A provocative new study, Non-cognitive Skills and the gender Disparities in test Scores and Teacher Assessments: Evidence from Primary School, brings evidence to bear on long-assumed convention wisdom involving boys, girls, and academic performance. And the paper's findings raise quite difficult questions, including those for Title IX.
Univ. of Georgia economists Christopher Cornwell, David Mustard, and Jessica Van Parys set out to, in part, "examine the relationship between the (objective) test-score differences and (subjective) teacher grades." What they find is that while girls receive systematically higher grades than boys, on average, in elementary school, "the grades awarded by teachers are not aligned with test scores." The paper's abstract puts the point more bluntly: "Boys who perform equally as well as girls on reading, math and science tests are graded less favorably by their teachers." The authors ascribe the "misalignment" of objective test scores and subjective teacher grades to "non-cognitive skill development" differences between elementary school boys and girls.
Not surprisingly, this academic article, published in the Journal of Human Resources (48:1, Winter 2013), quickly attracted an array of robust public commentary (e.g., here and here). Left un-plumbed, thus far anyway, are the potential implications for Title IX.
To be sure, causal directions in this study are anything but clear thus far. After all, when seeking to explain statistical "misalignment" between standardized test scores and teacher (non-anonymous) grades, whether boys over-perform on standardized tests or under-perform in classroom grades (or the reciprocal for girls) is anything but clear. Nonetheless, these findings raise potentially uncomfortable questions.