Helping Boys Succeed in School

Rich Weinfeld & Terry Neu This book gives parents and teachers the tools they need to help boys succeed, including strategies for channeling their interests, keeping boys actively engaged, increasing their participation in humanities classes like language arts, and dealing with the unique social and emotional problems they face in school.

An Interview With the Authors of Helping Boys Succeed in School - Terry W. Neu, Ph.D., and Rich Weinfeld By Lacy Elwood

Rich Weinfeld & Terry Neu
Why is the education of boys a problem in today’s educational system?

Evidence of the problem can be seen in the fact that boys are behind their female peers in most test results—especially in reading and even more so in writing. The 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that boys were behind by 17% in 4th grade, 21% in 8th grade, and 25% in 12th grade. Looking at the results of virtually any state or any school district, one can see similar results. Boys are also more likely to repeat a grade, more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to attend college, and less likely to graduate from college. Not surprisingly, their attitudes about school are also more negative. Boys also comprise the majority of special education students, with boys making up 73% of students with learning disabilities and 76% of students identified with emotional disturbance problems. And, for boys from minority groups or poverty, the situation is often even worse.

The problem with the education of boys is a result of both general differences in the biological make-up of boys as compared to girls and how those differences come into play in the school environment. There are brain differences between girls and boys, resulting in girls, in general, having greater abilities when it comes to language-based learning. Schools, in an effort to raise test scores, have become much more focused on the language arts, requiring reading and writing in every course. It’s no longer enough to solve the math problem—a student now has to write about how he solved it. Schools have increased their time devoted to language arts by allocating more of the day to language arts activities, by integrating language arts into all subjects, and by starting the teaching of language arts activities at earlier ages. All of these strategies have resulted in many boys not identifying with the activities that they encounter at school and not seeing school as a place in which they feel they can be successful.

Why do you think schools and educators should place more emphasis on helping boys succeed in school?

We need to think individually and globally. There is an individual price, both academic and emotional, for each boy who does not reach his potential. These school problems have a potentially long-lasting impact, as there is a direct correlation between school success and lifelong economic well-being. It is also important to note that this isn’t about boys versus girls. We have made great strides in the education of girls, but we still need to be vigilant about making sure our educational system continues to capitalize on the strengths of girls and encourage their improvement in areas that were formerly dominated by males. However, it is time to also pay attention to the fact that much of what we are doing in our schools is not encouraging or helping boys to succeed.

What can this book do to help alleviate the problem? Can more boys begin to succeed in the classroom? What general steps need to be taken for this to occur?

Helping Boys Succeed in School provides very specific strategies that have been successful in the classroom and that can be used to pique boys’ interest in reading, as well as alternatives that boys will want to utilize for getting information in ways other than reading. Similarly, we provide very specific recommendations for increasing boys’ interest in writing, as well as numerous ways for parents and teachers to help boys to demonstrate their understanding other than writing. We must realize that although reading and writing are still very important skills, reading is the not the only way to gain understanding of concepts and writing is not the only way to demonstrate that understanding. It is crucial that teachers identify the interests and strengths of boys and find ways to incorporate these varied areas of intelligence into instruction, helping boys to appreciate and build upon their talents.

Parents and teachers will be able to use the many tools and checklists in this book to find ways to help their schools provide “boy-friendly” interventions, as well as guidance in considering a variety of alternative educational options, ranging from single-gender classes and groups, to single-gender schools, to alternative schools, to homeschooling. Parents also will find extensive information that will lead them to appropriate out-of-school athletic activities, talent development activities, and counseling and mentorship programs.

Boys can succeed in school—they just need to be given the tools and support they need to help them succeed.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the education of boys and/or this book?
Helping Boys Succeed in School

This book is also unique in recommending an educational approach that focuses on developing the talents of boys in school. So often in conversations with boys, many describe school as unchallenging and uninteresting. The talent development approach described in this book has proven to be an avenue for many of today’s boys to reconnect with school and to actually develop their own ability to succeed. Several of the boys profiled in this book credit an educational system that valued what they could do and showed them their strengths as their motivation to succeed in school.

About the Authors

National education leaders Terry W. Neu, Ph.D., and Rich Weinfeld know firsthand that boys need special attention, accommodations, and advocacy in order to succeed in school. They believe that schools should work to address boys’ specific needs, focusing on their strengths and abilities. Neu currently serves as assistant professor of education at Sacred Heart University and previously coordinated Project High Hopes, which pairs students with mentors. Weinfeld was instrumental in coordinating the Montgomery County, MD, gifted and learning-disabled program, which provided many boys with the tools and confidence they needed to succeed. Both are the fathers, coaches, and teachers of boys.