OMAHA, Neb. — Girls outscored boys overall on Nebraska’s ACT exam, according to last year’s state test results.
Nebraska administered the standardized college admissions test to every junior in the state’s public schools last year.
Girls earned an average composite score of 19.6 on the 36-point exam last year, while boys scored an average 19.1, the Omaha World-Herald reported . Girls matched boys in science and surpassed them in reading and English.
Boys lead in math by half a point, according to initial scores for the 2016-17 junior class.
One year of data doesn’t make a trend, and many students likely retook the test to improve their scores. Evaluating test performance is complicated by factors including online versus paper testing, or simply having a smart, hard-working group.
“The gender gap has been closing, which is excellent,” said Wendy Smith, associate director of the University of Nebraska’s Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education. “But if you break it down others ways, like kids who get free and reduced lunch versus those who don’t, kids who are white versus those who aren’t, you still see some pretty big gaps.”
Across Nebraska, students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch, a poverty indicator, scored about 3 points below the average in English, 2 points below in math and 3 points below in science.
All students have room to improve, with less than a third of the 22,300 students who took the exam meeting ACT benchmarks to predict success in typical college freshman math, science and English courses.
Slightly higher percentages of boys hit the benchmarks for math and science.
There’s still work to be done for girls in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics field, said Julia McQuillan, a sociology professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Women turning great scores into STEM careers face many barriers and need encouragement from teachers and parents, she said.
McQuillan said the bottom line “is the ability is there, and there’s a lot of potential interest.”
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com