Do Teachers Really Discriminate Against Boys?

A study on gender disparities in elementary-school performance found that boys received lower grades than girls, even when their test scores were equal to or higher than the girls’

  • Share
  • Read Later
Miguel Sotomayor / Getty Images

Worries about the declining academic performance of boys, a topic of increasing alarm this past decade, have intensified recently. It seems that boys are being judged both unduly harshly and leniently at school. A new study on gender disparities in elementary-school performance — the first study to examine both objective and subjective performance — found that boys were given lower grades than girls, even in cases (such as math and science) where their test scores were either equal to or higher than the girls’ test scores.

It seems like out-and-out discrimination, except there is an interesting wrinkle: teachers didn’t downgrade boys who had identical test scores to girls if they seemed to share the girls’ positive attitude toward learning. In fact, the opposite seemed to occur: the well-socialized boys received a small grade “bonus” for their good behavior relative to other boys, suggesting that teachers may be overcompensating when they encounter boys whose behavior exceeds expectations. In other words, boys who match girls on both test scores and behavior get better grades than girls do, but boys who don’t are graded more harshly. Which means that the issue of what to do with underperforming boys just got a lot more complicated.

(MORE: Ew, Boys: The Brewing Battle over Same-Sex Education)

We’ve known for a long time that boys, on average, struggle with school more than girls do. Learning disabilities and behavioral problems are more prevalent among boys, and high school and college graduation rates are lower. Boys also receive two-thirds of failing grades and are more likely to find school boring or frustrating.

What’s new is the finding that these gender disparities start so early and appear linked not only to gaps in relatively objective measures like test scores but also to teachers’ assessments of their own students. But since much of the misalignment between test scores and grades (or one might say between reality and perception) is accounted for by differences in social competency, what can we do about it? Some educators have responded by championing single-sex schools and other special supports for struggling boys. The decline of recess and physical education has been harmful to all kids but perhaps more so for rambunctious boys than eager-to-please girls.

(MORE: Do Mothers Hamper Their Daughters in Math?)

But before we start siphoning off boys from mainstream schools or putting trampolines in every classroom, it’s worth noting that gender disparity is only one lens through which we can understand academic performance, and an imperfect one. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, describes how the current vogue for collaborative learning and group projects may leave introverts and solitary thinkers behind. These types of learners are often labeled uncooperative or academically deficient because their learning style doesn’t conform to our current conception of a productive work output. Perhaps instead of dividing classes by sex we should consider dividing by learning style, except that in a society that privileges extroversion, one can only imagine how parents might respond to the suggestion that their child is introverted and shy.

(MORE: Susan Cain: Don’t Call Introverted Children Shy)

While sex differences are real, and likely honed by cultural training as much as evolution, it’s also the case that differences within sexes are far more significant than the differences across genders. To understand why this is so, we can take the example of sex differences in height. The average American adult male is 5 ft. 9 in. while the average American adult female is 5 ft. 4 in. But if we based all height-related decisions (like sink heights in public bathrooms) on this disparity, we would miss a key point: the range of possible heights for an individual man or woman might go from less than 5 ft. to nearly 7 ft. In other words, there’s far more variation within each sex than between the sexes.

Similarly with children, if teachers expect boys to behave worse than girls, because on average they do so, they may miss girls’ behavior problems entirely or treat well-behaving boys as anomalous, which as the study showed can distort expectations and support for all children. The focus on sex differences also obscures other important variables related to learning — such as age, physical maturity, mental-health issues and home environments, to name just a few. Educating children is a complex task, and while we should be concerned about our boys, we also can’t forget to look at the bigger picture. After all, that’s what learning is all about.

 

58 comments
DuckworthAnn
DuckworthAnn

They are finding the grading is different.  That is important.  Now they need to look at words, tones, inflections, voice stress given to boys verses girls.  They need to find out if grading is the mere tip of the ice berg leaving out much acceptance, kindness, care for girls and more ridicule, neglect, and rejection for boys.  I feel this could really cut motivation to learn for boys and reinforce motivation to learn for girls.

As for math, I hear more girls are taking AP math and science than the boys today.  I feel this is due to more care, stability, vocabulary given from a young age; more support; and much more accumulation of knowledge and skills from that support.

As for boys needing more activity: I hope we begin to recognize the more activity in boys is due to more aggressive treatment from infancy to make them tough that increases they grow older.  In my learning theory, I show how we "accumulate layers of mental work: experiences, fears, preparations for defense; anxieties that stay with us as unresolved mental conflicts.  I feel the extra aggressive treatment given boys to make them tough and the much less kind, caring, verbal interaction, and other non support is creating the higher average stress accumulated and creating more activity for stress relief; higher muscle tension creating poor handwriting/motivation; low social vocabulary/high average stress - hurting reading/motivation to read; and more distrust/fear of adults/teachers.  I feel this more aggressive treatment is allowed by society even teachers upon boys both to make them tough and - as a relief of any frustration knowing society will look the other way.  I feel our genetics models are creating a great Male Crisis by not considering how such differential treatment from infancy through adulthood is creating many boys who are giving up in school.  I feel our false genetics models of learning are creating those questions such as - have boys enter school later; need more activity games for tactile learning (I think modes of learning not genetic but created from environments); and as you stated, the idea of all Male classrooms, - try picturing some 250 pound drill instructor for boys with the idea, they need to be pushed harder to work.  

I feel we need to see boys and girls as equal at birth.  We need to begin treating boys and girls with the same kind, caring, verbal interaction, and other mental/emotional supports from infancy by parents and teachers.  We need to understand the power of our words, tones, and inflections.

I love the part about introverts.  I feel reflection, inward thinking, and less clamor are good things.  I feel our schools and society have lost much in terms of creating more reflective thinking and learning how to slow down to think more deeply about how we think, learn, and where we wish to place our priorities.  I feel the rush to learn information and pace from the false teachings of galton, succeed by ability and "effort" have truly distorted our education system away from sound strategies to help all students become more long term learners and thinkers.  We need more introverted, longer term thinking and motivation in our students.

http://learningtheory.homestead.com/Theory.html

ThomasAnthonyAllen
ThomasAnthonyAllen

What a load of subversive, anti male, BS. Gender biases against boys have been proven, like it or not. So, stop trying to negate that fact, you are not clever.

ChristianMalone
ChristianMalone

@ThomasAnthonyAllen well, it's a woman, the most fascist, toxic, negative, hypotrist, parasiting disease that has ever striken planet earth. women virtually can not NOT lie.

WilliamWallis
WilliamWallis

Just look at the data. Expulsion rates, suspension rates, graduation rates, and college acceptance rates show a strong bias against boys. Boys need a different kind of educational system that supports their character. The teacher training colleges are extremely biased in their approach to teacher training. Male teacher applicants are largely turned off. Look at the data for teacher traing acceptance and graduation rates between men and women.

DuckworthAnn
DuckworthAnn

I know teachers are this way.  This is a problem boys have to deal with regarding a sense of freedom of expression by girls and yes, adult girls that allows more subtle abuses of boys using a long held protection by society for such treatment of boys.  While this is a problem, there is another problem that is more detrimental to Male achievement in school.  


This is the differential, more aggressive treatment of Male children as early as one year of age.  The long belief boys should be strong creates more firm treatment along with more distance for fear of coddling.  This aggressive treatment increases as the child grows.  It is still considered taboo to give kind, stable, verbal interaction or other mental/emotional/social supports for fear of coddling.  This creates higher average stress (higher layers of mental frictions that take up real mental energy); higher muscle tension; and more social/emotional distance.  This creates more activity for stress relief; poor handwriting/motivation to write (muscle tension creates pressure on grip/pressure on pencil); lags in mental/emotional/social/verbal growth; and lower social vocabulary higher average stress (reading is an abstract skill requiring more mental energy to decode, visualize, organize and learn new words in print using one's social vocabulary).  The lower the socioeconomic bracket and time in that bracket the more amplified the allowed catharsis of stress upon Male children and more accepted treatment designed to make boys tough.


While this is being taught to boys in the information age, girls are given much more kind, stable, verbal interaction and other mental/emotional/social/verbal supports from infancy and is continued through adulthood by parents, teachers, peers, etc.  Even in lower socioeconomic brackets, this much better treatment remains and so the differential treatment is elevated for those groups.  Guess you could not see the how mere negative teacher grading could create smaller deficiencies in Middle class Male students and increasingly much larger deficiencies in lower socioeconomic areas.  


To understand how average stress affects thinking, learning, reflection time, motivation to learn (mental reward received for mental work expended), and mental/emotional health, you must redefine our average stress as layers of mental work each one of us are dealing with that take up real mental energy, leaving less mental energy to think, learn, and grow mentally and emotionally.  By redefining average stress as layers of real mental work taking away mental energy, we can then see more clearly how differential treatment by group will create larger differences in academic growth by gender  and other group treatment.  Theory will go to all on request.

Zuflus
Zuflus

The schools are way to fixated to learn students with theory, when many boys have a hard time learning that way. The way I experience all years of school was to be put under the rug since I was and have never been able to learn the theoretic way. There is many extremely talented and creative young boys out there. But as I, they do not get to expand that talent because they're being forced behind a desk reading books and writing poems.


with my lack of theoretical skills and talent to do things practical sent me to get shunned and always barely pass or fail after 3-4 weeks with long nights studying for each tests, no matter how hard I tried I always got the short end of the stick. I despise cheating therefore I have not cheated once in my hole school life. While watching many other classmates both boys and girls cheat and get the long end of the stick. Yet I where one of those "trouble students" that rarely was able to do the homework in time and ace the tests. When we suddenly got to do some practic work, then it was my time to shine. It was short but oh so good x) But that didn't make a difference since all the theory was driving over your good practic work with a bulldozer, and you where back to square one.


Not always had teachers I didn't get along with, but I've had teachers I've liked and helped me being able to get through school, big thanks to them.

Hope this problems will be taken serious soon, and I do know someone that is going through this crap now and is so tired with the short end of the stick that he's ready to give up. So I ended up googling stuff and found this.

 



JoseMiguelTenreiro
JoseMiguelTenreiro

A "study"??!! 

This should read "a raid". And perpetrators should be brought to justice for this is nothing short of a fraud.

DuckworthAnn
DuckworthAnn

While this is a problem that can be recorded, there are also the many verbals and lack of support that usually accompany such grading.  Society though, under the idea that boys will be boys, allow more both more aggressive treatment toward boys and along with that, as is now seen, also outright discrimination in grading.  The book, "Psychology of Sex Differences" recorded research showing how when little girls dropped an item, they would be given a subtle reprimand.  However, when the little boy would drop an identical item, they would be chastised much more severely, even using physical restraint to enforce that reprimand.  Note this type of treatment is allowed by society under the heading of boys should be strong, but this also allows much catharsis of stress upon boys from an early age onward.  This is creating the higher muscle tension that hurts handwriting; more activity for stress relief; more outside attention to sports and games for love and honor; and lags in maturity from an early age created by more distrust and more social/emotional distance.  

The girls are receiving not just better grades but much more kind, stable, verbal interaction and other sustained and more continual mental/emotional/social/verbal support and care through adulthood.  This is creating a wonderful road to success for girls today.  If this is not corrected for equal treatment, boys, later men, will begin to fall so far behind and be treated so much more cruelly by society, they may take back all they have lost from society in the future to the detriment of everyone.

PaigeRoberts
PaigeRoberts

You do not seem to be "getting it" the issue is not outright discrimination, but that we are making an environment in which boys do very poorly. The study never did say  "well-socialized boys". The fact that you took it that way, is pointing to one of the problems. The study pointed out that boys with more feminine personality traits, did better that boys who are more male in nature. The gape in academic achievement between the sexes is widening. All while men and woman are about the same in talent. Yes we have a real problem and it needs to be addressed. The last thing we need is for you do be an apologist for a failed system

NeilKeicher
NeilKeicher

 "Except there is an interesting wrinkle: teachers didn’t downgrade boys who had identical test scores to girls if they seemed to share the girls’ positive attitude toward learning."

 So, it's perfectly acceptable for female teachers to discriminate against most boys because they graded some fairly?  A teacher's personal opinion of a student should in no way influence how she grades a test.  She may despise the student, but if that student is really smart, then he absolutely deserves an A.

This is discrimination, and it is inexcusable.

peter204
peter204

I agree with many of the points that have been made so far in the preceding comments.  First off, it does seem like boys are treated differently due to their excess of physical energy.  While this has been discussed as a negative aspect, I believe it should be hones into a positive one and utilized as a tool for mental energy.  Why can't boys use their physical capabilities to push themselves harder in the classroom?  I also don't think their physicality should be an excuse; they have no reason not to work just as hard as girls in the classroom.  So what can policy do about these new trends?  Do we return to more recess time and stop focusing on standardized testing?   

km124
km124

Why don't we just expect more of our boys? I work in preschools over 15 years and was routinely told by parents of boys "Oh, he's such a boy" to explain away unacceptable behavior. I have raised three boys and three girls- the younger son and oldest daughter were the "rambunctious" ones, yet I disciplined them and expected appropriate behavior in any given situation: church, school, going out to dinner, etc. The result? No medications, no excuses, and now I enjoy my six healthy, happy, well-adjusted successful adults. I have been to many other countries and am surprised how the boys and girls behave in cultures that expect civilized behavior. America needs to stop expecting less of their sons.

RobGarciaSJ
RobGarciaSJ

Height and personality differences (unless extreme) cannot affect learning in the same way that inherent biological and physiological differences in brain structure, development and maturity does. Teachers are not discriminating against our boys on purpose but they are mistreating them because they are not trained in gender specific pedagogy and learning methodologies.  I have for years observed gender specific classrooms and teachers acknowledge and leverage gender differences to teach young children the same material in different ways and the effectiveness is clear (as well as fun and engaging for each gender).  It is the gender specific environment that breaks down the barriers to learning and gender stereotypes not the other way around.  In gender specific classrooms boys can explore arts and drama and still be boys, while girls can be stars in math and science not just for the grade. 

7christian
7christian

In reference to little boys & little girls: First priority of a school hiring a teacher, should be to investigate the 'heart & soul' of a prospective teacher! This can be done in the interviewing process. Loving the hearts & minds of children, coupled with the love of teaching, should be the first priority of a teacher! This brings a positive spirit of learning into the classroom, where 'all' children learn & thrive! Instead of having learned great things & taking the positive spirit of the teacher with them, these children take the negative impression of the bad teacher with them, that's been in the classroom for their own selfish reasons; whether it was for power, pay, summers off, their own agenda, or whatever! That's heart breaking to the children involved & to anyone with a loving heart that hears of it!!!

SdfasdfSdfsdfs
SdfasdfSdfsdfs

Recuerden estos textos son metodos de comprobacion.

Hipótesis de trabajo Area Criminalistica para el Proyecto Genocidio de Investigacion:


Son los desarrollos del CERN, en mecánica quántica y de interacción de fuerzas y campos (interacciones electrodinámicas), (Teorías de Einstein Bor), Investigaciones para obtener informaciones de otros países en base al cambio de Spin en las partículas sub atómicas y átomos en la atmósfera.

Los algorítmos que se usan en el proyecto genocidio OERH, son Cálculos estadísticos de campos bioeléctricos humanos y amplificaciones de campos de nano computadoras en las neuronas de los humanos que captan y transmiten datos a satélites, estos datos son demodulados por algoritmos que expliquen como se comportan las moléculas, átomos, partículas sub atómicas en la atmósfera y el espacio, para obtener información sobre eventos actuales y pasados, desde el punto de vista de las teoría de la relatividad y la mecánica quántica, podría un humano haber hablado o realizado una actividad en el pasado presente y con sensores captar los cambios en partículas y átomos que permitan desencriptar o remodular los datos en bases a estos cambios quánticos.
Información de los millones de cambios en el Spin de átomos y partículas en base a fuerzas, campos y sensores?.

Para predecir eventos millones de años en el futuro.



Hipótesis de trabajo Area Criminalistica para el Proyecto Genocidio de Investigacion:

Mire parte del Proyecto:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7rdd1w6dkcSY3M3VW5PcWtTeGs/edit?usp=sharing

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7rdd1w6dkcSbVlLcXNIeHN6Mk0/edit?usp=sharing

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7rdd1w6dkcSZFoyNlJ5ZVZsWjQ/edit?usp=sharing



 

SarahConfran
SarahConfran

Most k-12 teachers are also female, when a girl acts out the teacher may think back to a time when she had acted similarly and be more understanding but may not understand why Billy can't sit still.

samarapostuma
samarapostuma

"The decline of recess and physical education has been harmful to all kids but perhaps more so for rambunctious boys than eager-to-please girls."

In addition to the decline, in some schools recess and physical education is taken away for misbehavior and used as discipline {or punishment} which starts in my opinion a spiral of misbehavior for the "rambunctious" child who was unable to get excess energy out in an effective way and instead then misbehaves more during classroom time.

I find the entire conversation interesting. 

JamesAnderson1
JamesAnderson1

Maybe girls are simply smarter? Then again given the poor performance (is this new) how do you explain that men dominate both business and politics or that fields traditionally dominated by women (interior design, fashion, hair, counseling) often have men in senior leadership positions?  Why for example are gay men the arbitrators of women's fashion?

 Rather then worrying about boys scoring a little lower lets address the issue of why when women are clearly better qualified aren't they getting into positions of power as a result? 

NamecNassianer
NamecNassianer

"teachers didn’t downgrade boys who had identical test scores to girls if they seemed to share the girls’ positive attitude towards learning. In fact, the opposite seemed to occur: the well-socialized boys received a small grade ‘bonus’ for their good behavior relative to other boys"

Do you actually understand what you are saying?  That is: boys whose behaviors ("positive attitude") were not like girls were downrated, and boys whose behaviors were like girls received a bonus? IE: boys should act like girls in order to be well-perceived.

I, for one, am glad when boys act like boys.  To expect boys to act like girls is bias in the greatest extreme. 



LeeAllison
LeeAllison

I am Art teacher assistant teach children group between 6 to 16 . from my point of view. new teachers need to study child psychology if they want to teach young children. boys are constructive . they need time to finish their assignment and girls are " I'll get it" but don't seem follow the roles. when boys focus on their project, they don't want stop.

upthewazzu
upthewazzu

I can't say for sure if all teachers hate boys, but I can with 100% confidence say that my 4th grade teacher, Mrs Tanner, hated boys with a passion. She did everything in her power to make our lives miserable for that entire year.

MKE.Dave
MKE.Dave

Very interesting article. I think the takeaway is not to make drastic changes to try to fix the problem (though I think increased recess and PE is worthwhile for more than just rambunctious boys) but rather to increase awareness of the phenomenon among both parents and students. Why try to make everything fair in a world where nothing is? Educate students that fairness should not be assumed or expected and that education is more than numbers and grades.

Great points about introverts, though. I'm curious how my firstborn is going to do in our educational system, being bright but very introverted.