To the Editor:
In his Commentary “Where the Girls Aren’t” (June 18, 2008), Leonard Sax levels criticism at the American Association of University Women, saying that our latest research report, “Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education,” misses the point. Specifically, Dr. Sax believes that the AAUW should have looked at how “girls are losing out in physics and computer science.”
We have long supported promoting and strengthening science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (or STEM) education, especially for girls and other underrepresented populations, and are currently a partner in the National Science Foundation-funded National Girls Collaborative Project, aimed at increasing opportunities for girls in STEM subjects. In addition, the AAUW has published two research reports in recent years on the topic of girls in STEM fields.
The purpose of “Where the Girls Are,” however, was not to look at gender disparities in the STEM fields, but to address the persistent myth that girls’ successes may have come at the expense of boys. From standardized math and reading test scores in the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades, to SAT and ACT scores, to high school and college graduation rates, “Where the Girls Are” demonstrates that, on average, girls and boys are doing better than ever in terms of educational achievement. Girls and boys are succeeding together.
The AAUW doesn’t see the single-sex-class movement as the panacea Dr. Sax suggests it is, because the research is inconclusive. Some single-sex classes are very successful, while others are unsuccessful, just as with coed classes. And while we respect the opinions of people like Betty Raskoff Kazmin, the Oregon former math teacher who wrote in her July 16, 2008, letter to the editor that she supports single-sex classes, we believe that when elements of a good education are present—qualified teachers, equitable teaching practices, sufficient funding, and focused academic curriculum—girls and boys both succeed.
AAUW Educational Foundation
The writer was one of the authors of “Where the Girls Are.”
A version of this article appeared in the July 30, 2008 edition of Education Week as AAUW: ‘Girls and Boys Are Succeeding Together’