Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

June 29, 2013

The Gender Gap: Why girls often out-achieve boys in school

TRAVERSE CITY — Few boys would expect to get on a varsity basketball team without playing basketball in junior high or on junior varsity teams.

Yet many think they can become an all-star college student without doing homework or practicing good study skills in their elementary through high school years, said sociologist Claudia Buchmann, a Benzie County summer resident who co-authored a new book on the growing education gender gap in education.

Today, 57 percent of all bachelor’s degree recipients in the United States are women, up from 52 percent in 1990, she said, citing research she and fellow sociologist Thomas A. DiPrete conducted over several years before writing “The Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What It Means for American Schools.”

“Our research shows that success in college is about practicing and honing skills, learning how to study and how to be organized in middle school through high school,” she said.

Boys on the average are underperforming in school, she said. They have lower grade point averages than girls in the elementary grades through high school. They spend less time on homework than girls do. Even so, many boys tend to be over-confident about their academic abilities and have unrealistic expectations about their future. They expect to go to college and get rich.

Statistics culled from her and DiPrete’s decade-long study of large-scale national education and census data suggests another reality: Eighth-graders who earn A’s and B’s have a 6-in-10 chance of finishing college. Those odds plummet to 1-in-10 for eighth-graders receiving “B” and “C” grades.

A key finding of DiPrete’s and Buchmann’s work is that the most important predictor of boys’ achievement in college is how school systems expect, value and reward academic effort. The co-authors also say that boys need to learn how much today’s economy rewards academic achievement rather than traditionally masculine blue-collar work.

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