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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
STEREOTYPE THREAT? MALE AND FEMALE STUDENTS IN ADVANCED HIGH SCHOOL COURSES
East Carolina University, Department of Sociology, A-420 Brewster, Greenville, NC 27858
Propositions of stereotype threat theory imply that the social consequences of academic distinction in advanced quantitative areas (such as math and the physical sciences) for women may promote the under representation of female students in advanced quantitative academic courses. The hypothesis that female students will be underrepresented in advanced quantitative (honors and advanced placement math and physical science) courses is tested using academic performance and enrollment data for high school students in a "Student/Parent Informed Choice" (open registration) school district in North Carolina. Results show female students to be overrepresented in both advanced verbal/writing intensive (honors and advanced placement English, foreign language, and social science) and advanced quantitative (honors and advanced placement math and physical science) courses compared to their proportion of the student body. More surprisingly, results also indicate female students (compared to male students) to be overrepresented in advanced courses compared to their proportion of high-performing students. Furthermore, as with patterns observed at the district level, additional analysis of enrollment data for the entire state reveals similar results. Taken together, the findings call into question the prevailing presumption that female students continue to be underrepresented in math and physical science courses. Instead, the changing social context within which females and males experience schooling may provide an explanation for the findings.
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