Chapter 3 Questions:

1.       Which is greater: cultural and political changes affecting education or educational changes causing cultural and political change?

 2.       The author’s own question:  does something in the way that we teach boys put them at a disadvantage?

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I was really interested in the test score data so I did some research. I found a study that was done in 2006 where researchers found:
"We found very minor differences in overall intelligence. But if you look at the ability of someone to perform well in a timed situation, females have a big advantage," Camarata said. "It is very important for teachers to understand this difference in males and females when it comes to assigning work and structuring tests. To truly understand a person's overall ability, it is important to also look at performance in un-timed situations. For males, this means presenting them with material that is challenging and interesting, but is presented in smaller chunks without strict time limits."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060425182707.html
After reading this article, I looked at the test scores in a new light. They gap they showed between male and female may not really be a measure of achievement but rather a measure of who is a better test taker....
I had trouble accessing this article via Jen's link -- so I copied the article once I did find it, and it is printed below. Particularly of interest to me is that Woodcock and Camarata found that girls DO NOT necessarily develop communication skills earlier than boys.

My other question is: what is the dominant gender of the designers of all these high-stakes tests? Mr. Woodcock himself has created an assessment or two...

Girls Have Big Advantage Over Boys On Timed Tests

ScienceDaily (Apr. 25, 2006) — New research attempting to shed light on the evergreen question -- just how do male and female brains differ? -- has found that timing is everything.

In a study involving over 8,000 males and females ranging in age from 2 to 90 from the across the United States, Vanderbilt University researchers Stephen Camarata and Richard Woodcock discovered that females have a significant advantage over males on timed tests and tasks. Camarata and Woodcock found the differences were particularly significant among pre-teens and teens.

"We found very minor differences in overall intelligence. But if you look at the ability of someone to perform well in a timed situation, females have a big advantage," Camarata said. "It is very important for teachers to understand this difference in males and females when it comes to assigning work and structuring tests. To truly understand a person's overall ability, it is important to also look at performance in un-timed situations. For males, this means presenting them with material that is challenging and interesting, but is presented in smaller chunks without strict time limits."

The findings are particularly timely, with more attention being paid by parents, educators and the media to the troubling achievement gap between males and females in U.S. schools.

"Consider that many classroom activities, including testing, are directly or indirectly related to processing speed," the authors wrote. "The higher performance in females may contribute to a classroom culture that favors females, not because of teacher bias but because of inherent differences in sex processing speed." An additional question is whether this finding is linked to higher high school dropout rates for males and increased special education placement for males that do stay in school.

In their new article, Camarata and Woodcock focus on understanding differences in "processing speed" between males and females.

"'Processing speed' doesn't refer to reaction time or the ability to play video games," Camarata said. "It's the ability to effectively, efficiently and accurately complete work that is of moderate difficulty. Though males and females showed similar processing speed in kindergarten and pre-school, females became much more efficient than males in elementary, middle and high school."

The researchers found that males scored lower than females in all age groups in tests measuring processing speed, with the greatest discrepancy found among adolescents. However, the study also found that males consistently outperformed females in some verbal abilities, such as identifying objects, knowing antonyms and synonyms and completing verbal analogies, debunking the popular idea that girls develop all communication skills earlier than boys.

The researchers found no significant overall intelligence differences between males and females in any age groups.

The research will be published in the May-June 2006 issue of the journal Intelligence. Camarata and Woodcock compiled their results through an evaluation of three sets of data collected from 1977 to 2001 as part of the Woodcock-Johnson Series of Cognitive and Achievement Tests.

Camarata and Woodcock plan to conduct studies to measure actual brain activity using tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, and event-related potential tests to better understand which brain areas are playing a role in processing speed, and how these areas react differently in males and females.

"We know that there are different paths to competence, and we believe there are fundamental differences in how male and female brains end up getting organized," Camarata said. "Our next studies will give us some insight into where these processing differences are occurring."

Camarata is a deputy director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, a professor of hearing and speech sciences and associate professor of special education. Richard Woodcock is a member of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and a visiting professor of hearing and speech sciences. He is also a research professor at the University of Southern California.

The research was funded in part by an endowment from the Scottish Rite Foundation of Nashville and by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Females may have the better advantage while taking tests, as they do in the classroom overall, since they are the ones who are able to stay seated for longer periods of times and seem to be less kinetic than the boys tend to be. I too started doing a little computer research and a study that I came across suggested the following: all boy classrooms; classrooms without seats and desks; allowing students to do origami during read alouds; and being able to use stress balls throughout the day. Of course, allowing for any of the above accommodations would require setting up the necessary rules and procedures beforehand. I am going to test the stress ball with some of my students in the very near future (maybe tomorrow) since it is something simple that may be worth a shot.
Let us know how the stress balls work. But no seats or desks? That seems to be a little over the top!
I agree with Tracy about girls having the advantage because they are able to stay seated longer, are not as restless and have less kinetic energy. As we push the curriculum down ( a reality) this requires that students stay on task longer and longer... and many students, especially boys, are becoming more stressed in school. The question might be asked if both sexes handle stress in the same way. Who talks about it, who shuts down and tunes out.. Could it be Mars vs Venus at a younger age?? and what does this do to boys while they are in school?
How does the increasing lack of recess time in american schools affect all students and most especially the active boys. Heading home to video games as opposed to Kick the Can and pick up games in the neighborhoods... My husband works at St. Augustine Prep and talks about how 20 minute breaks are built into the schedule after 2 class periods...so the boys there can move around, eat, talk and meet for clubs and other activities. They are activly seeking ways to help the boys blow off steam... recess for high schoolers if you will.
I think working hard and then heading to the playground midmorning or afternoon for 10 minutes or at least taking a break in the classroom allows children (especially boys) to come back refreshed and ready to learn again. I know how hard it is for me to sit still day while attending workshops or conferences. I agree that being mindful of boys attention spans and allowing breaks to decompress and move is very important!
The author raises the question "does something in the way that we teach boys put them at a disadvantage and what happens in school that makes boys learn less?' I look forward to hearing her answer (I hope she has one!) I think the more interesting question is why is this problem arising now? I have taught for a long time and I don't feel that it has always been a problem. Perhaps part of the problem is that more and more is being taught in a school day and there is little down time. I feel that we are asking a awful lot of 5-8 years old, are athey really ready to handle all of thsi?
I, also, agree with Jane that children do not get enough recess time- -boys and girls, alike, need time to go outside, run about,swing, play games, and be kids. Another problem, and this is a society problem, is that some kids are at school too long. To be enrolled in a morning program and a afterschool program, some of these kids are at school way too long!
I think the information about boys not doing as well on timed tests is interesting, considering that all of our standardized tests are timed.
I find the most powerful statement in this chapter to be the one that stated "boys who don't thrive in school, who disengage, and who fail to reach their potentia not only are suffering an assault to their self-esteem and confidence, but are setting themselves up for a life of economic insecurity," I think this is true for all students, not just boys.
I'll go out on a limb and say that cultural and political changes are affecting education. We don't trust our "leaders" and there's too much poverty, too little family time or down time, too much job related stress, and the attitude that you buy today and worry about paying for it tomorrow (that may be changing) carries over into people thinking they deserve something without really working for it. I think the kids pick up on this.

Gratification is immediate and life is fast-paced. If the girls are doing better is it because they want to please more? Haven't they always?

Although the research shows that females overall are doing better than males, maybe that's due to Title IX, and the fact that women had to take their fight to the courts. Changes were made. Do males now need to fight in court for a better education, or are the gender differences going to become people differences? I learn differently than the female in class next to me, as well as the male.

The military is male-dominated, but women are succeeding there. Does the drill sergeant go easier on them? Look how the medical field has changed. Is your doctor a man? We WILL have a female president. Education has been a female-dominated career, yet males succeeded in school and became the "bread winners" in the past. Why blame the teachers? It seems that something else must be happening.

It interested me that on page 66 it says that parents offered sons less exposure to books. Maybe the boys just didn't want to sit long enough to read a book. Differences exist, but they always have. Next they'll blame stay-at-home Moms for failing to educate their boys. (Are there any stay-at-home-moms now?) After all, they have the most influence on them, and how can a female identify with a son?

All the kids need to get out and run around; we definitely need more recess time and physical education time. That's not just for boys. A classroom where a child can move and learn would help some girls too.

Maybe teachers aren't engaging the boys as much as the girls. Or maybe the cultural changes have overwhelmed our education system. Dick and Jane didn't disappear just because of the women's movement. I know I can't argue with the statistics, but I also know that in order to learn you have to want to learn. Hey, maybe it IS our fault.....What's exciting in our classrooms that the kids can't wait to learn ?

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