When Mass Media Fail: Blaming Teachers
One recent example comes from the NPR in the United States. The report entitled Hard Evidence: Teachers' Unconscious Biases Contribute To Gender Disparity talks about a research conducted in schools in Israel.
|Above copied from NPR|
I teach chemistry and parts of my test require calculations. It is difficult for me to see how my bias can affect how such a test is graded. In my opinion, this likewise applies to elementary mathematics where correct answers do not really leave that much room to subjectivity. Perhaps, these exams have partial credit, but even in such cases, guidelines on how to award partial credit can be made objective.
It is also important to note the magnitude of these differences especially when compared to the standard errors (also shown in the table in parenthesis). A previous post in this blog, Insights from Gender Differences, summarizes what gender studies on education have really shown:
At the early ages, there are cognitive and verbal differences between boys and girls. And when boys and girls grow up, there are likewise differences in experiences. Looking at these differences allows us to see the possible variations among children in general, regardless of gender. One simply has to take note that differences are usually found as mere fractions of a standard deviation. This means that there is indeed a great deal of overlap between the two genders. From a different perspective, this implies that variations within a gender are actually larger than the differences between boys and girls.Lastly, NPR although it mentions the correlation found between parental education level and the chance that a girl would choose higher levels of math in secondary school, the title of the report simply does not do justice to this other perhaps even more important part of the study. The study finds that the gender disparity in math and sciences disappears if only children from families whose father and mother have comparable educational attainment are considered. As the study shows, this is even a stronger correlation.
Teachers may not be perfect. And there are indeed well founded concerns, but discouraging girls from doing more math by giving lower scores is clearly not.