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New Study Disputes Idea of a Boy Crisis in U.S. Schools

I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

As we discussed last week, there have been a lot of reports that boys are in trouble in American education. Some people say efforts to improve education for girls, especially in math and science, have resulted in a crisis for boys.

That belief has led to what a new report calls a growth industry of experts advising how to make schools more "boy friendly." Yet that report, released this week, suggests that the truth is far different from what people might think.

It says American boys in most cases are doing better than ever. "But girls have just improved their performance on some measures even faster," it says. As a result, girls have narrowed or closed differences with boys in some areas and moved farther ahead of them in others.

The report is by Sara Mead at Education Sector, an independent research group launched in January in Washington. She bases her arguments on tests used since the early nineteen seventies for a national measure of educational progress.

The report does agree that some groups of boys are in trouble. It says this is true especially of Hispanics and blacks and those from poor families. But it says closing racial and economic differences would help them more than reducing differences between boys and girls.

Another concern is the large number of boys being identified with learning and emotional disabilities. Also, the report says policymakers now recognize the need to reform public high schools. Such changes should help boys as well as girls.

But the report questions what it calls "simplistic" proposals to fix problems for boys in American schools. One example given is expanding single-sex schooling.

In nineteen ninety-eight, only a few public schools offered any kind of single-sex learning environment. Today, there are more than two hundred. The majority normally teach boys and girls together but offer some single-sex classes. Findings on the success of the idea have differed.

The Education Sector report calls for more study into the differences between boys and girls and into the culture of schools. It says the research will help teachers and parents better understand why gains for boys are not rising as fast as for girls. But the report also advises the public not to worry too much, and to be careful not to harm the gains that girls have made.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Transcripts and audio can be downloaded at I’m Steve Ember.