Boys Left Behind: Yet Another Crisis in Virginia Schools

James C. Sherlock | Bacon’s Rebellion

Girls significantly outperform boys in English Language Arts (ELA) (reading and writing) in public schools and perform about as well in math and science, both across the nation and in Virginia.

Virginia statewide SOL performance statistics give the details here.

Across the state, girl students are better readers and far better writers than boys. Those English language arts performances at the state level of course mask both smaller and greater gaps in individual divisions and schools.

The writing gaps exist in both high-performing Loudoun County and in poor-performing Richmond City schools.

Broken down to the next level of detail in writing performance statewide, it looks worse.

College and Career Readiness statistics offer confirmation of the outcome of boys’ ELA deficiencies.

To our credit, the Virginia Literacy Act starting in the 2024-25 school year will make major upgrades to literacy instruction.

But to my knowledge, Virginia does not have a single public school program that tries to educate boys differently from girls in ELA (except perhaps what IEP special service providers may do in individual instruction) to close the gap.

If readers know of one, I am sure they will let us all know.

Absenteeism.  It would be easy to consider educational gaps in boys to be an artifact of higher absenteeism than girls.  But that’s not it.

One of the artifacts of my research into chronic absenteeism in Virginia public schools statewide in 2023 was that male and female results by percentage were exactly the same: 19.5%.

That, on the surface at least, may confirm parental influence on absenteeism.

The science of learning in boys. The medical community has offered scientific observations of brain science and social development that matter here.

Those observations typically include, aggregated by Microsoft Bing AI search from three different sources:

  • Boys’ brains secrete less serotonin, which is directly related to impulse control;
  • Boys start out primarily as tactile and kinesthetic learners;
  • Boys show more areas in the brain dedicated to spatial-mechanical strengths;
  • Girls generally demonstrate a focus on verbal-emotive processing;
  • Girls have more of their cerebral cortex defined for verbal function;
  • The hippocampus, where memory and language live, does develop more rapidly and is larger in girls than in boys. This impacts vocabulary, reading, and writing skills.

We will consider those to be illustrative. They certainly seem to argue for different approaches to educating boys and girls.


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