It’s official: Boys generally get worse grades than girls not because they know less, but because of their behavior, say researchers in a new study.
The research, led by Christopher Cornwell of the University of Georgia, followed almost 6,000 students in grades one through six. It evaluated grades of boys and girls and compared them to standardized test scores. The findings?
In every subject area, boys’ grades were lower than test scores would predict. The grade gap began in the early grades, continued uniformly through school, and may have a lasting impact.
“The trajectory at which kids move through school is often influenced by a teacher’s assessment of their performance, their grades. This affects their ability to enter into advanced classes and other kinds of academic opportunities, even post-secondary opportunities,” stated Cornwell in a news release issued by the University of Georgia.
Not to diminish the role of lofty educational research, but this news probably comes as no surprise to countless parents whose sons, like mine, have had very little interest since kindergarten in sitting quietly in a classroom all day.
I first witnessed the gaping disparity between girls’ and boys’ behavior in school as a volunteer in my daughter’s kindergarten class during “rug time.” That’s when the kids are told to sit “criss-cross apple sauce” for a period of time.
Five minutes into rug time, a few boys would begin jostling each other. At the 20-minute mark, many of the girls’ attention had begun to wander—but not in a disruptive way. Some had paired off in twos, taking turns braiding each other’s hair or whispering in each other’s ears. A few of the girls continued to listen, or at least appear to be listening, to the teacher. Meanwhile, among the boys, an all-out wrestling fest broke out. At this point, the teacher would start to scold the boys, placing some in “time-out” and—finally, finally—shifting to another activity.
No, it wasn’t recess, though it probably should have been. That’s the bad news. But the good news is this: The study, though it may not be rocket science, has illuminated the negative academic consequences of simply being a boy. Maybe educators will take heed and, instead of punishing boys for acting the way they’re wired to, adapt their curriculum accordingly.
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