Boys are not thriving in schools! The environment is not boy-friendly when many teachers at the elementary level are women who expect students to sit still; boys like to move. Boys are more likely to receive lower grades if teachers consider conduct along with academic performance. They are also much more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and other behavioral issues. These problems are not confined to the lower grade levels. In fact, an article by Christina Sommers (author of book, The War on Boys) in the September 13 online edition of Atlantic magazine paints a grim picture of boys’ prospects for success as they grow to adulthood: “Boys in ALL ethnic groups and social classes are far less likely than their sisters to feel connected to school, to earn good grades, or to have high academic aspirations.” Information from the National Bureau of Economic Research documents the downward trend for boys. In the 1980′s the percentage of high achieving high school students planning to attend post-secondary education was roughly equivalent: 13% boys & 15% girls. In 2007, the percentages intending to pursue education after high school indicated a marked contrast: 16% boys and 27% girls. In fact, if a college’s male enrollment falls below 40%, “female students start to flee” as well. The colleges that continue to attract males tend to be technology-oriented. Georgia Tech and Rochester Institute of Technology are 68% male, while South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is 74% male.
Schools need to take a cue from these technical institutions. One such proposal comes from a Harvard study, “Pathways to Prosperity,” which calls for the revival of vocational education in secondary schools. Ms. Sommers states, “Recent research shows that enrollment in high school vocational programs (like those in Massachusetts) has dramatic effects on students’ likelihood of graduating from high school–especially boys. . . . education officials should concentrate on helping young people, male and female, enter careers that interest them. And right now, boys are the underserved population requiring attention.” Because of basic biological differences, the genders do learn differently. Schools need to reflect those differences in the ways that they serve both genders.