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How Different Groups Perform

Achievement by Sex

In the United States and many other countries, policymakers and educators are interested not only in overall achievement but also in achievement by specific groups of students. For example, patterns of differences between boys and girls in reading achievement across countries can point to areas where additional educational resources might be focused.

  • Fourth-grade girls score higher than fourth-grade boys on the combined reading literacy scale on average in every participating PIRLS 2001 country. In the United States, on average, girls score 18 points higher than boys on the combined reading literacy scale. Internationally, the average score difference between boys and girls range from 8 points (Italy) to 27 points (Belize, Iran, and New Zealand)6.
  • Fourth-grade girls score higher than boys on both the literary and informational subscales in all of the participating PIRLS 2001 countries (figure 7). In the United States, fourth-grade girls, on average, outscore boys by 16 points on both the literary and informational subscales.
  • Fourth-grade girls in Sweden, England, the Netherlands, and Bulgaria outscore U.S. girls on the combined reading literacy scale. However, U.S. girls perform better than their counterparts in 20 of the participating PIRLS 2001 countries.
  • Fourth-grade boys in the Netherlands and Sweden outperform U.S. boys on the combined reading literacy scale, although U.S. boys perform better than their peers in 21 of the participating PIRLS 2001 countries.


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