Boys Do Better in English When Girls Aren't Around

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

pencilsIt's almost report card time again. If you've got a boy who's struggling in English classes, you might want to find out who his classmates are.

That's the news out of Bristol University, where a research student found that girls in a classroom can affect the English grade boys earn. Higher percentages of girls meant lower grades for boys, up to 10 percent lower. In fact, the fewer girls in English class, the better boys seemed to do. Stephen Proud, study author, tracked test results of students at ages seven, 11, 14 and 16.

Proud theorizes that because girls are verbally stronger than boys when they start school, boys might feel discouraged when there are high numbers of girls in the class. He says teachers might also adjust their strategies based on their class makeup.

But Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, argues that those theories don't explain Proud's other finding: Both boys and girls do better in math and science when there's a high percentage of girls in the class. "This is one study, among many, which detects very small differences between boys and girls," says Smithers. But you can't say that it means boys or girls should be separated. It has very little practical importance for schools."

Same sex classrooms are a controversial subject. Some experts think that studies like this one hold weight, while others worry that separating kids would just reinforce gender stereotypes.

While I think this study is interesting, I'm not sure it's evidence that kids learn better when separated by gender. But it is important, I think, that teachers realize the need different strategies for different learners. What do you think? If your district offered same sex education, would you enroll your child?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.