Thursday, March 18, 2010

Girls "Smarter" Than Boys?

I was not happy when I read the news article in my local paper entitled :"State's Girls Beating Boys".  This is an issue not only in Alabama but according to the center on Education Policy, one in all public schools in all states.

The first paragraph caught my eye immediately.  The reporter  made the blanket statement that

“girls . . . are smarter than boys are”.  

That is simply inaccurate and irresponsible. Yes, boys may be performing poorly on formal reading assessments, and, yes, reading is the foundation of all learning. However, just because boys don’t do well on state reading assessments shouldn’t delegate them to the “I’m not smart” category.

A comment from Dr. Susan B. Neuman was included and I believe she is spot on:

"Girls tend to read what teachers give them to read.  They read a lot of stories early on.  They're intrigued with the process of learning to read. With boys you have to motivate them to read with subjects they're interested in.  Boys also have more energy which can create classroom management problems for teachers."

Although I agree as far as that goes, 

I have a slightly different view. We must give boys genuine connections between practicing reading skills that we test and are required to teach AND finding meaningful experiences with print of all sorts. 
Those reasons may be quite different than those that motivate and satisfy girls. 

If our teaching was driven by what students need instead of a static curriculum that may not meet their needs, we will see more success.

Years ago educators started talking about “differentiating reading instruction” to meet needs of different types of learners. Reading Rockets has a simple definition of that "education term".  Every teacher and parent can make a difference with students by being on that channel, regardless of the child's gender.  With boys, it helps to address how boys can best be motivated to read.   If acting out the story with a physical activity helps, especially with those younger children, why not incorporate that?  The core, whether we are talking about boys or girls, is going beyond the skill-based focus on instruction which have overtaken classrooms (a necessity but not the only important focus).

A truly balanced approach to reading instruction includes addressing not only skills or “mechanics” but also the practice, the habit, the “behavior” of reading.   These days, with so much focus on limiting reading to selected titles identified by curriculum and no variation allowed in the classroom, it's a perfect opportunity for families to step up and balance that.
Educators AND parents should be searching out print that mesmerizes, motivates, and gives valuable information, that bridges between the content students need to know and what interests them.

Until we do that, neither boys nor girls will see authentic reasons or have the answer to an important question, “why should I read anyway?”

Parents, I welcome your take on this, your comments, and you sharing this blog with educators and other families.  The solution is part of my revolution to bring families and educators together in genuine partnerships that result in the highest achievement possible for every child.  Author Jon Scieszka has taken on this challenge through his Guys Read website.  You can also read about what girls and boys are reading in an article from

1 comment:

Terry Doherty said...

Cathy, Your point about the "smarter" tag being irresponsible is right on. I couldn't believe it when I read it.