EDUCATIONAL GENDER GAP

October 17, 2006

Traditional measurements of the nation's progress in improving education -- which use race and income as markers -- are flawed, says Melissa Roderick, University of Chicago professor and leading authority on school reform.

Roderick reached her conclusion based on research of Chicago schools that suggests boys and girls coming from the same race, families, incomes, neighborhoods and schools are turning out very differently. The girls are doing better.  Consider:

  • Nearly half of all boys graduate from Chicago Public Schools with less than a 2.0 average, compared with a fourth of the girls.
  • Only 8 percent of the system's African-American boys have a 3.0 average -- a key indicator of the ability to complete college -- compared with 18 percent of the girls.

Roderick's revelation that schools won't improve without strategies that focus on boys' achievement -- the same kinds of strategies used so successfully to boost math and science skills among girls -- has been a shock to those who contend the educational gender gap is strictly a function of race and class. 

But other educators are beginning to wake up to the gender problem.  And some believe that in addition to being a matter of fairness, a shift to boy-oriented policies has the potential to produce other gains, including:

  • Raising parents' and teachers' awareness about male specific misconceptions, such as the outdated notion that boys are slower to pick up reading skills but quicker in math.
  • Boosting college graduations -- which currently see 133 women graduate from college for every 100 men -- through better preparation.

Source: Editorial, "Educators slow to wise up to the gender problem," USA Today, October 13, 2006.

 

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