Alex was a typical active, exuberant 5-year-old boy, but his preschool teachers didn't approve of his energetic personality. "They worked hard to calm him down," says his mom, Susan Giurleo. "The teachers didn't appreciate his busyness and thought his academic abilities were below average, even though he knew all the colors, the entire alphabet, and how to count to 100." As a child psychologist, Giurleo was reasonably sure that her son didn't have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), yet Alex continued to have behavior and performance problems at school.
Lots of boys do. Statistically, they're at least four times more likely to be expelled from preschool than girls, and they're twice as likely to be diagnosed with a learning disability or to be held back at some point during their education. Girls rule in today's classroom. On average, they have outperformed boys in standardized reading and writing tests for years and have recently caught up to boys in math and edged ahead in science. Indeed, the gender achievement gap grows over time. Boys lag in almost every subject by middle school and are four times as likely as girls to drop out by high school. Now, more than 58 percent of all U.S. college students are women, who obtain the majority of associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees.
Why are boys being left behind? In part, it's because they start out at a disadvantage. "Three out of every four boys in a typical kindergarten class are more physically active and developmentally immature than the girls are," says Parents advisor Michael Thompson, Ph.D., coauthor of It's a Boy! But schools (including many preschools, which have shifted their emphasis to academics rather than teaching social skills) may require students to quietly complete worksheets rather than let them run around and play. This trend has made the classroom a far less friendly place for boys. Understanding the obstacles in your son's academic path is critical for helping him thrive -- now and in the school days ahead.