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A Teacher Reflects on 'Collective Failure' With Boys

In an article in The Atlantic, a New Hampshire teacher describes what she perceives as "rotten" in the state of boys' education. Upon reviewing her class behavior records at the end of the year, Jessica Lahey discovered she had disciplined her male students much more than her female students. For the boys in trouble, most of the warnings were for "disruptive classroom behavior."

She notes that a study published in the Journal of Human Resources last year found that teachers tend to factor behavior into grades, "and consequently, boys receive lower grades from their teachers than testing would have predicted." (See Teacher's coverage of the study here.)

Seeing a similar pattern in her own classroom, Lahey concluded there must be some sort of "collective failure to adequately educate boys."

Lahey goes on to argue that if teachers want to find teaching methods that work for boys and girls, they must toss out the "traditional classroom model: orderly classrooms made up of ruler-straight rows of compliant students." Instead of penalizing boys for not being able to sit still, she writes, "the most effective way to teach boys is to take advantage of that high energy, curiosity, and thirst for competition." She suggests, based on a 2009 study, using lessons that include more movement and competition and that allow students to do some of the teaching.

Teachers: Do you agree that boys and girls learn differently? Can the techniques that work for boys also be effective with girls? Have you contributed to this "collective failure"?

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