Women’s Group: ‘Common Core Will Help Close STEM Gender Gap’

By Liana Loewus — February 20, 2014 1 min read
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The American Association of University Women came out in support of the Common Core State Standards yesterday.

And while education groups have been announcing their common-core allegiances left and right, what’s interesting in this case is that the organization cites the need to close the STEM gender gap as a major reason for its support.

The AAUW blog post states:

Students who graduate from high school in states with lower math standards may be ill prepared for the rigors of college and science, technology, and math careers. For girls, this disadvantage, combined with stereotype threat, can mean shying away from STEM fields completely. The Common Core will help close that achievement gap by ensuring that all students in the United States are held to the same expectations in reading and math.

Studies on stereotype threat show that, for instance, a girl will perform worse on a math test if she is reminded right before taking it of the false stereotype that girls aren’t good at math.

Erin Prangley, AAUW’s associate director of government relations, said in an interview that stereotype threat is a major barrier for girls in the early STEM classes during college. If a girl is dealing with stereotype threat and also hailing from a state with less rigorous standards, it’s a “double whammy.” Prangley said the common core will help set even benchmarks in the states and also give girls “certainty” about the expectations they’ll need to meet once they get to the university level.

It’s a somewhat novel—at least to me—argument. However, Sandra Stotsky, a professor of education at the University of Arkansas, has been saying that the common-core math standards are too low and don’t actually prepare students for STEM at selective colleges. So I assume she’d beg to differ.

As always, feel free to weigh in below.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.