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Julianne Herts and Susan C. Levine

A great deal of research has examined math development in males versus females. Some studies indicate that males do better on standardized tests of mathematics achievement, whereas females get better grades in math class than males. Other studies find no gender differences in math development, or that differences depend on factors such as the type of math problem included on the tests. Further, there is evidence that gender differences in math test performance are not stable over time, with accumulating evidence that these differences are narrowing in more recent cohorts. In addition to evidence concerning sex differences in math grades and test performance, there is evidence that there are sex differences in math attitudes, with females showing higher levels of math anxiety and less confidence in their math ability than males, controlling for their math performance. Additionally, there is evidence that stereotypes exist such that teachers and parents believe that males are better at math than females, even when males and females have comparable levels of math skill. Moreover, when this math stereotype is activated before taking a math test, stereotype threat ensues and female performance is negatively affected. A wide range of factors, including biological differences, sociocultural factors, including stereotypes, and differences in math attitudes and interests, are likely to act in concert to account for male-female differences in mathematics achievement and decisions to enter math-intensive careers.

Article

The ubiquitous use of high stakes tests in K-12 schools in the United States has a deleterious effect on students of color (e.g., Black and Latino). Punitive policies related to test outcomes, such as retention and graduation, have been particularly damaging. In fact, the historical use of tests has been linked to exclusionary and racist motives resulting in discriminatory practices in college admissions while leading to genetic and cultural deficit theories to explain low achievement for students of color. The legacy of these early uses of tests has maintained its adverse presence in today’s educational landscape. National data on grade retention, high school dropout rates, and achievement indicate that students of color are disproportionately penalized by school-based policies resulting in an unequal educational experience. Unfortunately, these trends have been persistent reflecting achievement gaps between White and Asian students and Latino and Black students, and where, in most cases, no meaningful progress in eliminating these gaps has been made. English learners are particularly harmed by these policies and tests since language and opportunity to learn (OTL) concerns persist. Trends of low achievement are attributed to poorly resourced schools, cultural deficit theories employed by school personnel, and the invalid use of tests. Schools could serve students better by employing a curriculum and instruction that is culturally and linguistically relevant, that integrates communities and schools to critically analyze their educational and social-political status and agency thus empowering both for lasting change. Furthermore, teachers need to be empowered to be instructional leaders who critically evaluate their curriculum and instruction so as to educate and liberate students of color.