The results are finally in on the first national technology and engineering literacy exam: girls outperformed boys, the Washington Post reports.
By a slim margin, girls were more proficient than boys, 45 percent to 42 percent. All the students were eighth-graders in public and private schools. They took the National Assessment of Education Progress exam in 2014, and the results were released on May 17.
The Wall Street Journal said the results “surprised” test administrators because boys typically score higher or match girls on standardized math exams.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, girls showed their strength in the new media skill area of information and communication technology—not in the more traditional areas of technology and society or design and systems.
Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics, told the Monitor that the girls’ success was not limited to the communications area: “Communication skills may have put girls to some advantage, but I don’t totally concur that all the explanation can be entirely attributed to their communication skills.”
She added that the girls “also did well in developing solutions and achieving goals, which are core engineering principles.”
According to the Post, the test sought to measure how well students understand technology principles, find real world solutions and collaborate to implement solutions.
It also assessed the global competitiveness of American students in a world where the ability to innovate matters.
Less surprising from the results was the discovery of a large racial and socioeconomic achievement gap.
Only 25 percent of students who get free or reduced-price lunch scored proficient, while 59 percent of kids with at least a middle-class background were proficient.
Black and Latino students lagged behind Whites and Asians. Just 18 percent of Blacks and 28 percent of Latino students scored proficient, compared to 56 percent of White and Asian students.
“That was pretty daunting. The gaps in race and ethnicity were large and unacceptable,” Carr told the Monitor.
There was one other surprise. A survey given with the test revealed that about two-thirds of the students said family members—not school teachers—taught them how to build and fix things.