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No Educator Left Behind:
Girls and Science

No Educator Left Behind is a series providing answers from the U.S. Department of Education to questions about the federal No Child Left Behind Act and how it will affect educators. If you have a question about No Child Left Behind, send an e-mail to Ellen Delisio, and we will submit your question to the Department of Education.


Are there any initiatives to encourage girls' interest in science?


Thank you for your question, and for your commitment to your students. America needs more teachers like you. Like you, we are making every effort to get boys and girls alike excited about science. In May 2006, we teamed up with Girl Scouts USA and Sally Ride Science to hold the first National Summit on the Advancement of Girls in Math and Science. More than 100 female entrepreneurs, scientists, and other professionals spoke of ways to get girls interested in these subjects and keep them interested as they grow older.

For our part, I have asked the Department of Education to conduct a comprehensive review of the existing research on this issue. We're analyzing our groundbreaking decades-long longitudinal study of student learning to determine what works for girls. And our popular online Teacher-to-Teacher workshops are gathering success stories and best practices from our nation's top teachers.

Another important tool is the No Child Left Behind Act. It is designed to bring all students up to grade-level proficiency in math and reading. The early data shows that it's working. According to the Nation's Report Card, math scores for younger students have reached all-time highs, with a nine-point rise for female 9-year-olds and a five-point rise for female 13-year-olds since 1999. Students who can add and subtract and multiply and divide from a young age are better prepared to apply that knowledge to scientific coursework.

In fact, fourth-grade students nationwide saw gains in science scores across the board, with the lowest-performing students making the most progress. We will be adding science assessments to No Child Left Behind for the 2007-08 school year.

As we look for solutions, I would recommend reaching out to young girls in various ways -- perhaps by holding classroom "science bees" pitting teams of boys versus girls, or assigning biographies of great scientists that avid readers will enjoy. I wish you and your class the best of luck.

Read previous questions and answers in our No Educator Left Behind archive.