Can boys succeed with Common Core?

Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 01:35 PM.

By now, it has become apparent to academics, administrators, parents and teachers that, in general, boys are underperforming in school, says Edmond J. Dixon, Ph.D, a veteran educator and international expert who offers enhanced teaching techniques for boys.

And it may get worse, he says.

It will take some creativity to teach some elements of Common Core, the educational initiative set to be implemented throughout most of the United States, in a way that’s conducive to how most boys best learn, Dixon says.

Common Core has been criticized by educators and other experts as demanding standards that are static, arbitrary and generally antithetical to creativity and innovation. Yet initial results in Kentucky, the first state to use the program, have been positive. The state’s graduation rate increased 6 percent from 2010 to 2013, and the percentage of college-ready students increased 20 percent.

“Any parent or teacher who wants a boy to be successful with Common Core must understand two crucial ideas: motivated engagement and discretionary effort,” says Dixon, who has more than three decades experience as a teacher, is a parent of boys, and is the author of “Helping Boys Learn: Six Secrets for Your Son’s Success in School,” (, which features tailored editions for parents and teachers.

Because the new curriculum is designed to improve critical thinking, which requires a deep understanding of the material, boys must be both motivated and deeply engaged to learn, he says. That’s what it will take for them to independently put in the necessary hard work involved in learning – discretionary effort – without nagging, he says.   

“Only by doing this will they be able to meet the new learning requirements; we are already seeing the negative consequences of not doing this with boys, and I fear it will just get worse," says Dixon, adding that his approach inspires a boy’s motivated engagement.

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