Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Female Edge in Completing College

Part 3 on gender. Prior posts archived here.

One of the most striking educational trends in recent history is the growing gender gap in college completion. 65% of all bachelor’s degrees were awarded to men in 1960; by 2005, women received 58% of all bachelor’s degrees. Gender disparities are even greater among some minority groups, with women earning 66% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to African-Americans, 61% of those awarded to Hispanics, 60% of those awarded to Native-Americans, versus 57% of those awarded to whites.

What's going on here? A paper by economist Claudia Goldin and colleagues takes the long view, showing us that women were almost achieving parity in college completion with men between 1900-1930. The male advantage grew in the wake of World War II and was at its largest in 1947. But women caught up to men in 1982 and have leapfrogged over their male peers since then. Studying high school graduating classes from 1957-1992, Goldin found that a decreasing math test score gap and girls' increased course loads in math and science contribute to the growing female advantage. While men took 1.39 math courses for ever 1 math course taken by women in 1957, by 1992, there was no gender difference in course-taking patterns.

Goldin gives us the long view, and sociologists Claudia Buchmann and Thomas DiPrete take a closer look at these patterns. (Paper available here.) They provide a nice overview of potential factors explaining the growing female advantage, which include increasing incentives to get an education (because of a greater increase in returns to women's college education), changes in the ways that parents invest resources among their sons and daughters, and varying effects of family structure on boys and girls (i.e. such that boys are more affected by an absent father than girls).

Here's what they find:
  • For white kids born before the mid-1960s, daughters and sons achieved parity in college completion only in families where both parents were college-educated, while parents with less education seemingly favored sons over daughters.
  • But for kids born after the mid-1960s, the male advantage in less educated families and those with an absent father declined and then entirely reversed.
They also find growing consequences of gender gaps in academic achievement in determining college completion. While it's not new that girls outperform boys in terms of grades and reading scores (they've done so since the 1950s), what is new is the consequence of their superior performance. Girls' advantage in academic performance, coupled with their advantage in non-cognitive skills (i.e. the amount of time they spend on homework - see Brian Jacob's paper here), combine to give them an advantage in completing college. Finally, Buchmann and DiPrete also find that having a dad at home helps black males more than white males.

I've been writing primarily about education policy, and I wrote about gender patterns this week to draw attention to an obvious but important point - that is, broad social trends that happen outside of schools affect how kids do inside of them. This is not to say that schools don't play a role in exacerbating or attenuating gender gaps - surely they can and do - but that schools are not insulated from shifts that are happening within families and in the culture at large.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Monster Mash: The Education Edition

Don't miss David Bellel's edu-montage to the tune of "Monster Mash," which brings together Halloween edu-parade pics and the fantastic Photoshop work he's done (my favorite is Million Dollar Diane - check it out here - but the whole slideshow is a must-see.)

Thanks for putting this together, David!

Move Over K-Fed and Britney!

We'll finish off Halloween week with a treat. Think of it as the eduwonkette analog to eduwonk's Friday Fish Porn.

Alexander Russo of This Week in Education lamented sharing a pod with Andy Rotherham, and put in another request for K-Fed. So here we are, Alexander.

Just as K-Fed and Britney can't be in the same place together, Andy and Alexander appear to have a separation agreement - see eduwonk as Britney here.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cool people you should know: Claudia Buchmann and Claudia Goldin

Plenty of folks will tell you what to name your kids if you want them to assume particular stations in life - so here's my advice: if you want your daughter to be an exceptional social scientist who studies gender, go with Claudia.

Claudia Buchmann (left) is a sociologist at Ohio State, and Claudia Goldin (right) is an economist at Harvard. Both have written recently on the growing female advantage in completing college - see my post on Friday for their cool findings, and the links above for their papers.

More Girls = More Learning

Does the gender composition of a classroom affect how much both girls and boys learn? A new paper by economists Victor Lavy and Analia Schlosser says yes. Here's what they find:

* Both boys' and girls' academic achievement improves when classrooms include a higher proportion of girls.

* A higher proportion of female peers lowers the level of classroom disruption and violence, improves inter-student and student-teacher relationships as well as students' overall satisfaction in school, and lessens teachers' fatigue.

These findings confirm those of an earlier paper by economist Caroline Hoxby, who finds that both boys and girls perform better in math when there are higher proportions of girls in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NYC's Wylde Great School Wars

As many fellow bloggers have already pointed out, Kathy Wylde of the Partnership for New York City committed a tactical error of magnificient proportions by wasting precious New York Post op-ed space discrediting one of our most thoughtful commentators on education policy, Diane Ravitch (space the Post could have filled with clever headlines like, "Want to Eat Me? Head to New Jersey!").

From Elizabeth Green of the NY Sun, we learn that Wylde was shooting straight from the Bloomberg-Klein hip. Apparently, it's now kosher to keep "files" on the opposition. Wylde made use of a 7-page Department of Education document entitled "Diane Ravitch: Then and Now." From the folks that brought you performance pay, this is what the young bucks at Tweed are hard at work on?

This move was foreshadowed at the NYC Research Partnership's kickoff conference, where Klein reportedly shocked an audience full of researchers by ominously commenting that there are "good and bad education researchers" and insinuating that only the "good researchers" (people who will rubber stamp Klein's policies?) should have access to the Partnership's data. As the article related, this response to dissent is the problem:

Ms. Ravitch said her most serious concern with the Bloomberg administration is the way it responds to dissent. She said that many educators who are professionally reliant on support from the city, through grants or contracts, fear voicing any differing opinions.

"It's a very sad situation, when people don't feel free to speak their mind," she said.

The kids of NYC are very lucky that Diane Ravitch has the courage and conviction to speak out against an administration that appears to be more concerned with spin than figuring out what works for New York City kids.

Soapy Maggie Leads off the Halloween Edu-Parade!

Steve Barr: A Green Dot

See explanation here.

Will Michelle Rhee Part the Potomac?

From iPod to aPod: Andy Rotherham and Alexander Russo

Can someone explain to me what this beef was about? (See here and here.) And Alexander, I owe you a K-Fed.

Was that Armstrong Williams at the NCLB Signing?

I Want You!

Mr. Eli Burns

We're Off to See the Wizard!

P-Vall as A-Rod

Dr. Herbert and Mr. Hyde

On October 2nd, Bob Herbert writes that we must evaluate teachers based on their students' achievement (i.e. test scores); on October 9th, he writes that NCLB is a high-stakes flim-flam. Is anyone else confused?

Roland Wonka

Candy, treats, and dollars for all of those NYC kids who pass their tests and get good grades.

Randi the Vampire Slayer

Darth Klein

The Emperor Strikes Back

And we'll finish it off with Michael Bloomberg, folks. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Barbie Dream House Effect? Elementary School Girls and Math

In 1994, a talking teen Barbie proclaimed, “Math class is tough!” and launched yet another chapter in the wars over girls and math.

There are three general areas where debate is ongoing – 1) when gender differences in math performance emerge, 2) whether there are gender differences in extreme mathematical achievement (either very high or low – the Larry Summers debacle), and 3) whether these trends have changed over time.

A new paper by Berkeley sociologist Andrew Penner sheds light on the first two issues. Studying math achievement in elementary school, he finds the following:

* There are differences in extreme achievement as early as the fall of kindergarten. Boys do better than girls at the top of the distribution (i.e. if we compare girls at the 95th percentile with boys at the 95th percentile). However, girls have an advantage at the bottom of the distribution - the bottom 40% of girls perform better than the bottom 40% of boys.

* The male advantage between high-performing girls and high-performing boys is largest among middle and upper class families. (hence, the Barbie dream house effect?)

* By the end of third grade, boys outperform girls in math not just at the top, but throughout the entire distribution. What this means is that if we look at the girls in the 5th percentile of the distribution versus boys at the 5th percentile of the distribution, boys will have higher math achievement, and this continues to be true when we compare the 95th percentile of boys with the 95th percentile of girls.

While Penner’s study is not about why these differences exist, he cites family processes as worthy of more attention for understanding differences in high achievement between girls and boys from advantaged families. He also makes the important point that any policy efforts to narrow these gaps need to address early elementary education; in the past, much attention has focused on course-taking patterns at the junior and high school levels.

Any experiences/thoughts from the parent, teacher, or personal level welcome in the comments below. Again, I’ll do a sum-up post of comments sometime later this week.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

This week: Gender and education

This week, millions of American girls will don princess costumes on Halloween. Yet with the exception of the Princess Wars, gender doesn't get much attention in education.

This week I'll write on the most striking educational trend of the last few decades - the growing female advantage in educational achievement and attainment - and discuss what's changed, and what hasn't.

: Girls and Math

: More Girls=More Laerning? The Effects of Gender Composition

: The Female Edge in Completing College