I found this study via both the NY Times and the Best Evidence in Brief newsletter. The study by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that teacher biases in favor of boys in elementary school have a positive effect on boys and a negative effect on girls and that these effects continue through middle and high school. The study at the same time also shows the power of a little encouragement.
From Best Evidence:
The study measured teachers’ gender bias in Tel Aviv, Israel, by comparing test scores marked by teachers in the classroom against scores from blind assessment by external markers. The results suggested an over-assessment of boys, which produced a significant positive effect on male academic achievement and had a significant negative effect on girls.
According to the study, the effects of such gender biases continue into middle and high school and impact on subject choice – such as whether to enroll for advanced mathematics and science courses – that may have long-term implications for occupation choice and earnings.
The largest impact was on children from families where the father was more educated than the mother and on girls from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
Early educational experiences have a clear effect on the math and science courses the students will choose later in life, and eventually also will influence the jobs they get and the wages they earn.
Abstract of the study:
In this paper, we estimate the effect of primary school teachers’ gender biases on boys’ and girls’ academic achievements during middle and high school and on the choice of advanced level courses in math and sciences during high school. For identification, we rely on the random assignments of teachers and students to classes in primary schools. Our results suggest that teachers’ biases favoring boys have an asymmetric effect by gender— positive effect on boys’ achievements and negative effect on girls’. Such gender biases also impact students’ enrollment in advanced level math courses in high school—boys positively and girls negatively. These results suggest that teachers’ biased behavior at early stage of schooling have long run implications for occupational choices and earnings at adulthood, because enrollment in advanced courses in math and science in high school is a prerequisite for post-secondary schooling in engineering, computer science and so on. This impact is heterogeneous, being larger for children from families where the father is more educated than the mother and larger on girls from low socioeconomic background.