Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Panel to Study `Gender Equity' in Science and in Math Classes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Panel to Study `Gender Equity' in Science and in Math Classes

Article excerpt

Parkway schools need to do a better job of helping girls perform as well as boys in math and science courses, according to a recent report.

Richard Lodholz, coordinator of mathematics education, said there was a difference between the performance levels of male and female students in the district's math classes.

Lodholz based his conclusions on data showing that - although female students do as well as, or surpass, their male counterparts in most subject areas - boys outnumber girls 57 percent to 43 percent in advanced math classes, and girls tend to be placed in lower-level classes.

To address the problem, the district has formed a Gender Equity Task Force.

Paul Delanty, director of curriculum and instruction, said the problem has less to do with what is taught and more to do with how advanced math concepts, such as calculus, are learned.

"Calculus isn't getting in the way," Delanty said. "It's how kids approach calculus that's getting in the way."

Jack Weyforth, school board president, agreed and said the issue is one of "refocusing the expectations" for both genders.

"The expectation is lower for girls," Weyforth said.

One way of raising expectations is to provide training for elementary school teachers, to make them aware of attitudes and actions that might reinforce low expectations among female students.

Through training, teachers might recognize behaviors that could lead to girls believing they are less able to understand math and science, officials said.

But Weyforth said another way of addressing the issue could, ironically, be to use the products of math and science to help students understand their own abilities. "I think the biggest headway is going to be made through technology, because a computer doesn't know whether you're a boy or a girl," Weyforth said.

The district is currently teaching computer skills by mixing computer education into other courses; the process is called infusion. Through infusion, Weyforth said, all students are exposed to technology - regardless of the subject they're studying.

School officials are working to expand the present computer education program, bolstered by passage of a $49.5 million bond issue in April. About $15 million will be used for computers and other high-tech instructional items. …

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