- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

U.S. eighth-graders today have a better command of technology and engineering concepts than 2014’s eighth-graders, according to an annual national education assessment.

“We’re extremely encouraged by these positive results,” said Beverly Perdue, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board. “This assessment is important because it asks students to demonstrate skills that are crucial for success in our rapidly changing world.”

The findings of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, released Tuesday, also showed that girls’ scores improved more than boys’, which remained relatively unchanged.

“It’s encouraging to see girls continue to perform so well on analyzing and solving real-world technological problems,” said Peggy G. Carr, associate commissioner for assessments at the National Center for Education Statistics, the federal office that overseas student testing.

Known as “the nation’s report card,” the assessment debuted its technology and engineering literacy component in 2014. It tests students on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts and how those topics affect daily life. It includes multimedia elements and scenario-based tasks that require students to solve problems such as building bike paths and creating museum exhibits.

This was the first year that technology and engineering were tested since 2014. The data show national trends, instead of state-by-state results.

On average, girls scored 5 points higher than boys on a 300-point scale. Girls especially outperformed boys in communication and collaboration.

Analysts noted that while 61% of male students reported taking at least one technology or engineering class, such as coding or robotics, only 53% of female students reported doing the same in 2018.

“Although girls are outperforming boys, boys are taking at a higher rate more engineering classes,” Ms. Carr said. “They are outscoring boys, whether or not they take a class.”

Educations experts said the latest findings suggest a decade-long campaign to boost student participation in STEM courses is succeeding, with almost half of students (46%) at or above NAEP proficiency for technology and engineering subjects, compared to 43% in 2014.

The campaign to nurture the budding interest of those girls to meet the corporate world’s seemingly insatiable demand for high-skilled workers in related well-paying jobs has drawn the money and attention from a wide spectrum of influencers, from tech giant Microsoft’s philanthropic research and initiatives to supermodel Karlie Kloss’ hands-on computer coding camp, The Associated Press reported.

Progress also was reported among many other groups of students, with a higher percentage 5% of black students scoring at or above proficiency in 2018 than in 2014, and white students up by 2% and Asian students by 6% from the last round.

Additionally, average scores for students whose parents did not finish high school increased by 6 percentage points; scores for students eligible for the National School Lunch Program increased by 3 points; and scores for the children of college-educated parents increased by 3 points.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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