Study: Gender behavior differences lead to higher grades for girls

7 Jan

Moi wrote about gender differences in Boys are different from girls despite what the culture is trying to say

Joan Gausted of the University of Oregon has an excellent article in Eric Digest 78, School Discipline

School discipline has two main goals: (1) ensure the safety of staff and students, and (2) create an environment conducive to learning. Serious student misconduct involving violent or criminal behavior defeats these goals and often makes headlines in the process. However, the commonest discipline problems involve noncriminal student behavior (Moles 1989).

Quite often, children who are disciplined tend to be boys and more often than not, boys of color. The issue for schools is how to maintain order, yet deal with noncriminal student behavior and keep children in school.

Alan Schwartz has a provocative article in the New York Times about a longitudinal study of discipline conducted in Texas. In School Discipline Study Raises Fresh Questions  Schwartz reports about the Texas study conducted under the auspices of the Council of State Governments. Martha Plotkin reports at the Council of State Governments site in the article, Out of Class Into Court Discretion in School Discipline has Big Impacts, Groundbreaking CSG Study Finds:

The numbers are startling.

Nearly 60 percent of students in Texas received at least one disciplinary action—including in-school suspensions ranging from a single class period to several days, with no cap on how many suspensions they can receive in a school year;

More than 30 percent had out-of-school suspensions of up to three days, with no cap on the number in a year;

About 15 percent were sent to Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs for an average of 27 days;

Approximately 8 percent were placed in Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs, averaging 73 days.

Those are some of the findings from a recent report, Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement. The study, released July 19, was a partnership between The Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M….

Students who were repeatedly disciplined often experienced poor outcomes at particularly high rates. The Texas study found that 15 percent of Texas students had 11 or more disciplinary violations between seventh and 12th grades; about half of those frequent violators had subsequent contact with the juvenile justice system. Repeated suspensions and expulsions also predicted poor academic outcomes. Only 40 percent of students disciplined 11 times or more graduated from high school during the study period, and 31 percent of students disciplined one or more times repeated their grade at least once, compared with 5 percent of students who had not been disciplined.

Even students who were disciplined less frequently were still more likely to repeat a grade or drop out. A student who had experienced a discretionary disciplinary action was twice as likely to repeat a grade as a student who had the same characteristics and attended a similar school but was not suspended or expelled. The results were also troubling in regard to keeping students with disciplinary histories in school. Nearly 10 percent of students with at least one disciplinary contact dropped out of school, compared to just 2 percent of students with no disciplinary actions.

Some in the current culture do not want to recognize that boys have different styles, because to say otherwise is just not politically correct (P.C.). Being P.C., however, is throwing a lot of kids under the bus.

Huffington Post is reporting in the article, Elementary School Bias Against Boys Sets Them Up For Failure: Study:

Academics from the University of Georgia and Columbia University think they have more insight into why girls earn higher grades on report cards than boys do, despite the fact that girls do not necessarily outperform boys on achievement or IQ tests.

Christopher Cornwell, head of economics at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, UGA’s David Mustard and Columbia’s Jessica Van Parys have published a study that they say shows “gender disparities in teacher grades start early and uniformly favor girls.”

The researchers analyzed data from 5,800 elementary school students and found that boys performed better on standardized exams in math, reading and science than their course grades reflected. The authors suggest that girls are truly only outperforming boys in “non-cognitive approaches to learning” — defined as attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility and organization — leading to better grades from teachers. The study is published in the latest issue of The Journal of Human Resources.

The University of Georgia highlights Professor Cornwell’s research in the following press release, Why girls are better students, even when they’re not:

Why do girls get better grades in elementary school than boys—even when they perform worse on standardized tests?

New research from the University of Georgia and Columbia University and published in the current issue of Journal of Human Resources, suggests that it’s because of their classroom behavior, which may lead teachers to assign girls higher grades than their male counterparts.

The skill that matters the most in regards to how teachers graded their students is what we refer to as ‘approaches toward learning,’” said Christopher Cornwell, head of economics at UGA’s Terry College of Business and one of the study’s authors. “You can think of ‘approaches to learning’ as a rough measure of what a child’s attitude toward school is: It includes six items that rate the child’s attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility, and organization. I think that anybody who’s a parent of boys and girls can tell you that girls are more of all of that.”

The study, co-authored by Cornwell and David Mustard at UGA and Jessica Van Parys at Columbia, analyzed data on more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade. It examined students’ performance on standardized tests in three categories—reading, math and science—linking test scores to teachers’ assessments of their students’ progress, both academically and more broadly.

The data show, for the first time, that gender disparities in teacher grades start early and uniformly favor girls. In every subject area, boys are represented in grade distributions below where their test scores would predict.

The authors attribute this misalignment to what they called non-cognitive skills, or “how well each child was engaged in the classroom, how often the child externalized or internalized problems, how often the child lost control, and how well the child developed interpersonal skills.” They even report evidence of a grade bonus for boys with test scores and behavior like their girl counterparts.

This difference can have long-reaching effects, Cornwell said.

The trajectory at which a kid moves through school is often influenced by a teacher’s assessment of their performance, their grades. This affects their ability to enter into advanced classes and other kinds of academic opportunities, even post-secondary opportunities,” he said. “It’s also typically the grades you earn in school that are weighted the most heavily in college admissions. So if grade disparities emerge this early on, it’s not surprising that by the time these children are ready to go to college, girls will be better positioned.”

Research about gender differences in the classroom and beyond has grabbed headlines recently. Titles like Hannah Rosin’s “The End of Men and the Rise of Women” and Kay Hymowitz’s “Manning Up” have spent months on best-seller lists and inspired countless discussions in the media.

We seem to have gotten to a point in the popular consciousness where people are recognizing the story in these data: Men are falling behind relative to women. Economists have looked at this from a number of different angles, but it’s in educational assessments that you make your mark for the labor market,” Cornwell said. “Men’s rate of college going has slowed in recent years whereas women’s has not, but if you roll the story back far enough, to the 60s and 70s, women were going to college in much fewer numbers. It’s at a point now, where you’ve got women earning upward of 60 percent of the bachelors’ degrees awarded every year.”

But despite changing college demographics, the new data may not be reflecting anything fundamentally new.

My argument is that this has always been true about boys and girls. Girls didn’t all of the sudden become more engaged and boys didn’t suddenly become more rambunctious,” Cornwell said. “Their attitudes toward learning were always this way. But it didn’t show up in educational attainment like it does today because of all the factors that previously discouraged women’s participation in the labor force, such as a lack of access to reliable birth control.”

What remains unclear, however, is how to combat this discrepancy.

The most common question we’ve gotten is whether or not the gender of the teacher matters in regards to grading students,” Cornwell said. “But that’s a question we can’t answer because there’s just not enough data available. As you can probably guess, the great majority of elementary school teachers are women.”

See, Girls Outpace Boys Mostly Due to Classroom Behavior

Sarah D. Sparks posted Report Points to Widening Gap In Boys’ Education Attainment at Education Week.

As the needs of global labor change and college readiness standards increase, American boys have been slower to adapt than girls, according to a report set to be released this morning.

Thomas Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, in Washington, has been arguing since the mid-1990s that American men are treading water economically as women gain ground. His latest report, Economic Change Effects on Men, presented at the Washington-based Boys Initiative meeting this morning, expands his workforce and higher education data to K-12 education.

Mortenson argues that teaching styles and discipline policies cause boys to disengage sooner than girls and drop out at higher rates. Among his findings:

In 2010, 72.8 percent of children lived with a father, down from 88.8 percent in 1960, when these data were first reported.

In 2010, 62.8 percent of young men who graduated from high school enrolled in college, up 7.6 percentage points from 1970, but far below the continuation rate for young women—74 percent in 2010, up 25.5 percentage points from 1970. “Each spring, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out its spring study on recent high school graduates, and I’ve been compiling that data since 1959,” Mortenson told me. “The gap between males and females is now greater than 10 percentage points, and it’s never been that wide before” favoring girls during his years of analysis.

Boys ages 6 to 14 are more than twice as likely as girls to have a developmental disability and three times as likely to be diagnosed with mental retardation.

Mortenson told me he thinks school format is partly to blame, with greater focus on writing and test preparation and fewer opportunities for active projects. As he puts it: “Boys have to be doing something: Things have to be blowing up or being built or going really fast. If you ask them to sit down and write and read, more physically passive activities will turn off boys before they turn off girls.”

There are some good information sources about helping boys to learn. PBS Parents in Understanding and Raising Boys advises the following strategies:

Let them play. Give boys lots of opportunities for physical activity and don’t expect them to sit still for long periods of time. “Play is the work of childhood, it’s how kids learn social skills and develop verbal skills, and it’s vanishing from the classroom. Kids are not being allowed to play enough in school, both indoors and outdoors,” says Jane Katch.

Create learning activities where boys use their bodies. “Boys learn best when learning is ‘hands-on.’ They learn by touching, moving, climbing on, and building things. They solve problems physically so if kids are handling real things, they will learn more effectively. This applies to kindergarten and throughout their school experience,” says Joseph Tobin.

Let boys read (and listen to) books that appeal to their interests. “Know your boys, know their passions, and know what books can speak to those passions. Boys are open to reading if they can make their own choices. We read to connect to interests we have and literacy piggybacks on those interests,” says Thomas Newkirk. “I tell my prospective teachers that they should have at least a thousand books in their heads possibilities for students to read. Unless we can build a base in reading thousands and thousands of words our students will never be able to read the classics. And by reading, I think we need to look at all kinds of reading — magazines, graphic novels, humor, etc. — and not just classical literature.”

Read aloud to boys and have them read aloud to you. “One practice that is critical is reading aloud to boys. This stops way too early in homes and in schools. Reading aloud is a bridge to reading the child might do later on, independently,” advises Newkirk.

Allow boys to write about what interests them instead of what interests you. “When children are learning to write, give them opportunities to write about subjects that are most meaningful to them — what they love, what they hate, what scares them and what excites them,” recommends Katch. “This way they will learn the power and significance of using the written word to communicate. If they write in a way that causes others to be disturbed, then talk about ways they can write what is important to them without disturbing others rather than prohibiting their expression. I personally think Pokemon is boring but I know a boy who wrote 27 books about it and went from being a non-writer to a terrific writer. Another”” practice is connecting writing to digital storytelling. I think we need to conceptualize reading and writing as multi-modal involving not only print but music, visuals, and more,” adds Newkirk.

Allow discussion of topics boys may want to talk about (but teachers and girls may not). “In a classroom that allows boys’ thoughts and fantasies to be expressed in their stories and their play, controversial issues will come up. In my class, some children did not want to hear any story that contained killing,” notes Katch. “But several boys complained that their stories of good guys and bad guys sometimes need to contain killing off the bad guy. When we discussed the problem, the children realized that everyone thought it was all right to kill the bad guys; there were objections only when a character was killed who was not clearly bad. So the boys agreed that they would only kill off evil characters. The children realized that by talking about what was important to them, they could communicate with each other and come to an agreement that felt right to everyone.”

Allow boys to express humor in appropriate ways and at appropriate times. “Include satire, parody, and humor in the curriculum, and don’t be too hard on boys who are class clowns. Instead, acknowledge the boy’s skill at being humorous. If the boy gets credit for this quality, he may not repeat the behavior. If you treat a clown as your biggest problem you are creating a conflict. Treat that boy with respect and respectfully ask him to make jokes at another time, if they get out of control,” advises Joseph Tobin. “Sometimes, you just have to have a sense of humor about the boy’s sense of humor. Most teachers I know admit that as annoying as boy humor can be, it can also brighten up the day,” adds Michael Thompson.

Remember, there are different approaches to educating boys than educating girls.


Classroom Strategies to Get Boys Reading

Me Read? A Practical Guide to Improving Boys Literacy Skills

Understanding Gender Differences: Strategies To Support Girls and Boys

Helping Underachieving Boys Read Well and Often

Boys and Reading Strategies for Success

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13 Responses to “Study: Gender behavior differences lead to higher grades for girls”


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