Academic Gender Gaps

Are any Vermont School Boards currently experiencing serious gender gap issues with boys under performing girls academically in their district? If so, would you be willing to share resources, evidence based models and action steps taken to address this issue?

  1. At my school district we’ve had a long-standing – I mean Long-standing as long as I’ve been on the board) issue with gender gap in achievement. The most pronounced aspect of this is with awards where children are selected for recognition by faculty and staff on some basis other than pure academic achievement. There is also a noticeable gap in academic achievement, although there appears to have been progress in this regard recently. Stay tuned for further information in this regard.
    Our current administration professes to be aware of and working on this. We’ll see.

    I really have no current information on how things stand at the high school. Probably twelve years ago the then-principal gave what I would describe as a statistical abstract of the school district to the board and it was pretty apparent that there was a gender gap in achievement which favored females. The principal’s comment at the time: “It’s not cool to be a smart boy at our school”. There was never (meaning while I was still on the board) any follow-up to this that we were made aware of. Again – this is dated information and I can not attest to what has or has not been done to improve the situation, if it still exists.

    Gender bias is a tough subject and different from differences in achievement by gender at different life stages. The behavioral differences between boys and girls are well-documented. This is no excuse for lack of effort by the institution but it is not possible to fairly and accurately address educational issues without acknowledging all of the factors involved. The part of what I’ve described that MAY be most alarming is the part about bias where selection by criteria other than academics is involved.

    One area of concern for me in this discussion is the attitude of central and local administrations re: information. This is not a new subject and I’m sure that there exists substantial research on the subject. A full discussion involves such research AND what local administration is doing about it.

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  2. We have looked at this question several times and not found significant evidence to warrant making curricula or pedogological changes simply to address it. We found that more significant factors were economic parameters, home situations and, basically, minimal preparation for school during pre-school years. I know that St Mike’s did an in-depth study with results confirming a chasm between male and female performance. Hope this helps!

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  3. I am on a school board in Northern VT where population is small. We have not been made aware of any gender issues regarding academic performance in our school.

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  4. I definitely see this both in the testing results and in my own son’s path through school (he is bright and does not have any impediments, but is not really engaged). While I am skeptical of any of these standardized tests as an absolute scale of anything, I do think that the overall distinctly noticeable relative results and trends of boys lagging as compared to girls deserve notice, attention, and action.
    I am deeply interested in the subject and specific of the project-based learning mentioned by another above. I myself learn best that way; in fact, in some subject areas, especially math, it’s really the only way I ever learned effectively or in any depth of substantive comprehension (and, unfortunately, then, only after/ outside of formal education, which meant that various doors were closed in educational and career options). At various points in my own academic path as a kid I was first routed into a “slow track” due to my failure to engage with math via standard classroom methods (at least at the time) and then later was put in what were then called “gifted and talented programs” in which there were more project-based type options and I flourished. I unfortunately watched some really bright and talented kids dead end academically and then, in boredom and frustration, head down paths of bad life directions- and have a real sense that there, but for fortune, go I…

    I think it is tremendous and overdue that our society has taken the steps that have begun to let girls and women flourish and have a more expansive set of educational, work, and life options — but we are shooting ourselves in the foot as a society if we’re leaving broad swaths of boys (who are of course growing up to be men) feeling disengaged and stagnant.

    I would like to know more about what school here in VT is doing the “Pathways” project based learning program because it sounds like something that has tremendous positive potential.

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  5. I am unaware of any such problems in our school. I have not heard tell of them casually or otherwise.

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  6. Yes we have seen the gap between boys’ and girls’ performance on the NCAP Standards Test for a number of years now. Clearly girls way outperform boys.

    My personal belief is that girls (including my 2 daughters and stepdaughter) have benefited tremendously from all the focus in the last 20 years or more to raise girls’ self-esteem and to create a positive environment of support. Girls out-perform boys at most grade levels including college. That is an outstandingly positive outcome for so many lives. It is awesome! I would take nothing away from that success.

    I think we are overdue to have a focused approach to educating boys. Boys learn differently. Different parts of boys’ brains mature at different rates than girls, some faster, some slower. So, in my opinion teachers need to be trained to teach boys and girls differently.

    Some say that same sex education is the answer. Perhaps in a few classes (English? Social Studies?) it makes sense to have all girl classes and all boy classes. I do not have an answer, but I think it needs to be looked at and tried. We often wait for a long time for the right study to show us the way as if there is some magic bullet that will fix all problems. We should use our own leadership skills. Certainly the current education system is short changing boys.

    Another way to reach and engage boys it to find out where their interests are. If one has a passion for bicycling, ask him to research and write about some aspect of cycling. Read a book on cycling around the county. Figure out how long it would take at so many miles per hour to go from the Mass border to the Canadian border.

    Research the various frame compounds and make a case for why one is best. Etc.

    There is a program we have going called Pathways. It is small right now – 20-30 kids. Students (boys and girls) must apply to get into it. It is aimed at providing alternative pathways to graduation from HS. It is largely project based education. Students design a project around an interest and with an advisor structure it so Math, English, Science, Social Studies is built into it. We’ve seen unengaged students just take off with this approach.

    We need to expand it to include all students who do not learn the traditional way. Right now we are short changing too many lives.

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  7. Based on my personal experience in Honors or AP classes at our high school, it is evident that there is at least a significant difference in enrollment numbers. It is fairly common to find myself in a class far outnumbered by girls. This, in my opinion, comes mostly from a difference in attitude. Boys tend to draw more satisfaction from athletic or other extracurricular success rather than academic achievement. The guidance department is best suited to resolve the issue as they enroll students in classes.

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