Rocker Eddie Van Halen had a famously tough time concentrating in class and now, thanks to a provocative study by Thomas Dee of Stanford, we know why. Eddie Van Halen's teacher was a woman. Dee's report, which appears in the fall issue of Education Next, compared a survey of nearly 25,000 eighth-graders conducted in 1988 with test score data and found that students learn more from teachers of their same sex. More bad news for boys, since the proportion of teachers who are male is at an all-time low (at around 20 percent). And gender not only influences academic achievement; it influences attitudes, too. Dee found that male students were more likely to be considered disruptive in classes with female teachers, and female students were less apt to look forward to classes, or ask questions in classes, taught by men. Of course, everyone from Dee himself to the NEA's Reg Weaver (who apparently thinks teachers' "culture" matters, but gender doesn't) has cautioned against making hasty generalizations or drawing presumptive policy implications from these findings about same-sex education. But it wouldn't be hasty to accelerate the adoption of alternate routes to the profession, which famously bring more men into teaching than ed schools do. Troops-to-Teachers: Bring ‘em on.
"Study: Teacher's gender affects learning," by Ben Feller, Associated Press, August 28, 2006