Differences Between Boys and Girls in Education


For the past two decades, studies have revealed that boys tend to excel in math and science, whereas girls outshine them in reading and writing. Until recently, this theoretical disparity remained the gospel for some people. However, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 led to research results that were quite different.


  • The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was created to required school administrators, principals and educators to be held accountable for student achievement. The government assesses school performance by examining student results in standardized testing and then dispenses federal funding to schools. The evaluations of these standardized test results has allowed researchers to discover that girls score just as well as the boys on the math portion of the tests.


  • Before the standardized test, the benchmark for testing students in math, reading and other subjects was set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which was conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. The tests were not set up to reveal the individual success of each student but rather the development of a group of students. For example, the only grades tested were grades 4, 8 and 12. The findings were then used to track the academic trend between boys and girls.


  • Even though standardized testing found that boys and girls performed evenly on math, the test did not show boys being even with girls in reading. The boys were not failing the reading portions of the tests, but they simply weren't doing as well as the girls. In fact, the National Assessment of Educational Progress test conducted in 2005 showed that boys in grade 4 scored better in reading than in 2003.

The Reading Gap

  • Researchers have searched for why girls do better in reading than boys. However, studies have discovered that boys may not read as well as girls because boys are just not engaged in reading and are not as well-behaved as girls. Research has shown that the reading disparity between the two sexes may start as early as preschool. According to a study conducted by researchers at Yale University, boys are expelled 4 ½ more times than girls, and most of the reasons for expulsion were due to behavioral issues.


  • The difference between the cognitive skills of boys and girls is not immense enough for alarm, but the difference in the way boys and girls behave may warrant more investigation. According to Steven Barnett, an Education Economics professor at Rutgers University, males are placed into reading groups based on their perceived behavior versus their actual reading ability. So boys have the capacity to read on the same level as girls, but they just don't behave as well as girls and thus lose out on the opportunity. Barnett also believes that boys may be primed for schools, but it's the schools that are not primed for the boys.


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