Gifted Gender Gap

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Photo by World Bank via Flickr
Photo by World Bank via Flickr

In New York City, there are more gifted girls than boys — or so one would believe, glancing at one of the many girl-heavy gifted classes.

According to a 2010 New York Times, the city’s  population of gifted kindergarteners is 56% female, despite the fact that males actually account for 51% of all students in NYC. Why so few boys? The article listed a number of overlapping reasons:

Testing bias — New York schools use two different tests to assess students’ ability. One, the Bracken School Readiness Assessment, has been field tested for gender bias. Unfortunately, the Bracken test only accounts for 25% of a child’s gifted score in New York. The other test, the Otis-Lennon Ability Test, has not been tested for gender bias and has a strong verbal component, which may play to the early verbal abilities of young girls. The Otis-Lennon test accounts for 75% of a child’s score.

Delayed social and emotional development — Many (most?) young gifted boys are still working on skills such as sitting still, sharing and impulse control. Young girls typically develop impulse control and relationship skills earlier than boys.

Non-academic tendencies — Not all gifted children want to sit around the discuss the classics. Some gifted kids, especially some boys, prefer to create elaborate block towers or imaginative inventions. Educators who focus only on traditional academic measures of giftedness may miss some gifted boys.

What can you do? Here are 3 ways to help gifted boys: 

1.  Educate yourself about gifted issues, boys and education. Boys are disproportionately represented in special ed classrooms, and are far more likely than girls to be labeled as “learning disabled,” “troublemakers,” or “ADHD.” Learn all you can about male and female brain development and share your information with your sons’ teachers and schools.

2.  Ask how your local school evaluates giftedness. Some schools rely on teacher recommendations; others, like New York, focus on standardized testing. If you believe the method used by your school district is unfair to boys, share your concerns. Be prepared to back up your position and to suggest alternative evaluation methods.

3.  Encourage your sons’ interests — even the non-academic ones. School has increasingly become a sit-down-and-learn kind of place, but most boys are still active, experiential learners. If your son wants to spend hours dismantling broken appliances, let him. Give him some basic safety lessons, hand him a screw driver and be available to answer his many questions.

Gifted boys have a tough row to hoe. Being smart still isn’t considered “manly,” and far too many of our gifted boys are ignored by schools and society. So stand up for your son. He needs all the help he can get.

Want to know more about gifted boys? Be sure to read Lisa Rivero’s post, Guiding Gifted Boys.

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