The Teachers' Scrounge

News and comments from the world of public education. A middle school math teacher shared what he learned today.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Math Gender Gap Gone?

Okay, it is back to school time. I've already spent two days working with the math department, and our staff retreat is tomorrow, so we can all expect more activity on this blog.

To start with, here is a recent news article from Chicago: Girls match boys on tests in math: study. The researchers acquired their results by looking at test scores from state "No Child Left Behind" exams as well as SAT scores. They found no disparity between male and female performance levels.

I find is suspect that they did not create their own test and sample to gather data. States have a lot of pressure to generate NCLB results. And the goal is to get every student to the "acceptable" level. That means resources are moved around so that everyone will reach the same level of achievement. In short, I hypothesize that the parity is due to the school's test prep for that particular test, and may not translate into complete math parity. To support my argument, I offer this quote from the article:

They also looked for gender discrepancies at the highest levels of mathematical ability, checking to see if more boys fell into the top percentiles of scores than girls.

"While we did find more boys than girls above the 99th percentile at a 2-to-1 ratio, still, 33 percent of those kids who are above the 99th percentile are girls," she said.

The study acknowledges a disparity in SAT scores (the one test in the study where students are NOT prepped to meet identical achievement levels), but claims that is a "sampling artifact" because fewer males take the test, so the male sample must be smarter. (Yeah, so what do the writing tests show?!) The study also points out that, mysteriously, women are still heavily underrepresented in math and science professions.

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