ABC News - Chicago

Would your son do better in school with a male teacher? What about your daughter with a female teacher?

A new study suggests that gender may be the key to ensuring your child’s success in school, which in turn may be the answer to the academic troubles that many boys have.

“Overall, two-thirds of the D’s and F’s in American schools are received by the boys. We’ve got a drop-out rate that’s increasing,” explains Michael Gurian, author and family therapist.

A researcher from Swarthmore College tracked 25,000 eighth graders – and found that boys do better with male teachers and girls learn more from female teachers.

The problem is only 20 percent of schoolteachers are male.

“I think boys need role models,” says Carol Carter, author and child advocate. “So if you’re a boy and you don’t have a dad in your home – and then you have one male teacher and it’s your athletic coach – then I don’t think you have a message that education is very important.”

Experts say you can request a teacher of the same gender as your child – and if that doesn’t work, think about finding a mentor.

“Sometimes we look only in one place because it’s most convenient, so we look to the schools for that,” suggests psychologist Robert Simmermon. “I think if we look around [and say] ‘what about grandfather or uncle Bill?’ Or ‘what about the neighbor next door who had spent years as a professor or a teacher?'”

Still, some argue that academic performance has little to do with a teacher’s gender.

“I think it just depends on their teaching style and not necessarily their gender,” says 17-year-old Chris Kane.

17-year-old Jasmine Stephens agrees: “Really, what affects my grades is the energy of the teacher, regardless of gender.”

“To me, that’s the bulls-eye, that’s the absolute bulls-eye,” says Simmermon. “I mean, because there are some really wonderful teachers – who have energy and love their subject – and there are some really boring, horribly mundane teachers, male and female, that may have trouble teaching a kitten to purr.”

In fact, experts say, gender is only one factor, and not the most important.

“It’s the teacher — you can have same-sex classes, you can do that, but it’s the teacher,” says Michael Glascoe, Superintendent of Schools in Paterson, New Jersey. “Cause you can have a terrible teacher take that on, and it’s not going to work. It has to be someone, and I say this over and over, who can engage the hearts of the students. You got to have that heart for the children and their well-being, and really push that. The great teachers do that.”

Tips for Parents

# If your child doesn’t have any male teachers, look for someone in your community to tutor or mentor them, to help fill that void. (Robert Simmermon, Ph.D, psychologist)

# Boys are naturally more active and hyper. Make sure your son is getting enough physical activity throughout the course of his school day; otherwise he may not be able to pay full attention in class. (Carol Carter, author, child advocate)

# Some people are more visual learners, some learn better from hands-on, and some learn better auditorily. Try to find a teacher whose style is similar to your child’s learning style. (Robert Simmermon, Ph.D, psychologist)

References # Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement, Thomas S. Dee, Swarthmore College.