Do Teachers Discriminate Against Boys?

Today’s for you:


photo: TIME, Inc.

Worries about the declining academic performance of boys, a topic of increasing alarm this past decade, have intensified recently. It seems that boys are being judged both unduly harshly and leniently at school. A new study on gender disparities in elementary school performance — the first study to examine both objective and subjective performance—found that boys were given lower grades than girls, even in cases (such as math and science) where their test scores were either equal to, or higher than, the girls’ test scores.

It seems like out-and-out discrimination, except that there is an interesting wrinkle: teachers didn’t downgrade boys who had identical test scores to girls if they seemed to share the girls’ positive attitude towards learning. In fact, the opposite seemed to occur: the well-socialized boys received a small grade ‘bonus’ for their good behavior relative to other boys, suggesting that teachers may be overcompensating when they encounter boys whose behavior exceeds expectations. In other words, boys who match girls on both test scores and behavior get grades better than girls, but boys who don’t are graded more harshly. Which means that the issue of what to do with underperforming boys just got a lot more complicated…

Read more:

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director/author. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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6 Responses to Do Teachers Discriminate Against Boys?

  1. sagescenery says:

    Retired NJ teacher, teaching part-time in FL…no wonder I’m so tired!! Ha! Great post!

  2. Daphne says:

    People are biased towards others who are like them. No surprise that female teachers like girls and “gentle” boys, then. What surprised me was that this bias is played out in grading. In the business world we are taught, over and over again, to embrace diversity, surrounding ourselves with people who aren’t just like us (thus breaking down that bias) and the result is better, more thoughtful decision making because of the varied perspectives brought to the table.

    Maybe it’s time for teachers to take those multiple hour long diversity CBTs I’ve been treated to my entire career!

  3. Pingback: Should Boys’ Grades Suffer Due to Their Behavior in School? | Boy Mom Blog

  4. Sam says:

    As a teacher, i find myself grading the pretty much equally. However if i know that the student can do better, then the ink bleeds red all over! Grading is nefarious…everyone wants an A and an A has to be holistic, not just for getting the answer right. No one likes a harvard dr. just because he went to harvard; he has to be congenial also. The real world grades us in a hostile manner, so minus well begin in the classroom.

  5. DMyers says:

    Great Article. I specifically liked the idea of teaching the students based on their style of learning. We just started a men’s law group at St Mary’s in San Antonio and that’s how I found this article. If you’re ever in central Texas we would be delighted to have you come speak about gender issues in schools.

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