Boys are behind when it comes to meeting or exceeding CA Test Standards: Analysis of data from 16 million Smarter Balance Tests

May 30, 2021

by Sean Kullman

Photo by Thomas Park

In January of 2021, Global Initiative for Boys & Men released an article and data on Boys, Race, and California School as part of our ongoing analysis of educational outcomes. GIBM has since continued its research and analyzed data from nearly 16 million test scores from 2014 to 2019 by the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, which uses the Smarter Balance Summative Assessment test that is aligned with Common Core standards for its state testing.

Our data shows a Boy Gender-Gap in English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) of 8% to 13% in grades 3 through 8 and 11th grade, with an overall Boy Gender-Gap of 11%. Boys at all grade levels continue to fall behind girls in meeting or exceeding state standards in ELA. Though it has been well documented that boys continue to fall behind in reading, equity and inclusion programs tend to conflate the intersectionality of race and gender while also failing to address the collective challenges of boys. The data below helps address these important educational issues.

More surprising was the math results. While much of the conversation regarding math has focused on the lack of achievement by girls, Smarter Balance outcomes reveal boys and girls are essentially equal. Boys and girls are within 1% of one another in 3rd and 5th grades. However, girls begin to outperform boys by 6th grade and the trend continues into 7th, 8th, and 11th grades, where girls outperform boys in meeting and exceeding state standards by 2% to 4%. While the overall outcomes show a 1% difference, girls assessment outcomes in math slightly advance those of boys starting in middle school and through 11th grade on California's Smarter Balance Summative Assessment test.

After more than a year of remote learning, standardized testing may be needed more than ever to assess the skill levels of boys and girls in Math and ELA. Attempts have been made by California and other states to get a blanket waiver from standardized testing, according to Sydney Johnson of EdSource: "Teachers, principals and other education officials across the state have pushed for a blanket waiver from standardized testing this year, including the majority of the State Board of Education members and the California Teachers Association. However, the U.S. Department of Education announced on Feb. 22 that the tests will be required this year and has rejected requests for statewide blanket waivers from states such as New York."

We hope you will join GIBM on Thursday, June 17 from 11:00 to 11:45 a.m. Pacific Time for a free webinar on the systemic Boy Gender-Gap in California schools and the intersectionality of race and gender.

Registration is free and required at

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