Research

8th Grade Girls Beat Boys in Engineering and Tech Tests

American girls' scores were higher than boys' scores in the latest national technology and engineering literacy (TEL) exam, an assessment that asks eighth-grade students to solve real-world technology and engineering problems. The 2018 results, recently published by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), found that female students made gains in their average overall TEL score, while the average score for male students remained the same as it was in 2014.

However, across the board, a higher percentage of eighth graders came in at or above the NAEP "proficient" level compared to 2014: 46 percent versus 43 percent. Also, compared to 2014, a higher percentage of students in grade 8 reported taking at least one TEL-related course.

Compared to 2014, there was a two-point increase in the average overall TEL score for 2018 (152 versus 150 on a scale of zero to 300).

Among female test-takers, the average score was 151 in 2014 and 155 in 2018, while for male students it was 149 and 150, respectively.

As part of the assessment, students were asked to respond to questions about their learning experiences in tech and engineering. For instance, they were asked whether they had taken any tech-related or engineering class or any that involved learning to use, program or build computers. Fifty-seven percent of eighth-graders reported taking at least one such class in 2018, an increase of five percentage points over 2014.

The TEL assessment, an online exam, was administered on laptops between January and March 2018. Each student had 60 minutes to get through the assessment. The national sampling was 15,400 eighth graders from 600 schools. The assessment measured three linked areas — technology and society, design and systems, and information and communication technology — and covered three practices that cut across those content topics: understanding technological principles, developing solutions and achieving goals, and communicating and collaborating. The test used 15 scenario-based tasks and 77 "discrete" questions. For example, in a task named "Andromeda," students were told they were working for a TV network using a website to promote a show about the Andromeda Galaxy. They needed to select a suitable image for the galaxy to place on the website and then obtain permission to use a copyrighted image and properly credit it, following fair use guidelines. While most students (60 percent) could correctly identify the right images to be used legally, and a slight majority (51 percent) identified the right reference style to use for writing a citation, under a third (29 percent) could successfully write a citation that included all of the required copyright information.

The full results, sample questions and related resources are openly available on the NAEP website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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