I'm a former editorial writer for USA Today (took a buyout in December, 2008) with a long career covering three things: local issues at several newspapers in upstate New York, the Pentagon (after arriving in Washington) and then education. Defense issues, in contrast to education problems, were relatively clean and straight-forward.

Of all the education issues I've written about, the boys dilemma may be the most perplexing. I first came across gender learning issues long ago when writing about how girls were discriminated against in school, as in teachers calling on aggressive boys and paying little attention to girls in math and science. As the father of two girls, I was outraged and wrote those reports absent critical comment. I was wrong about that.

Not surprisingly, the first indication of my error arose from watching boys in the neighborhood and extended family. Brothers of our daughters' friends never seemed to perform as well as their sisters. Nephews never seemed to do as well as nieces. That observation is borne out in national gender data, but few notice because the school accountability movement focuses almost entirely on racial/income learning gaps.

That oversight may be understandable, but it creates a problem. As researchers are just beginning to discover, racial learning gaps are impossible to solve without taking into consideration gender learning gaps. As an editorial writer and board member of the National Education Writers Association, I have had a unique platform for watching this issue unfold.

I chose to blog on this issue alone, rather than other education topics of equal interest to me, such as charter schools, school turnarounds, preschool and teacher quality, because I view the boy troubles as the most overlooked of those issues.