Policy brief
Working paper

A Middle School Drop

Consistent Gender Differences in Students’ Self-Efficacy
A Middle School Drop
Erin M. Fahle
School of Education at St. John’s University
Monica G. Lee
Brown University
Susanna Loeb
Stanford Graduate School of Education


Academic self-efficacy is a student’s belief in their ability to perform within a school environment. Prior research shows that students experience a drop in academic self-efficacy during middle school that is particularly steep for female students and results in lower self-efficacy for girls than boys throughout middle and high school. In this brief, we probe whether this pattern is consistent across student groups defined by demographics, achievement level, and school of attendance. We find unusual consistency: while non-white, low-achieving, and poor students show somewhat lower self-efficacy than other students, the differential drop in middle school is essentially universal across student groups. Similarly, while schools vary meaningfully in their students’ level of self-efficacy, they also do not differ much in this trend.

Suggested citationFahle, E. M., Lee, M. G., & Loeb, S. (2019, October). A middle school drop: Consistent gender differences in students’ self-efficacy [Policy brief]. Policy Analysis for California Education. https://edpolicyinca.org/publications/gender-differences-students-self-efficacy