Education experts have long been asking themselves why girls often receive better grades than boys, especially in kindergarten and elementary schools — and a new study offers an answer to the question.
After looking at data for nearly 5,800 students, researchers have concluded that a large portion of the grade gap could be attributed to differences in behavior. In short, when it comes to report card time, girls are being rewarded less for their knowledge and more for how quietly they can sit and pay attention in class.
The academic gender gap has been a growing concern in Britain, where girls are already outperforming their male peers in academics by the time they reach primary schools with the gap growing all through students' academic careers. According to Graeme Paton, the Education Editor for The Daily Telegraph, nearly two-thirds of female students gained five decent GCSE grades last year, while only slightly more than half of male students did likewise.
The gap is now becoming evident even in subjects that have been traditionally dominated by boys – like math and science. The above statistic holds for GCSEs in those subjects as well.
Girls are now more likely to go on to university and graduate with a first-class honours degree, it was revealed.
Prof Christopher Cornwell, of the University of Georgia, who led the study, said: "The skill that matters the most in regards to how teachers graded their students is what we refer to as âapproaches toward learning'.
"You can think of âapproaches to learning' as a rough measure of what a child's attitude toward school is: It includes six items that rate the child's attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility and organisation.
The study followed students from first grade through to the sixth, and researchers found that even early on boys began to receive overall grades that were at odds with their actual level of achievement. Boys who were able to meet the behavior standard set by their female classmates didn't have the same grade-achievement disparity in their overall marks.
To derive their conclusions, Cornwell and her co-authors looked at raw grading data in all subject areas, including reading mathematics and science, and compared it to how teachers assessed student performance.
Prof Cornwell said: "The trajectory at which kids move through school is often influenced by a teacher's assessment of their performance.
"This affects their ability to enter into advanced classes and other kinds of academic opportunities, even post-secondary opportunities.