According to results from the NAEP exam, also called the Nation's Report Card, American eighth-grade girls were found to outperform their male peers in technology and engineering literacy tests.
Overall, girls were found to score three points higher than boys. This information is a reversal of gender expectations, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as boys tend to score higher than girls do in math and science testing.
The test is the first of its kind and was administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2014. The results offer a window into how well American students are performing as technology continually changes around them.
Female students were also found to outperform their male peers on questions pertaining to communication and collaboration, scoring 5 points higher, and with information and communication technology, scoring six points higher.
"We did not expect this pattern and the pattern does seem to be pretty clear from the data," said Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, a data arm of the Department of Education that evaluated the test results. "Overall it looks like girls have the ability and critical thinking skills to succeed in the fields of technology and engineering, and that's worth noting."
In addition, 45% of girls scored proficient or higher on the exam in comparison with 42% of boys.
In terms of race, white girls scored an average of 162 points out of 300, with white boys scoring an average of 158 points. Black girls averaged 131 points, and black boys earned 126 points. Meanwhile, Hispanic and Asian girls were found to be on par with their male peers, reports Erik Ortiz for NBC News.
The test also uncovered an educational gap, as students from wealthier backgrounds tended to score higher than students from poorer communities.
The test also discovered that students who participated in after-school activities that were focused on design and systems, such as a robotics club, or spent time creating their own design concepts typically scored higher than their peers who did not. In-school learning pertaining to technology and societal issues also resulted in higher scores. Students who believed they could perform various technology and engineering-related tasks also tended to perform better than those who did not, reports Lauren Camera for US News.
A portion of the exam required students to use laptops in order to interact with scenario-based tasks and solve real-world problems. Problems included the issue of pollution that had been caused by a population growth in Chicago, the creation of a safe and inexpensive bike path, and pushing for a new teen recreation center.
In all, around 43% of all eighth-graders have the skills needed to solve technology-based problems.
The test was taken by close to 21,500 students in over 800 public and private schools across the country and was introduced at a time when American students are being shown to lag behind their international peers. According to current plans, the test will be administered again in 2018.