Are there more girl geniuses than boy geniuses out there?
It appears that, on average, boys and girls are equally intelligent, even though boys are more likely to score off-the-chart test results on intelligence tests (in both directions).
This would lead you to believe that places in those gifted and talented classes that carry so much prestige around the country would have roughly the same number of boys as girls, right?
Christina Hoff Sommers reveals that, at least in New York City’s schools, this simply isn’t the case. There’s a gender gap all right, but it’s probably not what you thought. Hoff Sommers writes:
A significant gender gap favoring girls has arisen inside New York City’s gifted and talented programs. According to the article, “Around the city, the current crop of gifted kindergartners…is 56 percent girls, and in the 2008-9 year, 55 percent were girls.” In some of the most elite programs, almost three-fifths of the prodigies are girls.
This boys’ gender gap came about after education officials in New York, in an effort to be fair and shield the gifted and talented programs from the lobbying efforts of ambitious parents, developed a standardized test for admissions. Only children who score in the 90th percentile or above would be eligible for the coveted slots.
Given the distribution of intelligence, as measured on tests, this would seem to have solved the problem of aggressive parents. But it had an unintended: girls scored higher. The gifted and talented programs became girl-dominated. The tests, it seems, were girl-oriented because scoring high depended on verbal ability and an ability to sit still-two things at which little girls excel.
“Gifted boys and girls are just like other children in one respect: in both groups, the girls are more mature, more verbal, and more capable of sitting still,” Hoff Sommers writes. Unless the entrance procedure is revised, with fairness to boys in mind, bright and deserving boys will lose the places they would have had only a few years ago in these programs. The current procedure is not more equitable than the previous one, in which aggressive parents were able to secure a slot for a middle class child over a smarter kid from a poor background.
Hoff Sommers concludes:
The developing gender gap in the gifted programs of New York City does not signal that girls are smarter than boys. Rather, it exemplifies how well-intentioned government officials and educators can disregard boys’ needs and abilities and unwittingly adopt policies detrimental to boys’ well-being. It is a small part of the long story of how American boys across the ability spectrum and in all age groups have become second-class citizens in the nation’s schools.