75% of Black Boys in California Don’t Meet State Reading and Writing Standards

(Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Across ethnicities and economic status, girls outperform boys on English in standardized tests

Three of four African-American boys in California classrooms failed to meet reading and writing standards on the most recent round of testing, according to data obtained from the state Department of Education and analyzed by CALmatters.

More than half of black boys scored in the lowest category on the English portion of the test, trailing their female counterparts. The disparity reflects a stubbornly persistent gender gap in reading and writing scores that stretches across ethnic groups.

The data provide a unique glimpse of how gender interacts with race and class in mastery of basic reading, writing and listening skills tested on state exams. While California publishes separate figures on the performance of various ethnic and economic groups, it does not make public a more detailed breakdown of how boys and girls are performing within those groups. State officials say they do not sort the data that way because of complexity, cost and time constraints.

Unlike in math, where girls have caught up to boys in California and elsewhere, female students in general maintain a sizable lead over their male classmates in the language arts. While initiatives to encourage girls to learn math and science have received considerable publicity, the gender reading gap is viewed less as a problem warranting action.

“I wouldn’t put this in the same category of severity or concern as other achievement gaps,” said Tom Loveless, an education researcher for the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C. “But there needs to be greater awareness of this.”

The gap spans all grade levels. Boys in high school score better than those in grade school, but girls outperform them by consistent margins at every age. And a higher family income does not appear to even things out.

The gap is not unique to California. In states that administer the same standardized exam as California, girls outscore boys by similar margins. In international reading comprehension exams, girls best boys in nearly every country and at nearly every age.

The phenomenon is nevertheless worrisome because it may compound other educational disparities California has attempted to close for decades, without success.

“If boys don’t read as well as girls, and if that persists all the way through K-12, it means when you reach certain thresholds like college, it places the males at a disadvantage,” says Loveless. “The ability to read well has a lot to do with the ability to get into college and the ability to do well while you’re in college.”

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SOURCE: Matt Levin, CALmatters
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