Girls outperforming boys in elementary, middle, high school, study shows

Boys are falling behind girls in reading in every state in elementary, middle and high school, according to a study released Tuesday.

In Texas, girls outperformed boys by 3 percentage points on state tests in elementary and middle school and by 8 points in high school, the Center on Education Policy's study on gender gaps found.

The results are particularly troubling given that other studies have shown boys dropping out of school at higher rates and attending college at lower rates, said Jack Jennings, the center's president and CEO.

"Something is going on in our schools holding boys back," he said.

One reason for the gap is the curriculum, said Susan B. Neuman, an education professor at the University of Michigan and former U.S. assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education.

She noted that girls traditionally started reading before boys did but that boys passed girls by fourth grade.

But now classes are more focused on text-based learning and story forms that are not conducive to how boys learn. She said boys do better with more hands-on learning and reading that imparts information, such as about space or dinosaurs.

Jennings noted that efforts to bring equality to education for girls have helped. To streamline learning, school districts in Texas have opened all-girls schools. A few charter schools in Texas are boys-only. Fort Worth will open its Young Women's Leadership Academy in August, and officials have said they are considering an all-boys campus as well.

Jennings said the trend is too new to tell whether such schools work. But supporters of the idea, such as officials from the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education, have said such schools can make a big difference when educators recognize that boys and girls learn differently.

The Fort Worth school district does work on some gender-specific interventions -- such as tutorials and acceleration courses -- and makes a concerted effort to include literature that appeals to boys, Chief Academic Officer Michael Sorum said. But the main goal is to focus on individual student needs, he said.

EVA-MARIE AYALA, 817-390-7700