Eighth Grade Girls Score Higher than Boys in Tech and Engineering on Newest NAEP Test

On the first national assessment of students’ technology and engineering abilities, eighth grade girls scored three points higher on average than eighth grade boys.

Students who were eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) scored 28 points lower than students who were not eligible for NSLP.

Those who lived in suburbs, towns and rural areas scored better than those who lived in cities.

And, not surprisingly, students whose parents graduated from college scored higher than students whose parents did not finish high school.

These were some of the findings in the first brand-new test in a decade from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as “the nation’s report card.” The Technology and Engineering Literacy exam (TEL) was administered between January 2014 and March 2014. Approximately 21,500 eighth grade students from 840 schools across the nation participated in the exam.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Education, administers the NAEP. This tech and engineering exam was the first completely digital assessment of the NAEP. NCES plans to administer all of its tests digitally by 2017.

In a prepared statement, Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the NCES, said the results may  indicate that “girls are better able to understand and evaluate technology and then use it to solve problems and achieve goals.”

However, across both sexes, socioeconomic factors were clearly important in the results, as were disabilities and whether English was a first or second language.  

Here are some other findings in the TEL:

  • White students scored significantly better in tech and engineering than black and Hispanic students. White students had an overall TEL score of 160, versus 128 for black students and 138 for Hispanic students.

  • There were no major differences in scores between white and Asian students. In fact, Asian students scored four points better than whites in the subcategory of “information and communication technology.”

  • Students with disabilities scored 39 points lower than students without disabilities.

  • Students who identified as English language learners (ELL) scored 44 points lower than students who were not ELL.

  • Eighty-seven percent reported figuring out why something was not working in order to fix it outside of school work.

  • Fifty percent reported using a computer to create, edit or organize digital media at least once a month in school.

Data tables summarizing the TEL results are freely available for download on the NAEP website.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].