ed091202b: A Test Congress Can't Pass
Now that the kids are back in school, here's a quick test for the
rest of us. But don't worry -- it's an easy one. Just one
In almost every academic measure, girls outperform boys. Girls are
more likely to receive academic honors, graduate and go to college.
Boys are more likely to have learning disabilities, fall behind in
school and drop out.
Given these facts, Congress should fund a multi-million-dollar
government program to:
A) Help girls achieve more.
B) Help boys achieve more.
C) Help all students succeed.
If you're like most folks, you picked either "B" or "C." But if
you're a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, you
probably selected "A."
After all, the committee just allocated $3 million in its annual
education spending legislation for programs under the Women's
Educational Equity Act. These programs promote "equity" in girls'
education, because, according to the act, "teaching and learning
practices in the United States are frequently inequitable …
to women and girls."
Federal lawmakers don't seem to realize that, when it comes to
academics, girls rule. They capture more academic honors. They
outscore boys in reading and writing -- and score about as well on
math -- at the three grade levels (fourth, eighth and 12th) tested
by the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP)
And the longer girls stay in school, the more their advantage
grows. By the 12th grade, girls score 15 points higher on NAEP
reading tests than boys. And far more boys than girls score below
the basic, or lowest, level on the reading test in all three
Not only do girls score about as well as boys on math tests -- an
area traditionally considered a strength for boys -- they are more
likely than boys to take algebra, geometry and chemistry. By the
12th grade, girls run neck-and-neck with boys in science and U.S.
history. And while boys lead in geography, girls outscore them on
the reading, writing, civics and arts NAEP tests.
Compared to girls, boys are twice as likely to be enrolled in
special-education programs and four times more likely to be
diagnosed with disabilities such as dyslexia, autism and
The fact is, girls outperform boys from grade school through
college. They are more likely to graduate from high school than
boys (88.1 percent of girls graduate; 84.9 percent of boys) and
more likely to earn associate (slightly more than 60 percent are
female), bachelor's (about 56 percent) and master's (nearly 58
Given all this, it would at least make more sense to fund programs
designed to improve the achievement of boys. But the best approach
would be to devote federal education dollars to programs that aim
to raise achievement for all students.
We can't afford to do otherwise. Boys may be disproportionately
affected by academic decline, but, according to the NAEP, 68
percent of all American fourth-graders cannot read at a proficient
level. Our students lag behind many of their foreign peers.
True reform seeks to raise achievement across the board. It does
not divert funds to special interests. It gives all students the
opportunity to attend schools where they can flourish.
Before the Senate votes on the committee's recommendations and the
House of Representatives votes on its version of the spending bill,
members should answer one last question. No. 2 pencils,
Federal education legislation should serve:
A) Specific groups of children and not others.
C) All children regardless of race, gender or creed.
The correct answer is "C," which means the time is now for Congress
to stop funding the Women's Educational Equity Act.
Kafer is an education policy analyst at The Heritage
Foundation (www.heritage.org), a Washington-based public policy