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Gender Differences in High School Grades: An Exploratory Study

Author(s):
Ekstrom, Ruth B.
Publication Year:
1994
Report Number:
RR-94-25, CBR-94-03
Source:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Report
Page Count:
35
Subject/Key Words:
English, Grades (Scholastic), High School Students, High School and Beyond (HS&B), Mathematics, Performance Factors, Sex Differences

Abstract

This study used the 1980 High School and Beyond data set to examine the variables associated with the grades that college-bound high school sophomores received in English, algebra, and geometry courses. Special concerns included determining if gender differences in high school grades could be explained and how teachers' perceptions of students, student characteristics, and High School and Beyond test scores were related to grades. A model of factors that might affect grades was developed; it included students' background characteristics, general attitudes, curriculum, educational aspirations, attitudes toward school and individual academic subjects, school behaviors, and scores on relevant High School and Beyond tests as well as teachers' perceptions of students. The full models explained 46 percent of the variance in English grades, 42 percent of the variance in algebra grades, and 44 percent of the variance in geometry grades. The full models tended to explain more of the variance in males' than in females' grades, with a more marked difference in English and Algebra 1 than in Algebra 2 or geometry. This suggests that some other variable, not included in the models, may have been affecting grades. Even after controlling for all the variables in the full models, a significant association between gender and course grades remained in English and in Algebra 1; there was no significant relationship between gender and grades in Algebra 2 or in geometry. Teachers' comments were significantly associated with grades for both males and females in English, Algebra 1, and geometry, but they were not significantly associated with males' grades in Algebra 2. Teachers' perceptions of students were significantly associated with gender even after controlling for all the variables in the full models. These findings suggest that teachers may have gender-related expectations for the students in their courses. The High School and Beyond verbal test scores were significantly associated with grades for both females and males in English, and High School and Beyond math test scores were significantly associated with grades in geometry for both males and females. High School and Beyond math test scores were not however consistently associated with grades in algebra. (35pp.)

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