Wednesday, September 14, 2011

2011 SAT Test: Gender Disparity in Math Persists

The College Board released data today on the 2011 SAT test results, here are some highlights:

1. Following an uninterrupted trend that dates back to at least 1972, high school boys scored higher on average than girls on both the 2011 SAT reading test (500 average for males vs. 495 for females) and the SAT math test (531 for males vs. 500 for females, see chart above). The five-point male advantage on the 2011 SAT reading test was slightly greater than last year’s 4-point difference; the 31-point male advantage for the math SAT was the lowest gender gap since 1972 (earliest year reported by the College Board). Both differences in average test scores by gender are statistically significant at the 1% level.

2. High school girls outperformed boys on the 2011 SAT writing test by 14 points (496 average for females vs. 482 for males), and that gender gap in favor of females is the widest since the College Board introduced the reading test in 2006.

3. For scores in the highest 100-point range of 700-800 on the 2011 SAT tests, there were 162 boys for every 100 girls (69,215 boys vs. 42,678 girls) for the math SAT. In that range for the reading test, high school boys and girls were almost equally represented (38,430 boys vs. 38,135 girls). Girls outnumbered boys for 700-800 reading scores by a ratio of 134 females per 100 males (41,396 females vs. 30,990 males).

4. There were large test score gaps among ethnic groups on the 2011 SAT test. For example, on the 2011 math SAT there was a 60-point gap in favor of Asian students compared to whites (595 average for Asians vs. 535 for whites), a 108-point gap in favor of white students compared to blacks (535 average for whites vs. 427 points for blacks), and a 168-point gap in favor of Asians compared to black students (595 vs. 427).

5. For average scores on the math SAT by gender and ethnic group, there was a significant, but varying gender gap in favor of males for Asians (+25 points), whites (+32 points) and blacks (+13 points).

6. For 2011 SAT test-takers, girls had superior academic high school records on average compared to boys: for students ranking in the top 10% of their high school classes, there were 127 girls (56% of the total) for every 100 boys (44% of the total), and for students with GPAs of A+, girls outnumbered boys by a ratio of 144 females per 100 males (59% to 41%). High school girls had a higher overall average GPA of 3.40 compared to 3.27 for boys.

7. More high school girls than boys took advanced AP/honors math classes in high school (117 females per 100 males) and science classes (122 females per 100 males).

8. More high school girls (54%) than boys (46%) studied mathematics for four years in high school, and those percentages were the same for students studying four years of high school science.

Bottom Line: The fact that women hold a “disproportionately low share of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) undergraduate degrees and fewer than 25 percent of STEM jobs” according to the Census Bureau certainly isn’t because female students are being discouraged from studying math and science in high school. In fact, the evidence shows that females are excelling in math and science in high school and are overrepresented in AP/Honors math and science courses, and are more likely than their male counterparts to take four years of math and science. 

Further, compared to boys, high school girls get better grades on average, and are far more likely to graduate in the top 10% or 20% of their high school classes. By most objective measures, girls have all of the necessary ingredients for success in STEM fields like engineering except perhaps for one: that huge 31-point gender gap on the SAT math test in favor of boys that persists over time and across all ethnic groups.  

30 Comments:

At 9/14/2011 2:35 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Dr. Perry,
I hope that you aren't suggesting that boys and girls are somehow different. I'll have to discuss this with my OB/GYN.

 
At 9/14/2011 3:05 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

if you compare our boys to boys in other countries in basic STEM - they suck....no better than 15th and that means that girls in other countries beat our boys...

 
At 9/14/2011 3:29 PM, Blogger Mike said...

....and those other countries spend how much less, Larry?

 
At 9/14/2011 3:34 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

they spend LESS and score HIGHER...

same deal with health care...

we suck at education and health care... but won't admit it.

 
At 9/14/2011 3:46 PM, Blogger Emil said...

Larry G;

Strange that the fact that you suck so much in education doesn't seem to translate into lower salaries. Might it be that the SAT tests don't really measure what is important?

 
At 9/14/2011 3:53 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

it translates into fewer jobs and more people on unemployment and getting entitlements....

American high school graduates compare badly against European and Japanese high school graduates.

the top 30% of American kids compare well against European and Japanese counterparts but the other 65% do not and it translates into people who do not have an education sufficient to compete for 21st jobs which require critically thinking in areas involving math, science and technology.

Think in terms of a JAVA programmer... does not necessarily need college but he/she needs to understand quite a bit more than what a basic military recruit or auto company assembly line worker would know...

Europe and Japan view public education as an economic imperative...

we think of it in terms of winners and losers.... even though the winners get to pay for the losers entitlements...

we need to rethink this.

 
At 9/14/2011 4:28 PM, Blogger Mike said...

"we suck at education and health care... but won't admit it."


Who won't admit it??

Everything the government touches, they suck at it. I admit it!!!!

Maybe you just hit the nail on the head, Larry. We need to get everybody in the country to just say it out loud...."We spend the most on our education and it sucks. The system needs a dramatic change in control." Maybe, if people say it, they'll start to understand that they have to do something different.

Cut education spending and people go crazy.
Attempt a new approach that goes against the current system and people go crazy.

 
At 9/14/2011 4:30 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

" Everything the government touches, they suck at it. I admit it!!!!"

not the European and Japanese govts...

right?

:-)

Singapore has one of the highest payroll taxes in the world but it also has one of the best life expectancies and education systems in the world also.

does that correlate with "good"
govt and higher taxes?

 
At 9/14/2011 4:30 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

" Everything the government touches, they suck at it. I admit it!!!!"

not the European and Japanese govts...

right?

:-)

Singapore has one of the highest payroll taxes in the world but it also has one of the best life expectancies and education systems in the world also.

does that correlate with "good"
govt and higher taxes?

 
At 9/14/2011 4:34 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Let's be honest. If the U.S. black population was excluded, the data would show the U.S. has the best education and health care in the world.

 
At 9/14/2011 4:38 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Moreover, U.S. income would be even higher.

 
At 9/14/2011 4:45 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

" Let's be honest. If the U.S. black population was excluded, the data would show the U.S. has the best education and health care in the world"

that might be true...unfortunately

 
At 9/14/2011 4:50 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

It may be much more cultural than racial. Otherwise, Asians would score poorly.

 
At 9/14/2011 5:55 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Larry,
I won't pretend to know all that much about the Euro or Japanese gov't, but I can tell you that (at least on education) they spend less and tend to get more. Hard to argue the numbers. They also have 'cultural' issues in the Euro countries too.

Singapore is a city state...let's not even try to draw a comparison and they certainly have problems of their own.

 
At 9/14/2011 6:55 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Singapore has one of the highest payroll taxes in the world but it also has one of the best life expectancies and education systems in the world also.

does that correlate with "good"
govt and higher taxes?
"...

No larry g, its called extending the pain...

I've been to Singapore and it just sucks...

Still though its a very good looking city especially considering the population density...

Regarding the gender disparity in math, there may be something to that if this article is at all credible: Are Women Genetically Wired To Dislike Math & Science?

A study found that when it comes to career choices, men prefer things and women prefer people...

 
At 9/14/2011 8:19 PM, Blogger Chris Matheson said...

We certainly lag behind many other countries when it comes to education, but keep in mind the comparison is not always apples to apples; often other countries do no test their special education students, so their scores may at times be significantly higher.

 
At 9/14/2011 8:27 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

We certainly lag behind many other countries when it comes to education, but keep in mind the comparison is not always apples to apples; often other countries do no test their special education students, so their scores may at times be significantly higher.

NAEP is the test and as far as I know they test similar populations in the US to ensure that comparisons with other countries are apple-to-apple...

you can find out more about NAEP here:

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/about/

and PISA (which NAEP tracks) here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment

they're apples to apples.

only about 30% of kids in the US test as "proficient" under NAEP.

the other 70% test out as "basic" and below.

across the country to the subgroups that don't do good - are the economically disadvantaged, blacks, and hispanics.

If you threw their scores out - we'd rank in the top 10 in the world.

so the truth is that they do drag the scores down...

 
At 9/14/2011 8:27 PM, Blogger Chris Matheson said...

With that said, I would agree that our government does a terrible job in regard to education. I believe we would see significant improvements if we did the following:
1. Open the field of education up to market forces (we are on the way) by allowing more charters, voucher programs, and school of choice selections to parents/families.
2. Allow schools to differentiate themselves to a certain degree. Why not let schools specialize to a certain extent, for example allowing a high school to specialize in business, languages, science, etc.
3. Adopt a nationalized set of standards for high school graduation. This may initially appear to contradict my point above, but I believe we could still allow for specialization while adhering a national standard for high school graduation.
4. Restrict class selection choice on the part of students(we are allowing teenagers to make decisions that will potentially influence their career path; students should have to develop a certain level of competency in the core subjects, rather than choose "blow-off" courses).

 
At 9/14/2011 8:32 PM, Blogger Chris Matheson said...

I think the OECD in Paris administers the PISA test and I know we do not score well at all in relation to other developed countries on this test. I am not as familiar with the NAEP, so I cannot speak intelligently on that test.

There are certainly cultural issues at play, but more importantly there is the soft racism of extremely low expectations for students of color in our country's educational system. Put simply, the vast majority of our nation's educators do not expect students of color to perform to the same level of achievement as whites and Asians.

 
At 9/14/2011 8:34 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

the most important thing is elementary education - the basics of reading and writing and math.

if they master those subjects and score "proficient" on NAEP, they have an excellent chance at whatever they attempt later on.

on the other hand - if they do not get the basics in elementary school..they are pretty much toast.

 
At 9/14/2011 8:39 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

we spend not enough money on elementary education and way too much money on non-core academic things in middle and high school...in the name of a "well-rounded-education".

If you want kids to recognize the connection between what they are learning and the real world - have them take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).

http://www.military.com/ASVAB

that test does two important things:

1. - it tells them how competent they are in the basic competencies

2. - it tells them that their score determines what level of training they are eligible for and what jobs they are eligible for.

if you score low on that test - you get little training and you qualify only for the menial manual labor jobs...

now days.. most all equipment and weapon systems require much more than what many high school graduates have.

 
At 9/15/2011 2:12 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

I suspect, children of Middle East and North Africa immigrants boost test scores in Europe.

Middle East Today: The Brain Drain in the Arab World
Nov 30, 2009

"...fifty per cent of graduating doctors, 23% of engineers, and 15% of scientists leave the Arab world.

Furthermore, the study maintains that 54% of Arab students who graduated from colleges in the West do not return to their country of origin.

To illustrate this last point, 34% of active doctors in Britain alone are Arabs."

 
At 9/15/2011 2:32 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"If you threw their scores out - we'd rank in the top 10 in the world.

so the truth is that they do drag the scores down...
"

So, what do you recommend, Larry? I'm just dying to hear it.

 
At 9/15/2011 2:43 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"4. Restrict class selection choice on the part of students(we are allowing teenagers to make decisions that will potentially influence their career path; students should have to develop a certain level of competency in the core subjects, rather than choose "blow-off" courses)."

Who do you think should do this restricting? Hopefully you believe this is the responsibility of parents.

It's not clear what you consider a "blow-off" course, but I can't think of any reason why public high schools should have any.

 
At 9/15/2011 5:08 AM, Blogger Chris Matheson said...

Ron, the restricting would have to be on the part of the schools, as far too many parents are disengaged from what their child does at school. In fact, I think you would be surprised at the number of students who determine the high school they attend. I work at a very challenging, highly rigorous college-preparatory school and we have a significant number of students each year choose to leave because of the workload. Notice I said they choose to leave, nit their parents choose to pull them out.

Unfortunately there are numerous courses offered at many traditional schools that should be dropped. Moreover, it has been my experience that a significant proportion of high school students will attempt to choose the path of least resistance if that path is available to them.

 
At 9/15/2011 5:32 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

" So, what do you recommend, Larry? I'm just dying to hear it"

what I recommend is doing what we know actually does work but is not widely practiced and it's what they do in Europe and Japan as well.

the thing to recognize is that kids who are from disadvantaged backgrounds that lack adequate parental support - don't learn the same way that kids who have this support learn.

I know first hand how economically disadvantaged are successfully taught and it basically requires more assessments to determine their deficits and then attention focused on those deficits - in elementary school - later on is too late.

many kids from economically disadvantaged backgrounds move around a lot and are kept by different relatives and as a result because of schools do not have a standard curriculum - they end up with holes in what they've received.

mom and dad may not be together or their life is a mess and they cannot get/keep a job or they have more than one job to make enough money.

In short family life is chaotic and it is not the fault of the child.

when you blame the parents - you are making an excuse for abandoning the child... that the child is innocent of.

why should we cater to these kids?

because they grow up and become adults.

because if we do not - each one is going to grow up needing entitlements.... or worse...

yes you'll say we'll cut off the entitlements and build more prisons...

and pay 40K a year to keep them in prison... right?

what's the answer if not emulating Europe and Japan and make sure that 70% kids graduate "proficient" rather than 30%?

 
At 9/15/2011 2:23 PM, Blogger Mr. Econotarian said...

It should be noted that the female Asian mean math score was 583, higher than the male White mean math score of 552. SD was higher for Asian females (125) than White males (104).

 
At 9/15/2011 4:07 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

good point.. and you'll find females in other countries that best our males in science, math, literacy also.

The SAT scores are a symptom of a deeper problem that is reflected by our NAEP and NCLB scores.. which more than likely correlate.

about 1/3 of our kids do fairly well and would rank competitively against other countries.

the next 1/3 are marginal .... probably would qualify for the armed forces...

the last 1/3 are economically disadvantaged, blacks and hispanics and they do badly... and as a result pull down the overall scores...

that's basically what the latest SAT scores are showing.

 
At 9/16/2011 4:19 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Ron, the restricting would have to be on the part of the schools, as far too many parents are disengaged from what their child does at school."

But if you believe that you, and the school are better qualified than parents and students to determine what choices they should make, how can you recommend opening education to market forces, which would give them, as the real customers, total control over their choices?

And, if you know best what courses high school students should take, why do they even have choices that aren't in their own best interest?

 
At 9/16/2011 7:30 AM, Blogger Chris Matheson said...

Ron, for far too long students have been allowed to graduate from high schools with two years of mathematics, a rudimentary grasp of their native tongue, no real knowledge of their own history, and a very low understanding of scientific concepts. I should have stated what I said differently: require two years or more of foreign language; four years of mathematics; four years of English; four years of history; four years of science; one year of economics; one year of political science/civics; at least one year of writing (separate from English); and I would also suggest a course in research methods. By doing this you are restricting their choices (based upon what is currently available) and you better preparing our youth for the future.

Some of what I suggest has come to pass due to NCLB legislation, but it is still far too easy to graduate from the typical public high school in our country. In my current position I have the opportunity to work with both international and US students and there is simply no comparison the vast majority of the time--foreign students are much better prepared for the rigors of top notch university education. In the United States we accept math illiteracy, whereas we would never accept the same for reading. We need minimum national standards for what constitutes a proper high school education/diploma. When I say open the industry to market forces I mean allow schools to specialize in certain fields, provided they meet the standards established. For example, currently we have the majority of schools in our country attempting to be everything to every student. This is a recipe for disaster and we know it does not work, but we persist in this approach (most often because of the NFT and the NEA)and expect things to get better. Allow schools to focus on business classes for their electives, a greater emphasis on science, math, writing, etc.

I work at an inner-city K-12 school that has been recognized as one of America's best high schools and this is the approach we follow. We have a hierarchy of subjects: English, Math, Spanish, Science, and Social Studies (in this order) and we have witnessed amazing results when you combine a challenging curriculum and high expectations for academic achievement and behavior. In a very short time we changed the paradigm our staff and students had of education and we created a culture of achievement in a city not known for a focus on academics. However, we are not for everybody; some students would be better served by attending a school that didn't focus so strongly on mathematics. This is where the market comes into play.

 

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