Wednesday, May 21, 2008

AAUW Report Debunks "Boy Crisis"

The American Association of University Women released this study on Tuesday about gender differences in educational achievement. The study, titled Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education, examines girls' and boys' performances on national standardized tests and other academic indicators. Its conclusions largely debunk the "boy crisis" we've been hearing so much about. Here are some of its major points:
  • Like girls' test scores, boys' scores are on the rise, a fact that by itself challenges the misperception that girls' academic success is coming about boys' expense.
  • Though college students of nontraditional age are predominately female, men and women who enroll in college right of out high school are doing so at relatively equal rates.
  • Differences in race and family income correlate significantly with disparities in test scores, while test score differentials between boys and girls vary with race, family income, and subject matter. For example, the general claim that girls outperform boys on standardized reading test is only significant with respect to white students. Boys outperformed girls on the math and verbal sections of the SAT, but this advantage is concentrated largely among students of lower income.
  • When gender is viewed in isolation of other factors, the gaps that do exist are small and long-standing. For example, while girls do better on standardized reading tests, this has been the case since the test was first administered in 1971! And for the last 30 years, that gap has either narrowed or stayed the same. Moreover, this advantage favoring girls is limited to standardized reading tests, as boys enjoy a slight edge on standardized math tests and on both sections of the SAT.
The absence of evidence that boys are suffering across the board, and the existence of large discrepancies by race and family income, show that recent efforts at educational reform in the form of single-sex classrooms is misdirected. Single-sex education is problematic not only because it unnecessarily imposes gender segregation that perpetuates stereotypes about appropriate interests and behaviors among boys and girls, but also because it diverts support and attention from the African-American, Hispanic, and low-income children whose education actually is at risk.

Via the New York Times and the National Women's Law Center blog.