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How Elementary School Teachers' Biases Can Discourage Girls From Math and Science

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A teacher helping a student in math.

A new study has found that the biases of elementary school teachers have a profound and lingering effect on whether girls pursue math and science studies.


The biases of elementary school teachers have a profound effect on whether or not girls pursue studies in math and science, suggests a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Beginning in 2002, NBER researchers began following three groups of Israeli students from sixth grade through the end of high school. Students were given two exams covering multiple subjects, one that was graded by their teachers and another one that was graded by outsiders who did not know the students. The researchers found girls outscored boys in math when graded by outsiders, but this was reversed when they were scored by their teachers, an effect that was not seen in other subjects such as English and Hebrew.

The effects of the biased grading showed up in junior high and high school, with those girls who had been underscored by their teachers being much less likely to pursue advanced math and science courses than the boys who had been scored better.

"The most surprising and I think important finding in the paper is that a biasing teacher affects the work choices students make and whether to study math and science years later," says co-author Edith Sand.

From The New York Times
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