Pinellas County Schools Make a Reading Push, Just for Boys

By JEFFERY S. SOLOCHEK, Tampa Bay Occasions

LARGO, Fla. (AP) — Amaree Burr-Comer didn’t all the time take note of the books he was studying.

“I might simply learn it to be achieved,” the McMullen-Sales space Elementary College fifth grader recalled.

That was earlier than he obtained concerned within the Pinellas County faculty district’s Boys Learn Ebook Battle two years in the past. Created as half of a bigger technique to beat a literacy achievement gender hole, the battle exposes boys to new supplies and teaches them in a aggressive surroundings easy methods to learn for that means and retention.

Amaree, who’s on the staff once more this 12 months, alongside along with his youthful brother and three different schoolmates, mentioned the exercise modified his total method — even with the supplies he and his pals known as the “boring studying books.”

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“After I began Battle of the Books I obtained the gist of going again within the books, memorizing the books, studying the books very fastidiously,” he mentioned. “It does keep on.”


Amaree’s journey is the end result that educators in Pinellas and throughout Florida are aiming for as they place added consideration on the training disparities between girls and boys in the case of studying.

“The info don’t lie,” mentioned Stacy Baier, chief govt officer of the Pinellas Schooling Basis, which has highlighted the hole and underwritten a lot of the hassle to deal with it. “We now have to do one thing about this.”

State information present that third-grade boys underperformed ladies on 2018-19 statewide language arts exams by 4 factors. That very same 12 months, Tenth-grade boys lagged behind ladies in proficiency by 11 factors. The district had comparable scores.

Citing such outcomes, lawmakers established a Activity Drive on Closing the Achievement Hole for Boys. Baier and Pinellas faculty superintendent Mike Grego served on the panel, which issued a sequence of findings and suggestions in December.

Key to the proposals was the notion that faculties should develop methods to beat the hole after researching efficient fashions. Coaching academics will probably be vital, the committee acknowledged, with a watch to serving to boys advance however by no means leaving ladies behind.

“When faculties, like that noticed in Pinellas County, help academics and leaders to combine gender-specific educational methods into their studying surroundings, college students of each genders will reply positively with higher habits, educational engagement and achievement,” the committee wrote in its report.


The Pinellas mannequin, which has attracted consideration from different districts because the report’s launch, focuses closely on pupil engagement, mentioned Ellen Truskowski, the district’s pupil project director, who coordinates the initiative.

A few of the concepts embody specializing in boys’ aggressive nature, their want to maneuver round relatively than sit by lectures, and their curiosity in new and various kinds of supplies. Novelty and stimulus matter, Truskowski mentioned.

Examples have included a science-based boys ebook membership known as Mad Scientists and Lab Rats, expanded classroom libraries, celebrations for undertaking targets and alternate options to desks and chairs. Pinellas developed a one-page “gender hole implementation rubric” to explain methods to raised attain boys, together with causes behind every idea.

For example, the district really useful academics do extra to make sure the boys are conscious they’re being held accountable for his or her work always, requiring they take part equally with ladies.

“Boys ought to really feel that the instructor is invested of their lives and believes of their potential to succeed,” the doc states.

It additionally instructed making classes extra game-like, and mentioned a greatest observe is to have a number of alternatives for hands-on actions that mirror college students’ pursuits. The concept, Truskowski mentioned, is to individualize instruction as a lot as potential, utilizing gender as a lens, along with all the opposite groupings.

After beginning with elementary faculties, Baier mentioned, the following steps embody added coaching for academics in larger grade ranges.


One of many college students’ favourite actions is the Boys Learn Ebook Battle, which is in its third 12 months. Eleven elementary faculties participated this 12 months, with the staff from Mildred Helms Elementary taking high honors.

McMullen-Sales space studying instructor Kathy Bilello mentioned it targets reluctant boy readers, who usually select lower-level books as a result of they’re extra enjoyable, despite the fact that they need to and may very well be choosing more difficult materials.

Many instances, boys will abandon books relatively than end them, principal Stephanie Whitaker added. They usually additionally hesitate to share their ideas about supplies at school, she mentioned.

The aggressive side sparks curiosity, Bilello mentioned, because the boys delve into the books to show they will do higher than their pals. As soon as preparation for the occasion started this 12 months, Whittaker mentioned, information confirmed the varsity’s achievement gender hole in studying shrank by 9 factors, as extra boys would routinely return to a textual content to justify solutions.

A rising variety of boys have began receiving fifth-grade awards, she mentioned. And self-discipline referrals have declined.

Boys on McMullen-Sales space’s battle staff — the Vamp Wolves, named after the “coolest” character from the six battle books — gathered early mornings to observe. Sitting as companions, they labored to be the quickest to reply questions concerning the title and justify their rationale.

Afterward, they talked about how the exercise made a distinction in how they learn.

“Once you get in a studying zone, you simply wish to maintain studying and studying,” mentioned third-grader Abram Burr-Comer, Amaree’s brother. “After we learn the ebook, we get the entire ebook in your head.”

He added that by seeing so many various kinds of books, he will get concepts about new methods to write down.

Third-grader Bradan Fitzgerald mentioned he is determining easy methods to get by boring books he doesn’t like, by studying slowly and punctiliously.

Third-grader Silas Sales space mentioned he’s been good at studying, but in addition sluggish. He additionally learn plenty of “simple” books just like the Captain Underpants sequence.

Making ready for the ebook battle helped him learn quicker whereas nonetheless comprehending, he mentioned. That’s vital, Silas defined, as a result of falling behind means “you need to maintain going to meet up with everybody else.” Now that’s much less of a priority for him.

The boys arrived on the 2022 battle on the morning of Jan. 28 in good spirits. They snacked on Starbursts and Smartfood popcorn in a convention room, flipping by the six titles whereas awaiting their flip to compete within the College Board assembly room.

Amaree mentioned he was nervous — “My coronary heart goes increase, increase, increase,” he mentioned — however assured. His teammates signaled they felt the identical.

After about half an hour, they have been up. The six groups took their seats at separate tables, every hoping for a high 2 spot that will get them to the finals.

The trail forward: Reply every query appropriately, and attempt to get bonus factors when given the flip to supply proof for the response. Groups would get full factors for an accurate reply after one attempt, with the factors shrinking for a second and third try.

The McMullen-Sales space staff celebrated its right responses, and smiled broadly when listening to “Bingo. Good job,” after nailing one in all its bonuses. However the boys didn’t advance, resulting in some disappointment and tears.

Amaree placed on his sport face afterward.

“I’m glad that I got here,” he mentioned, “as a result of even when I misplaced, I had enjoyable.”

Even earlier than the occasion started, Bilello mentioned regardless of the consequence, there was no dropping.

“They’ve learn six books in 4 months, great kids’s literature,” she mentioned. “They’ve received already.”

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