April 13 2007

Taking the Boy Crisis in Education Seriously: How School Choice Can Boost Achievement Among Boys and Girls

Krista Kafer

For too long, policymakers and the public has accepted the idea that girls are "short-changed" by our public school system. The facts tell a different story. As IWF visiting fellow Krista Kafer reveals in her newly released paper, "Taking the Boy Crisis in Education Seriously: How School Choice Can Boost Achievement Among Boys and Girls," girls are actually outperforming boys in most academic measures.

"Girls surpass boys in reading, writing, civics and the arts. Girls get better grades and more honors; they have higher aspirations, are more engaged in school and are more likely to graduate from high school and college. Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to be suspended or expelled, need special education, smoke, drink and do drugs, repeat a grade, commit suicide, become incarcerated, leave school without attaining literacy, drop out of school or be unemployed. Marginal advantages in math and science for boys pale compared to the sheer advantage girls enjoy throughout school."

Unfortunately, public policymakers have ignored this data and continue to pour resources into programs premised on the idea that girls are uniquely disadvantaged in our public education system. Kafer urges policymakers to end these wasteful programs and instead promote policies that are will benefit all students. In particular, Kafer argues that we need a greater diversity of educational options so that parents can choose schools and programs that meet their children's unique needs.

"There is no one best method of teaching children." "For some children, single sex classrooms will yield the best results, while a different environment will be most suitable for others. Parents are best positioned to know what's best for their child and policymakers should focus on making it easier for parents to choose a school for their child," said Kafer.

Policymakers reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act this year should facilitate the use of innovative school choice programs at the state and local level. "For example, instead of giving states and localities funding for specific activities, policymakers ought to allow states to receive funding as block grants." States could then use the resources as they see fit--hopefully embracing innovative market-based initiatives like charter schools and voucher programs.

"School choice leads to more options and more innovation," said Kafer. "It's the best way to hold schools accountable and to provide the best outcomes for both boys and girls."

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