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Girls outperform boys in writing because they get more opportunities to practice the skill in school, according to researchers who conducted an international assessment.

The test of students in 14 nations found that, in all countries, girls' writing achievement was higher than boys' on all tasks. In most cases, the differences were small, with the gap between girls' and boys' performance in the United States among the smallest.

The differences are largely due to girls' tendency to take more humanities courses, and thus receive more opportunities than boys to write in class, the researchers argued. Moreover, girls were found to perform better in classes led by women, who are more likely to be language-arts teachers.

Teaching practices also contribute to writing performance, the study concluded. Students in lower tracks, who performed poorly on the assessment, are more likely than others to spend their instructional time on mechanical drills, rather than on writing practice, it found.

The assessment, conducted in 1984-85 by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, tested 43,563 students in 1,898 schools. A complete report on the assessment is expected to be released in July.

Montgomery County, Md., school officials admitted last week that they could not explain a "statistically significant" drop in standardized-test scores among black 3rd graders.

Although the test performance of the county's black children had been steadily improving, average scores dropped by nine points this year.

An emergency report on the situation said that the drop was probably not a mere statistical fluke, since the same group of children also tested poorly last year.

Vol. 08, Issue 36

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