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Study: Boys Still Trail Girls in Reading

Girls in the U.S. have closed the achievement gap in math, but boys still lag behind in reading, according to a new study.

The Center on Education Policy found that girls generally achieved the same proficiency in math as boys at the elementary, middle and high school grade levels. Girls have traditionally trailed boys in that subject.

However, the traditional gender gap in reading remains, with girls outperforming boys at the three main grade levels. In many states, the learning gap exceeded 10 percent.

Learning was measured by achievement level - basic, proficient and advanced - as well as grade level. Among 4th graders, girls performed better than boys at every achievement level in every state.

While proficiency in math was roughly equal across gender, boys appear to have an edge at the advanced level. Among 4th grade math students, more states showed a greater percentage of boys reaching the advanced level while the same was true for girls reaching the basic level.

Some teachers caution that any analysis must keep in mind individual students.

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"Educators need to have high expectation for all of their students and I think it's really important that they should use whatever assessments that have been given to analyze the data individually," Maria Greenbaum, a 3rd grade teacher in Monsey, NY, told CBS Radio News.

The Center for Education Policy has been looking at gender gap trends since 2002, when the No Child Left Behind law went into effect. The data for the most recent study was collected in 2008.

On the 4th grade level, the majority of states with sufficient data showed improvement in both math and reading at all achievement levels.

The study comes as President Barack Obama prepares to push his own education reform plan.

President Obama said he would send Congress his proposed overhaul of No Child Left Behind, which focused on accountability in the classroom but still fell short of its original goals.

"Under these guidelines, schools that achieve excellence or show real progress will be rewarded, and local districts will be encouraged to commit to change in schools that are clearly letting their students down," Mr. Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address.

Although President Obama's weekly address was short on specifics, the president has been clear he is eyeing sweeping change. He has already been using federal money as leverage to push schools to raise standards and prepare more children for college or work.

He included $3.5 billion in last year's economic stimulus bill to help low-performing schools and has proposed $900 million for states and school districts that agree to drastically change or even shutter their worst-performing schools.

The administration also proposed setting aside $50 million for dropout prevention programs, including personalized and individual instruction and support to keep students engaged in learning, and using data to identify students at risk of failure and help them with the transition to high school and college.

Only about 70 percent of entering high school freshmen go on to graduate. The problem affects blacks and Latinos at particularly high rates.

President Obama sought to assuage critics of the law who complain the current design is heavy-handed and too reliant on Washington. He said states and local schools - not Washington - would lead the way to change No Child Left Behind.

"What this plan recognizes is that while the federal government can play a leading role in encouraging the reforms and high standards we need, the impetus for that change will come from states and from local schools and school districts," Mr. Obama said. "So, yes, we set a high bar. But we also provide educators the flexibility to reach it."