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Report: academic achievement gap between girls and boys widening

By | Posted - May 18, 2011 at 1:44 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- New research reveals boys are falling behind girls when it comes to education, and a Pell Institute scholar says something must be done.

For years, programs have been focused on helping girls and women pursue new subjects and careers. But Thomas Mortenson says boys have not received that same encouragement -- and it's starting to show.

Mortenson argues that teaching styles and discipline policies cause boys to disengage sooner than girls and drop out at higher rates.

–Education Week article

In a report released Tuesday in Education Week, Mortenson highlights disturbing trends that have emerged over the past few decades. According to the report, called "Economic Change Effects on Men and Implications for the Education of Boys," women between the ages of 25 and 29 are more likely to have a high school diploma than men of that same age group. In addition, women are more likely to stay enrolled in college after the first year, and there have been more women going to college than men since 1981.

What could be causing that gap? Mortenson argues that most teaching practices are geared more toward learning styles of girls. Boys, he says, need more hands-on activities to stay engaged.

There have been more women enrolled in colleges and universities than men since 1981.

Other studies seem to support Mortenson's findings. A recent BBC report shows boys in the UK struggle to continue reading books past the 100th page. And a U.S. group called "The Boys Initiative" reports that though achievement rates among young girls seem to be skyrocketing, boys "have slipped further and further behind... threatening the futures of millions of young men."

Some researchers say video games may be contributing to the problem. According to the Kansas Times, the decline in boys' achievement began right around the same time that video games began gaining popularity.

Mortenson says teachers and schools need to change the focus to helping boys close the current academic achievement gap, even if it means switching up the usual methods and curriculum.


Story written by Jessica Ivins with contributions from Sara Lenz.

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