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Putting the “Boy Crisis” in Context

“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.

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