David Leonhardt wrote about how U.S. boys are falling behind at school and later in the workplace in “A Link Between Fidgety Boys And a Sputtering Economy,” (NYT April 20, 2014). He nicely summarizes the divide on what to do about it. Some scholars argue that it’s ridiculous to ask young boys to sit still for hours every day. Others say the dearth of male elementary school teachers creates problems. Still others say that better schools would motivate boys to learn.
When good grades bring high status, boys respond. To the researchers in this camp, the answer involves improving schools, which will have a disproportionate effect on boys, rather than changing schools to be more attentive to boys’ needs.
This reminded me of the research I wrote about in April 2014 that said boys disproportionately benefitted from early college high school programs. Perhaps the challenge brings out the competitive instinct.
These schools seem to be making a real difference with low income males. Males who went to the Early College High Schools were much more likely to graduate from high school compared to students who lost the lottery and went to ordinary high schools (87% vs. 78%).
Similarly low-income students were more likely to graduate from these early college high schools than a traditional high school (83% vs. 74%). Women and non low-income students also graduated from these early college high schools in larger numbers, but the difference was only 2 percentage points. The other number that popped out at me was that males were much more likely to enroll in college after an early college high school (78% vs. 66%). Women were also more likely to enroll in college afterward, but the difference between their counterparts at traditional high schools was only 6 percentage points.
So perhaps boys respond more to early college high schools because the high status of earning college credits appeals to their inner alpha male.