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The growing achievement gap

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Updated: 11/21/2013 6:47 pm
AMORY, Miss. (WTVA) - Students in a U.S. History class at Amory High School examine Americans through the generations, from the birth of the country to what's happening today.

That includes the many changes in the female population.

Teacher Masha Laney said, "We look at how women have evolved over time, the role of women, and expectations of women. We look at how women have set higher standards."

Research shows, especially over the last few decades, that female evolution translates into a growing achievement gap between male and female students.

For example, one national study found girls outperform boys in achieving A's. The number almost doubled in the 2000's from 3.2 percent to 5.4 percent.

The number of girls thinking they'll work in a professional job that requires a post-graduate degree doubled in 20 years. In the 1980's it was 15 percent but by the 2000's had jumped to 27 percent.

In the 1980's almost one-fourth of girls expected to work in clerical fields. Today that number is three percent.

Superintendent Tony Cook said, "Let's face it. For young boys its not cool to be the smartest one in class usually. That's not always the case but many times it is. I also think it goes back to the fact young men are playing sports and are doing things that take their minds away from academics."

Students we talked to say there is a clear difference in the goals most male and female students have in school.

Some young girls already have a career plan in place.

Junior Kanisha Howard said, "I hope to go to Ole Miss where I can study cardiology."

Some young guys say they're keeping their options open.

Junior Wes Colbert said, "I've thought about a lot of career choices. That includes anything from math and science to English. There's a lot of different options out there."

The superintendent is quick to point out this is not an issue about intelligence when it comes to boys versus girls.

Cook said, "You see just as many women in the doctors and lawyers professions as young men. They realize there's a lot of money out there to be made, and I think they've become more focused on it. The young men have kind of maintained a level, and the young ladies have stepped it up. I think the gap has become a little bit wider."

For teacher Masha Laney, challenging all her students daily remains her goal regardless of their future plans.

Laney said, "I want them to do well in my class, in high school, and graduate. I want them to just be able to enjoy life."
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