New research helps explain why girls do better in school

Jan 02, 2013 by Matt Weeks

(Phys.org)—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 published in the current issue of suggests that it's because of their , 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 in the UGA 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 , 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 in three categories—reading, math and science—linking to teachers' assessments of their students' progress, both academically and more broadly.

The data show, for the first time, that 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-, 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 kids move 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. didn't all of a 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."

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hunterellinger
4 / 5 (4) Jan 02, 2013
The real question is whether good standardized test scores or good behavior is the better predictor of success in life, not just in school. I suspect that what needs to be fixed is the testing regime, not teacher attitudes.
(I am a male who had high test scores and not-as-high grades, largely because I didn't care much about grades. I am not a teacher.)
Modernmystic
3.6 / 5 (14) Jan 02, 2013
Were the results the other way around we'd be talking about legislation to "level the playing field"...

Since it's just men that are negatively impacted...meh...
andyrdj
3.7 / 5 (10) Jan 02, 2013
This article certainly pulls its punches. The truth is that education has become massively over feminised in recent years. Boys used to do well because they work well with a simple system based on academic aptitude and not the myriad of "soft skills" women seem to think so important. They also do better with a male authority figure to look up to.

Boys' maths grades were declining for years until they went back to exam based grades and scrapped the coursework. Good thing too - the coursework I did had nothing to do with real maths and might have cost me an 'A' - (I ended up studying natural science at Cambridge btw).

Males learn their non academic skills in the cauldron of the real world. In schools they work better in a more analytical manner. Genetic theory and empirical results both agree that the majority of geniuses are, in fact male.
tgoldman
3.5 / 5 (8) Jan 02, 2013
"What remains unclear, however, is how to combat this discrepancy."
Why would you think teachers -- mainly women, at least in early grades -- are interested in combating this? It provides the means to return eventually to matriarchal leadership.
Maggnus
3.5 / 5 (8) Jan 02, 2013
I think the problem goes a lot further than grades in school. Over the last couple of decades male role models have become progressively more brutish, to the point where academic achievement is not only scoffed at, it is denigrated.

This goes from beer commercials to sitcoms, to movies, even in books. And it's worse in books aimed at the teen/young adult market.

As said in the article, the question is how do we combat this discrepancy.

HealingMindN
2.8 / 5 (9) Jan 02, 2013
If the female teachers want to favor their female students, fine. The compensation comes when the little boys grow up to work for the male driven corporate world.
FrankHerbert
1.7 / 5 (17) Jan 02, 2013
Waahhhhhh my white male privilege! Wahhhhhhh!

Call the wambulance you crybabies.
Argiod
2.8 / 5 (11) Jan 02, 2013
In other words; if the teacher likes you, you get better grades; regardless of your actual knowledge. So, if you're a female, you can literally charm your way through school. I noticed I usually got better grades from male teachers than from female teachers.
Prejudice, by any name...
This works in a high prestige university, too; where students of parents who make significant contributions to the university usually get better grades, despite their actual performance.
Social status plus money = privilege. Ever has it been thus.
FrankHerbert
2.2 / 5 (17) Jan 02, 2013
Lol Geokstr (George Kopecky) is still angry I exposed his stamp fraud business. His bigotry always attracts him to these topics.
effort
5 / 5 (2) Jan 03, 2013
Teachers reward the kind of behaviour they like to see. It's not optimal but it's not some gender conspiracy either.

My guess is that male teachers do the same too. At least anecdotally there are male teachers who are not above using grades to reward or punish classroom behaviour.

The real issue is that some of the behaviour that the teachers are punishing is actually positive. High quality learning is often disruptive. When you are actually engaging with the material you are less happy to let someone else control where things are going.

I'd say for many elementary school kids if they move on to the next topic without disruption, they probably weren't fully engaged in the first place.
ValeriaT
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 03, 2013
The contemporary educational system is oriented to schematic formal thinking based on trivial algebra solving and parroting of large volume of facts. Due to low salaries is highly feminized. Not surprisingly such an medieval environment plays better for girls rather than boys, who still tend to think in more independent and creative way (as manifests with computer programming, construction of electronic gadgets, etc..). So we have paradoxical situation: the girls are better in school, but they avoid the science and dream about submissive role in society.
OLDSAILER
1 / 5 (3) Jan 03, 2013
female teachers have never given boys the credit they give girls never this is not new why? women think men are stupid apes all ways have and if you look at T.V. men are never portrayed as any thing other than fools now days boys are difficult female teachers dont like difficult men and boys dont live in fear so they take risks women or girls wont take so female teachers punish boys who wont conform they dont care how much or what they know only that you do as you are told both girls and boys do better with men teachers men dont make the same judgments as women do however petty teachers of both sexes punish children if their egos are injured that is a greater problem way to many petty people in the world try reading HL Menkin in defense of women it wont be in print he died before i was born and you may understand why i say what i say most women will not like what he has to say
Noumenon
3.3 / 5 (19) Jan 03, 2013
Waahhhhhh my white male privilege! Wahhhhhhh!

Call the wambulance you crybabies.


Why are you attempting to degenerate yet another discussion? Who said anything about race here?

Is it easier for you to believe that "white males" are handed some kind of "privilege", apart from that which they've created for themselves, through unbiased hard work?

You're just another race baiter and a fraud,... who clearly is the one whining. Victim mentality is a weakness and admittence of failure.
Noumenon
2.8 / 5 (18) Jan 03, 2013
It is 2013, why is the public school curriculum not entirely on the internet already? No buses, schools and teachers unions to waste tax dollars. Just have a few testing centers in each state.
Modernmystic
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 03, 2013
Waahhhhhh my white male privilege! Wahhhhhhh!

Call the wambulance you crybabies.


Indeed not, if I read the article correctly what "we" want or should have is the absence of blatant sexism and bigotry inherent in female educators. Whether or not they're doing it consciously or unconsciously is irrelevant to the outcomes (yet not to any liability or possible criminal penalties). Do we need legislation to do that, or a simple recognition and across the board adjustment of grades to compensate? I don't know a solution, but it's obviously a problem that needs to be addressed.
freethinking
3 / 5 (10) Jan 03, 2013
I have said this for many many years. Schools are against boys, ADD, ADHD are conditions typical of boys, yet now they are drugged.

Fathers, you must get involved with your children at schools, esp. if you have boys. You Need to advocate for and at times fight the system to protect them.

Claudius
3.7 / 5 (12) Jan 03, 2013
What is needed is better educated teachers. Higher standards for students. Less "self-esteem" oriented teaching. There are models we could follow, such as the system in Finland.
rockwolf1000
not rated yet Jan 03, 2013
It is 2013, why is the public school curriculum not entirely on the internet already? No buses, schools and teachers unions to waste tax dollars. Just have a few testing centers in each state.

It's because there's more to school than just the three R's. Kids need to learn to socialize. They do that at school while they're learning the basics. They can't do that at home in front of a computer screen which I'm sure most kids already spend too much time in front of currently.
Noumenon
3.1 / 5 (15) Jan 03, 2013
It is 2013, why is the public school curriculum not entirely on the internet already? No buses, schools and teachers unions to waste tax dollars. Just have a few testing centers in each state.

It's because there's more to school than just the three R's. Kids need to learn to socialize. They do that at school while they're learning the basics. They can't do that at home in front of a computer screen which I'm sure most kids already spend too much time in front of currently.


Yes, that is the canned response that is generally used, and I think it's non-sense. They can socialize in their respective communities, with their friends and just as a matter of going through life. It's not something you need a brick and motor school for at all.
VendicarD
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 04, 2013
The curriculum has been in books for years. You could have made the same moronic argument 100 years ago.

"It is 2013, why is the public school curriculum not entirely on the internet already?" - NumenTard

Teaching requires more than access to information. It requires presenting that information in context, and correcting mis-perceptions when they occur, as they invariably do.

Poor NumenTard. He knows so little, and comprehends even less.

Was he home schooled?
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Jan 04, 2013
I have said this for many many years. Schools are against boys, ADD, ADHD are conditions typical of boys, yet now they are drugged.
Actually they're symptoms of lead poisoning, which visibly affects boys more than girls
VendicarD
4 / 5 (4) Jan 04, 2013
Claptrap.

"What is needed is better educated teachers." - Claudius

Education is growing increasingly unnecessary.

Consider that a chronic failure, congenital liar, and low grade moron - George Bush - was elected to the presidency.
Noumenon
2.6 / 5 (15) Jan 04, 2013
Teaching requires more than access to information. It requires presenting that information in context, and correcting mis-perceptions when they occur, as they invariably do.


You call yourself a programmer?!

Unlike teachers with 30+ students or books, computers are interactive and can be far more fun and effective for learning, and can adapt in response to feedback from the student. Of course I mentioned testing centers as an independent validation. Welcome to the 21st century.
VendicarD
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 04, 2013
As yet, effective AI does not exist.

Accessing a student's misperception requires intelligence.

This is why existing software can not do it.

"Unlike teachers with 30 students or books, computers are interactive and can be far more fun and effective for learning, and can adapt in response to feedback from the student." - NumenTard

NumenTard - once again living on the invisible planet of Conservadopia.

Noumenon
2.8 / 5 (16) Jan 04, 2013
As yet, effective AI does not exist.

Accessing a student's misperception requires intelligence.

This is why existing software can not do it.

"Unlike teachers with 30 students or books, computers are interactive and can be far more fun and effective for learning, and can adapt in response to feedback from the student." - NumenTard

NumenTard - once again living on the invisible planet of Conservadopia.



-You don't need AI here, to be more effective than a teacher with 30+ students or an inanimate physical book. All studies show that kids learn better from an interactive computer.

-A teacher cannot pore understanding into a student, they can only present the information and answer predictable questions. A software curriculum could replace the bulk of this, and could be improved upon and varied over time, and also supplemented via live chat.

-Tax money given back to the public would allow them to afford a tutor if required.
Infinum
1 / 5 (2) Jan 04, 2013
One might want to look at this from another angle. Boys/men are more innovative than girls/women, always have been - it's in the genes.

Since universities are overrated boys tend to migrate to other ways of improving their knowledge - more practical, better adapted to problems of tomorrow.

And what do girls do in this same situation?
They are following the path that was pioneered by men, the path they already know and feel safe about. Females study on Universities despite the fact a degree lost much of the earning power in today's world. Females are getting into big business while mega-corporations are slowly marching towards their doom. The list goes on.

Let the girls have better grades - they actually matter less and less in the real world anyway. Just remember, when you need quick and good-enough solution to pressing real-world problem you better look to boys. Good grades won't save you, innovation and reflex might.
VendicarD
3 / 5 (4) Jan 04, 2013
It is not at all surprising that a psychopath like NumenTard doesn't see a need for children to learn how to socialize.

"Yes, that is the canned response that is generally used, and I think it's non-sense." - NumenTard
VendicarD
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 04, 2013
I don't know a single interactive program that can snswer questions.

Hence there are (NO) interactive programs that teach.

"All studies show that kids learn better from an interactive computer." - NumenTard

Perhaps we have uncovered the origin of NumenTard's Tardness.
Moebius
2 / 5 (4) Jan 05, 2013
This article is proof that stupidity is more about a lifestyle choice than genes. We are mostly all born with the same equipment, what we do with it shapes and changes it. Genius like Einstein generally has one thing in common, single minded intent and devotion to a goal with a little luck thrown in to make the right choices.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (2) Jan 05, 2013
We are mostly all born with the same equipment
We are differing with brain capacity each other in the same way, like with size/capacity of any other organ.
sirchick
not rated yet Jan 06, 2013
This has been a trend for a good generation now, yet I'm still not seeing any thing different in real world careers. And my only guess is exampled below:

Who would you employ from these options:

Lets propose something like computer programming:
Guy with 5 years experience (has a portfolio of his work that did well) in work for the subject because he dropped out and went straight to work learning on the go.

OR

Girl with 0 years experience in work for the subject but has a degree in the subject. Has experience doing part time work in a restaurant to pay for university.

Is 5 years working and learning on the job equal to a degree....I guess in alot of subjects yes, especially if it was for example Business. Science perhaps not one of those because you have to be up to date (although thats still male dominated by long way some how as is the computer science realm).

Half the stuff I know now I did not learn in school. The internet is the best university of them all.
zaxxon451
4 / 5 (4) Jan 07, 2013
It is 2013, why is the public school curriculum not entirely on the internet already? No buses, schools and teachers unions to waste tax dollars. Just have a few testing centers in each state.


Please refrain from sharing opinions based in such profound ignorance. I'm sure telling a 16 y/o inner city gang banger, to get online and learn some trig will be very effective. You know nothing of educators, students, or our education system in general.
FrankHerbert
2 / 5 (12) Jan 07, 2013
Here comes the wambulance, choo choo!
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (3) Jan 07, 2013
Here comes the wambulance, choo choo!


And should we say that to women who are confronted with bigotry too? How about getting rid of all those "whiny" EO laws we have?

Or is it ONLY whining if you're a white male and everyone else gets a complete pass....
Noumenon
3 / 5 (12) Jan 08, 2013
It is 2013, why is the public school curriculum not entirely on the internet already? No buses, schools and teachers unions to waste tax dollars. Just have a few testing centers in each state.


Please refrain from sharing opinions based in such profound ignorance. I'm sure telling a 16 y/o inner city gang banger, to get online and learn some trig will be very effective. You know nothing of educators, students, or our education system in general.


I know the public education system is a failure. I know what personal accountability is and that it's not a factor in public schools, not for teachers unions nor students,... and that "inner city gang bangers" should NOT be determining how low to set the bar for everyone else.
FrankHerbert
1.8 / 5 (10) Jan 08, 2013
Here come the dogwhistles! Choo choo!
Noumenon
2.5 / 5 (11) Jan 09, 2013
It is not at all surprising that a psychopath like NumenTard doesn't see a need for children to learn how to socialize.


I never said that. Socializing is done by virtue of existing in a society, and they will do that in anycase. That's not what a physical school is for. That is just propaganda to fight home schooling.

They simply don't do studies on how the social atmosphere of schools are incredibly distracting, threatening, and stressful for some students and thus not conducive to learning most efficiently. Plus all the time and money wasted is absurd.
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2013

I never said that. Socializing is done by virtue of existing in a society, and they will do that in anycase. That's not what a physical school is for. That is just propaganda to fight home schooling.

They simply don't do studies on how the social atmosphere of schools are incredibly distracting, threatening, and stressful for some students and thus not conducive to learning most efficiently. Plus all the time and money wasted is absurd.

It's obvious you were home schooled as you have no idea what you're talking about. Rural kids sometimes only socialize with their peers at school. It's simply too far to be with other kids on a regular basis.
So with you're home school math you've determined that it will be far cheaper to have one parent from each family quit their job and stay home to teach the kid/s as opposed to hiring one teacher for every ~30 kids. You sir are a fool.
Noumenon
2.3 / 5 (9) Jan 10, 2013
Rural kids sometimes only socialize with their peers at school. It's simply too far to be with other kids on a regular basis.


Socializing is NOT what an education system is for. It is not even taught in school,.. it just occurs as a consequence. It is something that occurs in any case as one goes through life depending upon particular circumstances. Invented nonsensical justification for obsolescence.

So with you're home school math you've determined that it will be far cheaper to have one parent [..] quit their job and stay home [..] opposed to hiring one teacher for every ~30 kids


I see that you've received a public education. Total public school expenditures per student, per year, is now over $11,000, but the USA ranks only around 17th place. Obviously, I had assumed that this tax money wouldn't be collected at all, thus providing one the means to solve such simple problems, better and more efficiently.
zaxxon451
not rated yet Jan 26, 2013

I know the public education system is a failure. I know what personal accountability is and that it's not a factor in public schools, not for teachers unions nor students,... and that "inner city gang bangers" should NOT be determining how low to set the bar for everyone else.


Really? So you can set the bar wherever you like in your online education utopia? How convenient. Teachers deal with reality, and 16 y/o gang members are part of that reality. So before you make statements like "our education system is a failure", educate yourself about the real problems instead of regurgitating talking points about teachers' unions.