lead in math, girls have now closed the gap.

"Something is going on in our schools that is holding boys back,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center for Education Policy. Education researcher Susan B. Neuman said the study "suggests that schools are not meeting the needs of young boys because of a curriculum that does not reflect their interests and classroom management that does not tolerate their learning styles."

Neuman also said that the strong push toward testing and academics in the early years has created an environment that leaves "less time for choice and more demand for conformity." Young girls, she said, may thrive in an environment that focuses on early reading skills, letters and sounds, but boys, in general do not.

Let's hope the educational establishment gets the message. Our sons deserve better.


  1. So interesting on so many levels. And timely, as my state is administering our statewide high school exit exam this week.

    One quick look at the Achievement and Gaps Trends report for California shows that while overall test scores have gone up in the past five years, the lowest-achieving groups have--surprise!--made the least gains of all the subgroups--sometimes no gain at all. I have to take a closer look at this tomorrow. Thanks for the link.

  2. Thanks for bringing this up, it is good to see someone taking this problem seriously. Now who will listen? Preaching to the choir comes to mind.

  3. This has been on my heart and mind lately. In fact, I'm planning to blog about boys and learning next week -- from both a mom and a teacher's perspective.

    I'm going to sit down and read this now. Thanks for posting about it.

  4. Carrie @

    I stumbled across your blog--wow! You have great information for those of us raising boys in todays extremely challenging society. I have daughters too, so I appreciate your comparison to their learning styles.

  5. I keep reading things like this and hitting my head against the wall because it seems like all we can do! My own sons are in a developmental charter school of the constructivist philosophy, but because it's a charter and must meet our state's standards, the teachers have to "teach to the test" for at least part of the curriculum. I'm currently in the quandary of having a third grade boy, very bright, focused and imaginative, who is also below grade level in math, reading and writing. The disparity between his obvious intelligence and "performance" is disheartening and great enough to warrant some testing for learning disabiities. But I'm not convinced. I feel very confused and wonder how to keep his self-esteem intact but allow him to keep up with his peers. Any suggestions?

  6. Elizabeth, if it helps any, just to know you're not alone, my son was in skills classes AND in honors classes at the same time. He was confused about being in both "special" classes and honors at the same time, but that's where they placed him in elementary school. He turned out to be really great in English-based classes, but did poorly in math-based classes. I wanted him to go to Kumon or Sylvan for extra help in math, and he did for a while, until his dad wouldn't pay for it any longer. FWIW, it helped while he was going, and he liked getting the extra help. So maybe it just boils down to the one-on-one, which is, I suspect, a good case for home schooling, Jenny.

  7. Jenny, We miss you, blog again soon!

  8. Jenny, I'm posting on this report tomorrow. Just thought I'd let you know.

  9. I'm very impressed with this article . . . Great information. I'm very concerned about my classmates as to me I am an elementary school boy. I definitely stand out from the rest because I am smart, and my classmates are not!

  10. I think it's primarily a problem of people sitting around talking endlessly about a problem they know exists and doing absolutely nothing to address it, preferring instead to wait until "someone else" steps up to the responsibility. Chief are those who use the "issue" as a cheap tax dodge. Then come all the special interest lobbies with other objectives. We've been "studying" a super-major problem for thirty years that has always had a quick fix - the law. That's just incredibly shameful.

    You might be interested in a slightly different take on boys in school posted at

    "Why Are American Men So Dumb?

  11. I feel the idea boys mature later is not understood as a sociological condition. I am afraid the idea boys mature later coupled with false genetic differences such as needing more activity, more tactile learning, later fine motor skills, will cast boys as less intelligent by the vast majority of even the educated community.

    In truth problem is created by differential treatment of more aggressive, less kind treatment along with much less/kind verbal interaction. It is this differential treatment that increases in severity by socioeconomics. If it were genetics then the problem would be even across socioeconomics but is not.

    The more aggressive less verbal interaction creates higher average stress, higher muscle tension, and increased social/emotional/verbal distance, creating later maturity, more activity for stress relief, and poor handwriting due to higher muscle tension. This differential treatment increases both by age and lower socioconoimics.

  12. The idea boys naturally mature more slowly along with boys needing more activity, later development of fine motor skills, is not a genetic problem but a sociological problem. The differenital treatment of boys and girls, beginning as early as nine months, is the cause and is increased by age and lower socioconomics. If it were genetics then the numbers would be the same across socioeconomic conditions.
    The differential treatment of more aggression, less/unkind verbal interaction creates more social emotional distance, higher average stress, more activity, later maturity, and higher muscle tension, creating lags in socio/emotional development and increases in severity over time.