Monday, February 08, 2010

Schools Need To Help Prevent Boys From Failing

Here's an interesting report, from today's Wash. Post, on a new book called "Why Boys Fail," which explores a theory on the growing achievement gap between boys and girls in school.

The stats are depressing--for boys. Women now account for 57% of bachelor's degrees in college (62% of two-year associate degrees). Among high school seniors, 23% of sons of white, college-educated parents scored "below basic" in reading skills (compared to 7% of daughters). The Curmudgeon sons appear headed to join this group.

Author Richard Whitmire argues that the problem is teaching of literacy skills in school, which have been pushed down to as early as kindergarten. Because boys develop literacy skills later than girls (a fact that has long been known), this push has put the boys at a disadvantage; whereas boys used to catch up by fourth or fifth grade, that is no longer the case.

Even classes such as math have shifted to more word-based problems, making literacy skills more important than ever.

We can attest to some of this. We've noted in our boys' math textbooks that the problems--and the ways of approaching them--are much more word oriented than when we were growing up.

We also face frustrations of teachers trying to impose girl-like organizational skills on boys. One of our younger son's 6th grade teachers--in history--has made 40% of his class's grade dependent on keeping a journal with all the papers handed out in class. Little guidance is provided on what the journal should look like. We have no doubt that the girls in class are much better able to master this skill than the boys--and we're not sure what it has to do with their learning (tests count for less than 40%).

Kids need some help with organizational skills, but there's no "one size fits all" approach, and it certainly shouldn't penalize a kid who otherwise learns the material.

In any event, we think it's high time that our leading educators get together and figure out what's going on with boys in our education system. It's not the boys who are failing--it's the system.


J. Tyler Ballance said...

In The Bell Curve, the authors provided exhaustive research that counters Whitmire's conclusions.

The TRUTH is not "somewhere in between." The truth is simply the truth and most researchers show that while on average, public school students are trending lower in standardized tests, but when separated by race and gender, White and Asian boys and girls are still doing exceptionally well.

Left out of Mr. Whitmire's story are the private and home schooled students, whose withdrawal from the public schools have deeply reduced the public school average scores.

While public schools need plenty of reforms, such as reducing the non-teaching bureaucrats and improving teacher proficiency pay programs, in general, the public schools do a pretty good job with the many challenges, including children from dysfunctional homes and those without any tradition of learning.

Mr. Whitmire is trying to sell books. The citizens should rely instead on research that examines the data for all students, including home schooled and private school students and reported by both race and gender.

Anonymous said...

not only boys are home schooled...