What’s happening to our boys?

School BoyThere has been a significant push in recent years to counter generations of gender inequity in the classrooms in which female students had not received the same academic rigor as their male counterparts. In past years, several programs and initiatives have seen some promising results with female students finally receiving the much-needed focus that had been previously underserved.

Although many would still rightly profess that not enough has been done to level the academic playing field for girls – especially when it comes to the difference in adult female wages compared to male wages as highlighted in numerous studies, some evidence suggests that boys are beginning to fall behind. Interestingly, as girls are just starting to make strides, their male counterparts are beginning to fall back academically.

In some places around our country, many girls have begun to counter some of the neglect that has been noticed, and they have seen a marked improvement in all subjects, especially in the STEM areas. The data that is gathered from elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels indicate that male students are beginning to experience an academic slide. Is it possible that after generations of female students being under-served and under-represented in higher-level courses, that they have started to soar past male students in such a short period? Could just the simple pivot of focusing on increasing female representation and removing barriers of opportunity in advanced classes be responsible for the numbers of female students excelling at some very substantial rates?

This comes at a time in our history when equity is deemed of great importance, and much-needed attention has been given to many areas such as education, government, and the entertainment industry. Look at how many women and people of color are given the same access to opportunities as well as compensation and recognition as others.
The initial response to these findings may have some educators look to once again shift their focus back to boys – but this would only undo the work that has been done for female students and would prevent further progress from occurring. One of the greatest tragedies of the American Educational system is the Pendulum of Focus – which erroneously has the attention from one area shifted to another.

When one considers the changing times that have seen an increase in the number of multi-racial students in addition to new gender terms, it may be challenging to continue to classify students the way we currently do – proposing the question of do we still need labels and what would a post-label school system even look like? More importantly, how do we ensure that all children are succeeding and no group, nor one individual, is being left behind.

Lastly, the issue of gender is not as simple – nor perhaps was it ever straightforward. The current debate regarding gender roles is rapidly changing, as well as previous societal and family norms. This is an area of education that is being developed as we speak and will necessitate a change in the way teaching professionals address how they make sure that these students are monitored so that they, too, can achieve, but in a manner that is dignified and appropriate. This has already begun to change the way teachers group their students, assign roles, and a host of other activities that used to use stereotypical role assignments. Perhaps education, itself, will assume a more individualized approach, looking at growth models and equal access for all – but how that is executed remains to be seen.

This is an area of education that is developing as we speak and will necessitate a change in the way teaching professionals address how they make sure that these students are monitored so that they, too, can achieve, but in a manner that is dignified and appropriate to provide interventions for all students. This has already begun to change the way teachers group their students, assign roles, and a host of other activities that used to use stereotypical role assignments. Perhaps education, itself, will assume a more individualized approach, looking at growth models and equal access for all – but how that is executed remains to be seen.

Reference links:

  1. Brueningsen, C. (2015, May 18). The global gender gap in education. Retrieved January 08,
    2018, from http://triblive.com/opinion/featuredcommentary/8377601-74/girls-schools-sex#axzz3ag7TKVnr
  2. Economist. The weaker sex. (2015, March 07). Retrieved January 18, 2018, from
    https://www.economist.com/news/international/21645759-boys-are-being-outclassed-girls-both-school-and-university-and-gap
  3. Loveless, T. (2016, July 28). Girls, boys, and reading. Retrieved January 16, 2018, from
    https://www.brookings.edu/research/girls-boys-and-reading/
  4. National Girls Collaborative Project. (2018). Statistics. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from
    https://ngcproject.org/statistics
  5. Sommers, Christina H. (2000). “The war against boys.” The Atlantic, May Issue. Retrieved on February 15, 2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2000/05/the-war-against-boys/304659/
  6. Woodall, K. (2017, July 20). The Trouble with Boys. Retrieved January 08, 2018, from
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/karen-woodall/the-trouble-with-boys_b_11064764.html
Dr. James Pedersen

Dr. James Pedersen

Dr. James Pedersen is currently the Superintendent for the Essex County Schools of Technology which is an award-winning school district in New Jersey. His career in educations spans over twenty years and includes a variety of instructional and administrative positions. Dr. Pedersen is the author of several articles and two books focusing on education, Rise of the Millennial Parents (2013) and Summer versus School: The Possibilities of the Year-Round School (2015).