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Girls Beat Boys in First National Test in Technology and Engineering

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The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a test given to eighth grade students in public and private schools nationwide every two years to test their proficiency in various subjects and allow for policymakers and school districts to track skills over time and adjust their policies and teaching methods accordingly. In 2014, NAEP included a test that measure literacy in technology and engineering for the first time, and the results were finally made public today.

Out of 21,500 students in more than 800 schools, 45% of girls and 42% of boys scored proficient on the test. BOOM. Take that, anyone who doesn’t think girls “like” or “are good at” things like engineering! According to The Washington Post, “The test was designed to measure students’ abilities in areas such as understanding technological principles, designing solutions and communicating and collaborating. Girls were particularly strong in the latter.”

So…all those “feminine” traits that girls are taught, but then get downplayed by everyone? They’re actually really important in tech fields, because zero innovations happen in a bubble at the hands of only one person.

The test was computer-based, and “asked students not only to answer discrete questions but also to perform tasks embedded in real-life scenarios such as designing a safe bike lane, engineering a healthy habitat for a classroom iguana named ‘Iggy,’ and creating an online museum exhibit about Chicago’s history of dealing with water pollution.” Whoa!

A more disheartening fact is that only 43% of all US eighth-grade students were proficient. Even more discouraging is the way that race and class come into play with how kids did on the test, though not terribly surprising. Here’s how it went down:

  • 25% of students that receive free and reduced-price lunch scored proficient
  • 59% of affluent students scored proficient
  • 18% of black students scored proficient
  • 28% of Latinx students scored proficient
  • 56% of white and Asian students scored proficient
  • 5% of ESL students scored proficient
  • 42% of public school students scored proficient
  • 60% of private school students scored proficient

It’s amazing that so many eighth grade girls have done so well in technology and engineering, especially considering that girls start losing self-esteem and doing more poorly in math and science around middle school. But there’s still so much further to go with regard to access to and opportunities in education. Hopefully, this test will provide some insights into solutions in addition to highlighting the problem areas.

(image via Shutterstock)

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