Photograph by Robert Daly—Getty Images

Is this the beginning of the end of the pipeline problem?

By Valentina Zarya
May 17, 2016

The latest evidence that it’s time to discard old stereotypes about men and women: Girls outperformed their male classmates on the first-ever federal assessment of U.S. students’ tech skills.

According to results from the 2014 Technology Engineering Literacy Assessment, a test designed to track students’ “technology and engineering literacy,” 45% of eighth-grade girls are proficient in tech skills, compared to 42% of boys.

The assessment, which was conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), tested students across three content areas and three “practices.” Girls scored an average of six points better on information and communication technology, which tested familiarity with “software and systems used for accessing, creating, and communicating information, and for facilitating creating expression.” A sample information and communication technology task asked students to create a website to promote a teen recreational center.

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Girls also outperformed boys when it came to developing solutions and achieving goals—one example: troubleshooting a malfunctioning device—as well as communicating and collaborating, in which they were required to tackle situations like adjusting content based on what they knew about an audience.

Both genders scored about the same in understanding technological tools (e.g. selecting appropriate digital tools to support a specific purpose).

While girls fared slightly better than boys, the overall results of the test are nothing to celebrate: Less than half of the 21,500 eighth-graders who participated are considered technologically literate. The average score hovered around 150, while the highest possible score was 300.

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