Interesting Educational Trends and their Implications for Girls

By Christina Vogt

In reviewing some of the latest articles in major world newspapers, I came across some interesting points that indicate that girls' are losing many of their previous gains in educational reform measures. Key Question: Why do girls and women have to continue to struggle for equality  in a world that is supposedly devoting  so much time and effort to raise their status?

"Women who make up 46 percent of the work force, account for only about 28 percent of high-tech jobs, according to the National Science Foundation. Yet a recent survey of 500 girls aged 15 to 18 by Andersen, the consulting firm, held little hope. Health care, teaching, art and music were the most coveted careers of those questioned, while computer services tied with architecture and politics for 11th place. Part of the lack of interest in computer-related careers may stem from what the girls think makes someone successful: 28 percent said being happy was most important, while making money and having power ranked last. In other words, dot-coms with their potential for striking it rich hold little appeal." (The New York Times) NOTE: In the latest employment figures, women's entry into high-tech jobs is falling." Key Question: Are parents raising young girls who are not cognizant of the fact that they will probably not escape working, and in fact, may be primary or perhaps sole breadwinner in their homes?

"Defying conventional wisdom, high school girls in California public schools are enrolling in most math and science courses at higher rates than boys, according to a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California. The subjects in which girls lag behind are physics and computer science and these subjects prepare young people for some of today's highest-paying and most in-demand professions." (LA Times) Key Question: Will they be encouraged to continue their science studies in the university where the payoffs begin?

Bush's new educational reform plan calls for continued ongoing assessment. There has been a growing trend toward standards based reform not only locally, but also on a national and international scale. These new 90s Standards Based Reforms, such as those advocated by organizations such as NAEP and TIMSS are purported to be "world class" measures of achievement raising the bar in subjects such as math. This movement emphasizes that while we are losing ground academically, global competition is heating up. Therefore, we have to produce educated citizenry to remain at the "top". However, while females often outperform males in their math and science classrooms, they do not perform as well on standardized tests. Key Question: Who will come out on the top?

Five years ago in Britain, both sexes were equal in standardized math testing. Despite the recent spate of concerns that the boys are falling behind the girls in education, in England, boys have pulled ahead of girls on the TIMSS math test. Now, England has the widest gap worldwide except for Tunisia and Iran. In fact, in all 38 countries, the boys are now ahead again with the narrowest gaps in Australia and Canada, which have continued to initiate girl-friendly programs. Key Question: Why is it such a problem if girls outperform the boys?

In its broadest sense, the issue of testing fairness addresses four important topics: absence of bias (non-test performance is comparable across culture or gender), procedural fairness (gives the opportunity to "show what one knows"; the test is graded fairly), opportunity to learn (all students have been exposed to the information on the test beforehand) and equality of results (results are the same across groups). Gender and culture fair tests actually became an issue in the 1980s; however the definition of what constitutes fair has been expanded to include not only the test itself, but what happens before, during and after the testing process. Key Question: Who will insure equity measures are enforced during Bush's new educational reform movement, which requires ongoing standardized testing?