One Less Crisis To Worry About — UPDATED

June 26, 2006

Editor’s Note: Loved this diary. Thank you, Hillary! -Elisa

I love Jay Mathews’ education column Class Struggle in the Washington Post.  He often turns the whole issue of education and education reform on its ear, and his work has even helped me personally with my efforts to ensure Miles gets what he needs in school.

Today, great news for we MotherTalkers who are blessed with sons.  The Boy Crisis is a myth!
That’s right….

Study Casts Doubt on ‘The Boy Crisis’

According to Mathews’ column:

A study to be released today looking at long-term trends in test scores and academic success argues that widespread reports of U.S. boys being in crisis are greatly overstated and that young males in school are in many ways doing better than ever.

Using data compiled from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federally funded accounting of student achievement since 1971, the Washington-based think tank Education Sector found that, over the past three decades, boys’ test scores are mostly up, more boys are going to college and more are getting bachelor’s degrees.

One glaring problem continues to be among African-American and Latino boys, but the study finds that their struggles are related to socioeconomic factors, not their gender.  Even so, African-American boys are making strides, with fourth grade African-American males improving even more than their white and Latino counterparts.  

In short, the authors state the “big” story is that boys are not doing worse, but girls are doing better to such a large extent that they are beginning surpassing boys in some areas.  Boys continue to dominate in math performance, however.

Of course, my question is, where did all the so-called data decrying the fate of our sons come from?  On the surface, some of the anecdotal material has been compelling to me — the emphasis on fiction in reading when boys prefer non-fiction, for example, or the focus on fine motor skills such as scissoring.  Yet, even taking those things into account, boys are really doing just fine in school.

Whew!  What a relief!  Now we can get back to focusing on the real problems that affect education — poverty, disrupted home environments, hopelessness — instead of fretting so much about gender.

Update: Jay Mathews posted a great on-line column today in which he included a lot more material that his editors wouldn’t give him room for in the print edition. It’s worth a read to get a bit more of the other side of the story as well as the views of an educational consultant who doesn’t have a dog in the gender fight. Are Boys Really In Trouble?