Where are the boys in choir, orchestra?

Boys are on the wrong side of a “gender gap” in music education, reports Pacific Standard. Girls outnumber boys by roughly two to one in high school choirs and orchestras, according to a University of Maryland study.

From 1982 through 2009, the average high school choir has been 70 percent female to 30 percent male, reports Kenneth Elpus. Orchestras have averaged 64 percent female and 36 percent male. Boys are more likely to participate in band, but girls are the majority there too.

What are they reading? Easy books

Most middle and high school students read unchallenging books, according to Renaissance Learning’s What Kids are Reading report.

The analysis is based on the data base of Accelerated Reader, which quizzes students on books they read independently and as assigned reading.

Reading peaks in sixth grade and declines through high school. Worse, 12th graders are reading books at a 5.2 level of complexity, according to the report.  That’s way below the recommended level of 9.7 to 14.1 for high school, notes the Christian Science Monitor. It’s also “far lower than the complexity of the average New York Times article (10.6) or college textbook (13.8).”

“In elementary school, kids being asked to [read appropriately difficult books], and they can handle it,” says Eric Stickney, director of educational research for Renaissance. By high school, less than 15 percent of students read one or more books in their target range.

Research indicates that students who spend at least 30 minutes a day reading independently, at an appropriate “challenge” level (where they can understand at least 85 percent of what they read), experience the most growth in reading, according to the report. And yet just over a quarter of students in Renaissance’s study read that often, and nearly half read for less than 15 minutes a day.

The average girl reads 3.8 million words between Grades 1 and 12, about 25 percent more than the average boy, who reads about 3 million. Boys read more non-fiction.

“Over time, boys are at a disadvantage because they’re just not getting enough exposure to vocabulary,” says Stickney.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the most popular book from third through seventh grade.

Overprotective parents raise ‘lazy’ teens

Overinvolved parents are raising “lazy,” unmotivated teen-age boys, writes therapist Adam Price in the Wall Street Journal.

Parents complain their children — especially their sons — aren’t achieving their “potential.” His practice is seeing more “college students, home for a year because when the parents, tutors, coaches and, yes, therapists were no longer around, they failed.”

It’s hard to be motivated by someone else’s goals. Teens crave autonomy, Price writes. Many parents won’t let their children make their own decisions and live with the consequences.

. . . the lack of motivation is not the root problem: For many children, it is the lack of accountability. Parents remove that when they try to protect their children from suffering in the future by doing everything possible to make them successful today

He suggests parents stop telling their kids they’re smart or too “special” to take out the garbage. Set limits. Don’t “saddle children with unrealistic expectations.”

Boys need male teachers

Taught overwhelmingly by female teachers, boys are falling behind in school, writes Glenn Reynolds in a USA Today column. Why aren’t schools under pressure to recruit male teachers?

Brandon Bell teaches third grade in Georgia.

Brandon Bell teaches third grade in Georgia.

If elementary teachers were predominantly male and girls were doing poorly, “Title IX-style” equity legislation would require gender balance, writes Reynolds, a law professor who blogs as Instapundit.

Boys get the message that they’re naughtier and not as smart as girls, say researchers. They’re disciplined more and suspended much more often.

Female teachers also give boys lower grades than girls for similar work, according to research in Britain.

“More and more, it’s looking like schools are a hostile environment for boys,” writes Reynolds.

“Boys perform better when they have a male teacher, and girls perform better when they have a female teacher,” concludes Stanford Professor Thomas Dee.

Yet only 18 percent of elementary and middle-school teachers are male.

If elementary schools hired math/science specialists, it would be easier to get more men in elementary classrooms.  Single-sex classes also would increase boys’ odds of having a male teacher.

Lessons in manhood

Shop class — called simply “work” — channels “boy energy” at Berkeley’s East Bay School for Boys, reports NPR. The private, nonprofit school values creativity, resilience and self-reliance.
At East Bay School for Boys, sometimes the sparks of inspiration result in, well, actual sparks.
Boys build their own cubbies, desks and benches, reports NPR. “One student, Jaden Yu, is building a massive metal hammer as part of a larger project in which boys imagine themselves as superheroes.”

Yu’s superhero mission is to fight poverty. “What this is for is destroying old buildings so that new ones can be rebuilt. Old buildings that aren’t being used, so that new ones can be built for homeless people, people who need it.”

Parents pay more than $21,000 a year, but a majority of students get financial aid.

NPR’s Men in America series also looks at a college-prep charter in Chicago and an after-school program in Oakland that encourages middle-school boys to talk about their anger and sadness. Most are growing up without their fathers.

Abolish middle school

Middle schools should be abolished, writes David Banks in The Daily Beast. These “educational wastelands” should be combined “with the guidance and nurturing that children find in elementary school, or with the focus on adult success that we expect from our high schools.”

A former high school principal, Banks heads the Eagle Academy Foundation for Young Men, which operates five all-male schools in New York and New Jersey. The district-run Eagle schools serve low-income, minority students in grades 6 to 12.

Reading and math achievement declines in middle school, Banks writes. Even good students have trouble with the transition.

Too often in middle school the teachers have never received real professional development training to help students succeed in high school.  And, more importantly, there is little to no time for teachers to focus on establishing strong relationships with their students, which has a tremendous impact on how students perform in the classroom, particularly for boys.  A teacher’s ability to relate to his or her students is not icing on the cake of serious academics—I believe it is the whole cake.

. . . communication from peers can drown out the wiser voices of parents, teachers and mentors, trapping our young people—and especially our boys—in an echo chamber of voices as inexperienced and impulsive as their own.  Students struggling academically may decide to give up, while the bright but under-unchallenged may conclude they don’t really need to learn how to study, because middle school seems to prove that they’re smart enough to wing it.

The neediest students will get the most benefit from either K-8 schools or middle/high schools, he argues.

Banks’ book, Soar, which will be published in September, focuses on “how boys learn, succeed and develop character.”

Wiggly boys aren’t disabled

Little boys who aren’t ready for reading need tutoring — not a disability label, writes Jane Goodwin (Mamacita). If they can’t sit still, that means they’re normal.
wiggly little boy reading, Harry Potter
Many of scientists, inventors and innovators were late bloomers, she writes. “Edison wasn’t even allowed to continue at his school; he was so slow, he held the others back!”

“Save the (disability) labeling for the children who genuinely need the help,” writes Mamcita. “Don’t fill up the room with little boys who just need a few more years to mature.”

As for the kids who can’t sit still, “that’s how little children are SUPPOSED to be.”

What would be genuinely worrisome would be a little child who CAN sit still for hours and hours without any desire to be wiggly and energetic. There is the occasional child who genuinely needs Ritalin or whatever in order to function at all, but there are an awful lot of children (usually little boys) whose energy and creativity and imagination and, yes, wiggles, are being seen as “disabilities” by frustrated adults and drugged into mediocrity.

Her “quick fix” for wiggly kids was to assign them two seats and let them shift from one to another when they needed to move.

There were conditions – no bothering other kids on the way, no touching other people’s things, no sidetracking or talking, etc, but when a person’s gotta get up and move, a person’s gotta get up and move.

She taught middle school, “but the students were still children even though they didn’t think they were.

Fidgety boys, sputtering economy

Fidgety boys end up as unemployed men, writes David Leonhardt in the New York Times.

The gender gap in school readiness is wider than the gap between low-income and middle-class kids, researchers say. Boys are more likely to struggle in school, college and the workforce.

By kindergarten, girls are substantially more attentive, better behaved, more sensitive, more persistent, more flexible and more independent than boys, according to a new paper from Third Way, a Washington research group. The gap grows over the course of elementary school and feeds into academic gaps between the sexes.

The gender gap in school readiness is wider than the gap between low-income and middle-class kids, researchers say. Boys are more likely to struggle in school, college and the workforce.

In the last 25 years, the portion of women earning a four-year college degree has jumped more than 75 percent and women’s median earnings are up almost 35 percent. Men’s earnings haven’t risen at all, writes Leonhardt. “Men are much more likely to be idle — neither working, looking for work nor caring for family — than they once were and much more likely to be idle than women.”

Some blame the surge in single-parent families for the “boy crisis.” Girls who grow up with one parent — usually a mother — do almost as well as girls from two-parent families. Boys do much worse.

Others say schools aren’t boy friendly. In elementary school classrooms, fidgety boys are expected to sit still and pay attention to the female teacher.

8th-grade grades predict college success

If an eighth grader gets As and Bs in school, that student will likely earn a college degree, concludes The Secret Behind College Completion. Eighth graders who earn Bs and Cs rarely go on to complete a college degree.

Boys are way behind girls by eighth grade. Growing up without a father appears to hurt boys more than girls.

Choosing death at 15

At a suburban Virginia high school six students have committed suicide in the last three years, reports the Washington Post.

“There is too much stress in my life from school and the environment it creates, expectations for sports, expectations from my friends and expectations from my family,” wrote Jack Chen, 15. He’d earned a 4.3 grade point average, captained the junior varsity football team and competed in crew and track. He stepped in front of a train.

The six boys who killed themselves were good students and athletes with supportive parents, according to the Post. They did not appear to be “troubled.”