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GREATER EQUITY IN STEM: Common Core State Standards Can Close Gender Gaps in STEM Fields, According to New CAP/AAUW Publication

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“Nothing should stand in the way of girls and women succeeding in STEM classes or careers. The Common Core will help build powerful academic foundation for all students," said Martin.

A new fact sheet from the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the American Association of University Women (AAUS) outlines how the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) can close achievement gaps in math and science between boys and girls—especially girls from low-income backgrounds and girls of color—with better access to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses in grade school and better prepare them for college and a career that pays competitive wages.

“High expectations and rigorous standards—including those embodied by the Common Core—are essential to raising student achievement. Success in STEM fields is crucial not only for students themselves, but for our national economic outlook,” said Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at CAP. “Nothing should stand in the way of girls and women succeeding in STEM classes or careers. The Common Core will help build powerful academic foundation for all students.”

8thGrade Table

The fact sheet, “For Women and Girls, the Common Core Is a Step Toward Greater Equity,” includes a variety of statistics showing the disparities in achievement between boys and girls—and between white girls and girls of color. For example, on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, 39 percent of white girls scored at or above proficient in math, compared to only 9 percent of black girls and 13 percent of Hispanic girls, as shown in the image to the right.

Girls and students of color also take Advanced Placement exams for computer science, physics, and calculus at lower rates and pass less frequently than boys, the fact sheet notes. Female students are also less likely to major in science, math, engineering, and computer and information sciences than boys, instead pursuing majors in lower-paying fields such as health care and education. Specifically, women make up 88 percent of graduates in health care and 81 percent of graduates in education while they account for only 18 percent of graduates in engineering and engineering technology and 19 percent in computer and information sciences.

By exposing girls to STEM courses at an earlier age, the CCSS “allow girls the opportunity to seize STEM learning opportunities while in grade school, pursue a diverse set of college majors, and to obtain jobs that command higher salaries,” the fact sheet notes.

“Bias and stereotypes prevent girls from performing well in STEM, pursuing STEM majors, and ultimately working in high-paying STEM fields,” said Lisa Maatz, AAUW vice president of government relations. “Our research has found that one way to mitigate stereotypes’ damaging effects is through explicit and transparent standards, such as the Common Core. The Common Core ensures that all students are being taught the standards they need to succeed.”

“For Women and Girls, the Common Core Is a Step Toward Greater Equity” is available at http://ampr.gs/1wInzzr.

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