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Volume 26, Number 4
July/August 2010

Putting the “Boy Crisis” in Context

Finding solutions to boys’ reading problems may require looking beyond gender


“The Boys Have Fallen Behind.” “Girls Lead the Nation in Reading Scores.” “Are Teachers Failing Our Sons?” Earlier this year, newspapers across the country ran these and other headlines in response to a March report by the independent Center on Education Policy (CEP) in Washington, D.C. The report, which outlined results on state accountability tests, raised alarm by noting that the percentage of boys scoring “proficient” or higher in reading was below that of girls at all grade levels tested and in every state for which sufficient data were available.

Results for the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also released in March, showed similar patterns (see figures 1 and 2). Boys in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, at both grades 4 and 8, reached each of the three NAEP reading achievement levels (basic, proficient, and advanced) at lower rates than girls with only two exceptions—and in those cases, boys and girls were essentially tied.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

J. Baer, S. Baldi, K. Ayotte, and P.J. Green. The Reading Literacy of U.S. Fourth-Grade Students in an International Context: Results from the 2001 and 2006 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (NCES 2008-017). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute for Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, November 2007. Available online at

Naomi Chudowsky and Victor Chudowsky. State Test Score Trends Through 2007–08, Part 5: Are There Differences in Achievement Between Boys and Girls? Washington, DC: Center on Education Policy, March 2010. Available online at

L. LoGerfo, A. Nichols, and D. Chaplin. “Gender Gaps in Math and Reading Gains During Elementary and High School by Race and Ethnicity.” Washington, DC: Urban Institute, September 2006. Available online at

National Center for Education Statistics. The Nation’s Report Card: Reading 2009 (NCES 2010-458). Washington, DC: Institute for Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, March 2010. Available online at

Richard Whitmire. Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System That’s Leaving Them Behind. New York: American Management Association, 2010.