Closing gender gaps in science. Saunders, J., Nelson S.

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Saunders, J., Nelson S. (2004).  Closing gender gaps in science.  Educational Leadership 62 (3) 74-77.

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This article related some very interesting data about some AP test scores in the Dallas, Texas area.  The bottom line is that while girls are outscoring (and out-taking) boys in most AP tests, not only are fewer girls taking fewer physics and computer science tests—a lower percentage rate are passing.  This despite being measured to be equal in ability by a different test (PSAT).  For example, all boys scoring 70 or higher on the PSAT math exam also passed the AP chemistry exam.  But the same was true for only 50 percent of the girls.

So in 2003, the Dallas Gender Equity Project set out to figure out what was going on.  Working in collaboration with teachers, they found some fascinating gender inequalities (unknown to the teachers) related to things like female encouragement, participation, and confidence.  Many teachers then voluntarily changed their teaching styles and got a higher percentage of female AP test takers.

An interesting comment by a physics teacher:
“The most important lesson I took away for my female students was this:  Each student needs to feel that she is competent, important, and talented.  The number one thing we can do for a student is to sit her down, look her in the eye, and tell her that she’s good at this subject.”

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