The Boy Crisis

THE BOY CRISIS….Is our boys learning? Education Sector, an edu-think tank, has examined the NAEP test results of schoolchildren for the past 30 years to find out if there’s a “boy crisis,” and their answer is a collective shrug:

On the one hand, girls outperform boys in reading at all three grade levels assessed on the main NAEP. Gaps between girls and boys are smaller in fourth grade and get larger in eighth and 12th grades. Girls also outperform boys in writing at all grade levels.

In math, boys outperform girls at all grade levels, but only by a very small amount. Boys also outperform girls?again, very slightly?in science and by a slightly larger margin in geography. There are no significant gaps between male and female achievement on the NAEP in U.S. history.

So girls do better in some areas and boys in others ? and the reading gap has been around forever. They also pour some cold water on the recent hysteria over college campuses having more women than men: “Young men are actually more likely to attend and graduate from college than they were in the 1970s and 1980s…But the number of women enrolling in and graduating from college has increased much more rapidly during the same time period.” (Emphasis mine.)

However, the report goes on to note that this academic success for women hasn’t actually translated into any real-world gains in income, and that the smallish gaps between boys and girls in high school are dwarfed by enormous gaps between ethnic groups ? something that probably deserves more attention than the boy crisis.

Still, there really do seem to be problems here. Test scores for elementary kids in all subjects have been rising dramatically, and for middle school kids they’ve been rising a little bit, but by high school the gains disappear ? for both boys and girls. Since 1988, reading performance among 17-year-olds has been declining steadily among both boys and girls, and it’s been dropping for boys at a considerably faster clip. The boy crisis itself may be overblown, but at least in the area of reading and writing, the news is not especially happy.