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  • This blog is written by specialists from the Education Division of the Inter-American Development Bank. Its objective is to provide arguments and ideas that will spark debate about how to transform education in Latin America and the Caribbean. This blog is a call to action for the reader. An idea, a project, or a question can make a difference.

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    Las opiniones expresadas en este blog son las del autor y no necesariamente reflejan las opiniones del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, sus directivas, la Asamblea de Gobernadores o sus países miembros.

    The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inter-American Development Bank, its Management, its Board of Executive Directors or its member Governments.

    Why Girls Do Better

    By - 8 Jul 2014


    Girls outperform boys in high school and are more likely to persist in and graduate from college and earn graduate degrees. To understand why this is happening, new research by DiPrete and Buchmann suggests you need to look no further than 8th grade grades.

    Girls start school more ready to learn than boys. By kindergarten, girls are substantially more attentive, eager to learn, persistent, empathetic, flexible and independent than boys. They also are better behaved . As this gap in social and behavior widens throughout elementary school, important gaps in learning begin to appear. By 8th grade, almost half of all girls receive a mix of A’s and B’s or better. This compared to about a third of all boys. The A’s and B’s most likely will graduate from college; the B’s and C’s likely will not. The A’s and B’s will likely have greater success in the labor market and bring home a larger share of the family bacon.

    Eighth grade grades aren’t alone in their power to predict who will finish college. Standardized test scores can do the job as well. They tell the same story. In every score-quintile of the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery, a general standardized test, girls remain more likely than boys to graduate from college by age 25.

    But DiPrete and Buchmann find that 8th grade grades are a better predictor of completing college than are standardized test scores.

    And here is where their analysis gets really interesting.

    Eighth grade grades have less do with grades and considerably more to do with the fact that the grades are indicators of behavioral patterns learned early on that persist throughout school and college. Kids that do more homework, skip fewer days of school, remember to bring their pencils or books to class, and generally stay out of trouble, tend to have higher middle and high school grades, and higher probabilities of finishing college. The majority of these kids are girls.

    Gaps in social and behavioral skills lay at the heart of DiPrete and Buchmann´s analysis. The gaps they identify are larger between boys and girls than between kids from poor and middle class families or between black and white kids.

    Although there are no data, the gaps are likely to hold across countries. For example, and moving it all closer to our region, girls in the Caribbean outshine boys from primary onwards. Around 8th grade, absentee and dropout rates for girls are about half of those for boys. By the time they take CXC exams, passage rates for girls double that of boys across all subjects.

    Schools are failing many kids, but perhaps most of all boys. Academic success requires more than brawn and more than brains. More emphasis needs to be put on developing, honing and adapting socio-emotional and behavioral skills. And this needs to start before kids even understand basic differences between boys and girls. Everywhere.

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