For the first time, a federal test measured tech skills for America's students—and the girls handily beat the boys in nearly every category, per US News & World Report. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress engineering and technology exam, given in 2014 to 21,500 eighth-graders from 840 schools, 45% of female students were proficient in tech skills, compared to 42% of male students, Fortune reports. But they did even better on questions that involved communication and collaboration (involving troubleshooting and coming up with solutions; girls earned a 5-point lead here) and communication technology (a 6-point lead in an area that measured familiarity with software and systems). "We did not expect this pattern, and the pattern does seem to be pretty clear from the data," says Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics.
Carr says the gap between females and males was surprising, since boys tend to do better on math and science achievement tests, as well as seem more into engineering and tech jobs, per this year's US News/Raytheon STEM Index. Except for Asians, the gender difference existed even parsed by race: White females surpassed white males by 4 points, black females enjoyed a 5-point lead, and Hispanic females came in 2 points better than males. The reason for the interactive test, as noted by the Wall Street Journal: to gauge how US students will do when they're sent out into today's technologically advanced world. One not-so-great result: Just 43% of the students tested as technologically literate. The exam is set to land on eighth-graders' desks again in 2018. (Intel dropped its sponsorship of a nationwide STEM contest in high schools.)