A Matter of Bias

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A new study found that schoolteachers exhibit some bias when it comes to grading boys and girls, Sky News reported.

Italian researchers compared data from nearly 40,000 test scores from year 10 students in standardized tests of language and math with the grades they achieved in their classroom exams.

While the standardized tests were marked anonymously, the classroom exams were graded by the teachers themselves.

The team saw there was an interesting inconsistency: On the standardized exams, girls excelled in the language tests, while boys performed better in math. But when teachers marked their tests, girls would come out on top in both subjects.

The girls received an average of 6.6 out of 10, while the boys received a 6.2 on language tests. But when it came to math, the girls averaged 6.3, while the boys averaged 5.9 – which is below the passing grade of 6.

The findings also showed that even when a girl and boy were equally apt students, the girls would receive higher grades.

The researcher proposed factors for this bias, including suggestions that teachers subconsciously reward students exhibiting traditionally female behavior, such as quietness and neatness – which makes life easier for the educator.

Another theory is that inflated math grades are intended to encourage girls, who are generally perceived as weaker in this subject.

Even so, the authors cautioned that this bias underscores a systemic problem and can result in wider consequences in areas such as college admissions, job choices, and earnings.

“There is a strong correlation between having higher grades and desirable educational outcomes, such as gaining admission to good colleges or having a lower probability of dropping out of school,” said lead author Ilaria Lievore.

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