Christopher Cornwell, head of economics in the University of Georgia Terry College of Business, David Mustard at the University of Georgia (UGA) and Jessica Van Parys at Columbia reported that gender discrimination based on perceived “proper behavior” may be a part of the reduced number of male graduates from high school and the reduced number of males entering colleges in the current issue of Journal of Human Resources that was reviewed at the UGA website on January 2, 2012.
The authors contend that the majority female teachers in the first six grades may assign girls higher grades than their male counterparts based on behavior instead of performance on standardized tests.
The study examined 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade on the basis of students' performance on standardized tests in three categories - reading, math and science - and linked test scores to teachers' assessments of their students' progress, both academically and more broadly.
“The data show, for the first time, that gender disparities in teacher grades start early and uniformly favor girls. In every subject area, boys are represented in grade distributions below where their test scores would predict.”
"My argument is that this has always been true about boys and girls. Girls didn't all of a sudden become more engaged and boys didn't suddenly become more rambunctious," Cornwell said. "Their attitudes toward learning were always this way. “
This is the first evidence that a gender gap in education is actually a function of a teacher's perception of a child's attitude toward school based on the child's attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility and organization.
The authors note that grade records and teacher assessments play a pivotal role in the acceptance of people into college or into advanced learning programs prior to college.