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Lookin' for Boys in all the Wrong Places....

This commentary I wrote for today's Chronicle of Higher Education fleshes out a little-known offshoot of the boy troubles found in many high-poverty high schools -- the ninth grade "bulge."

That's where boys passed along in the early grades (regardless of how well they absorbed the material) run smack into ninth grade, the first year of a college-prep curriculum. They're not ready and are therefore told to repeat ninth grade. Thus, the ninth grade bulge, where boys greatly outnumber girls.

No one should be surprised that many don't make it beyond ninth grade, which explains why in many school districts ninth grade has turned into the biggest dropout year. I credit the Southern Regional Education Board for tracking this phenomenon.

School officials often blame discipline problems for the early dropout rates, but both teachers and principals tell me that discipline is often the scapegoat. For these boys, acting out is more honorable than enduring the insult of struggling with material they don't understand.

This is a K-12 issue but I deliberately wrote the commentary for a higher education audience which seems perplexed about why so many more girls than boys apply to their institutions.

(Hint: grab this commentary while you can; the link won't stay password-free forever.)

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