Wide and Lasting Consequences: Teachers Give Girls Higher Grades Than Boys

Teacher Grading Tests

The researchers demonstrated that the bias was systemic and could have long-term consequences.

The study found that girls were often given better grades than boys, even if they had the same academic competency. 

According to a recent study of tens of thousands of students and their teachers, girls are often awarded more favorable grades than males with the same academic abilities.

This prejudice against boys may spell the difference between passing and failing classes like math. The Italian researchers caution that it may also have larger repercussions on matters like college admission, career choice, and income.

Their research, which was published in the British Journal of Sociology of Education, is the first to show that the issue is systemic and exists in a range of educational settings regardless of the characteristics of the teachers.

Gender disparities in educational achievement are common around the globe. Nevertheless, the extent of the difference varies depending on how achievement is measured.

Girls often outperform males in the humanities, languages, and reading abilities when the results of standardized tests, which have a set scoring system, are employed, while boys score better in math. However, when teachers give grades, females outperform males across the board.

The University of Trento researchers started by comparing the grades almost 40,000 students received on their classroom exams with the scores they obtained on nearly 40,000 standardized language and arithmetic tests in order to determine how teachers’ evaluations tend to favor females.

The 38,957 pupils were in the tenth grade, making them between 15 and 16 years old. The national standardized tests were set and scored anonymously, but the classroom exams were set and graded non-anonymously by their teachers.

In line with previous studies, the girls performed better than the boys in the standardized tests of language, while the boys were ahead at maths.

The teachers, however, put the girls in front in both subjects. The girls’ average grade in language was 6.6 (out of 10), with compares with 6.2 for the boys. In maths, the average grade for the girls was 6.3, while the boys averaged 5.9, which is below the pass mark of 6.

The analysis also showed that when a boy and a girl were similarly competent at a subject, the girl would typically receive a higher grade. The researchers then looked at whether factors, such as the type of school and the size and gender make-up of classes, were driving the gender grade gap.

They also investigated whether the characteristics of teachers themselves, such as how senior or experienced they were and whether they were male or female, helped explain girls’ more generous grades.

Only two factors were found to have an effect – and only in maths. The gender gap in maths grades was greater when classes were bigger. Girls were also graded as being further ahead of boys in technical and academic schools than they were in vocational schools.

None of the other factors had any significant effect in reducing the gender grading gap. Taken overall, the results show for the first time that higher grading of girls is systemic – rather than stemming from one particular failing, it is embedded in the whole school system.

The study’s authors say it’s possible that, in reading, teachers unconsciously reward students exhibiting traditionally female behavior, such as quietness and neatness, which make teaching easier for the teachers. Another theory is that inflated grades in mathematics are a way of trying to encourage girls, who are often seen as weaker in this subject.

The study’s authors conclude that bias against boys in Italian schools is considerable and could have long-term consequences.

“There is a strong correlation between having higher grades and desirable educational outcomes, such as gaining admission to good colleges or having a lower probability of dropping out of school,” says researcher Ilaria Lievore, a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology. “Consequently, higher grades are also correlated with other outcomes, such as having higher earnings, a better job, or even higher life satisfaction.”

She adds that although other European countries also grade girls more generously than boys, the reasons for this could differ from place to place and won’t necessarily mirror those in Italy.

Reference: “Do teacher and classroom characteristics affect the way in which girls and boys are graded?” by Ilaria Lievore and Moris Triventi, 17 October 2022, British Journal of Sociology of Education.
DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2022.2122942 

The study was funded by the Compagnia di San Paolo. 

The study’s limitations include using grades that were awarded part-way through the school year. These may have differed from the students’ final grades and so have affected the results.

10 Comments on "Wide and Lasting Consequences: Teachers Give Girls Higher Grades Than Boys"

  1. “Girls often outperform males in the humanities, languages, and reading abilities …”

    These are areas where it is more common to employ essay or short written answers than fact-based or calculated answers. Thus, there is greater potential for subjective grading based on style or viewpoints.

  2. So I’m other words if everyone after then does the same… Things like safety inspectors and managers won’t actually be qualified cause they cheated and learned nothing except to get a hand out cause of sex….

  3. It’s a bulls*** study unless done blind. You can’t discern if they deserve it or not. The standard exams that are marked blind still have girls achieving better results than boys.

  4. Seriously? I could have told you this 40 years ago, and it is something that has caused many arguments in the marking of examinations, and is something that I have come across many times as a moderator of exam coursework. Many teachers are far too impressed by neat handwriting and correct punctuation. Just the mere fact that many boys have much scruffier handwriting than girls puts them at an Immediate disadvantage, and teachers often fail to understand that the short answer given by a boy is more accurate than the longwinded, vague but beautifully written answer of the girl. There is also the question of the personality of the student as mentioned in the study, e.g quietness making teaching easier for the teacher.

  5. this is one of the studies, I really, really want to see if other scientists get the same results

  6. Smart comments by all above. Yes it needs to be a blind study, and there is bias in the opening paragraphs of the study itself. A system of objective measurements needs to be regularly updated and established to use in objective studies. This is one of those papers used to gain visibility and funding 🙁

  7. The environment of a standardized test is not equivalent to classroom testing. Factors like test anxiety or the inherent failings of testing aptitude through times written exams are greater with standardized tests. In other words, boys may actually perform more poorly on standardized tests. My personal anecdotal experience is exactly this. Surprisingly, this wasn’t listed as a limitation to the study, which highlights a lack of rigor on behalf of the researchers.

  8. The reason is VERY simple. Education in the west has changed radically in the last 50 years and is now dominated by women. The work environment is hostile to men and they choose other fields. These female teachers are university educated to believe in the patriarchy and other feminist ideological dogma.
    They act as activists and mark boys lower and keep male teachers out or silenced.
    Women have proven to be much more sexist than men ever were when they get power.

  9. Bro girls are weaker then ever us men work as hard as f*** and they just win by defult NAH BRO I’m not gonna live in this world with girls in charge I WILL stand up cuz well ADAM WAS MADE FIRST NOT EVE so we have more experince so we should be in charge NOT THEM.

  10. Basically I am trying to say that men are stronger than women and that research is NOT a “blind study” anyway we should be getting better grades, maybe destroy perfume. but we Will be freaking BETTER THAN THEM!!!

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