On December 10, 1999, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights approved a report titled “Equal Educational Opportunity and Nondiscrimination for Girls in Advanced Mathematics, Science and Technology Education: Federal Enforcement of Title IX.” Essentially, a very long title for a political manifesto on gender discrimination.

This report was the fifth volume in a series from the Commission’s Equal Educational Opportunity Project, and was originally defeated by the Commission in July 1997. Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry re-submitted this report for the Commission’s consideration in September 1999 when it was clear that the recent Clinton appointees would vote for its adoption. It passed with only two NO votes cast.

The report itself is little more than a compilation of advocacy “research” put forth by the American Association of University Women and its political allies. The report demands stricter federal enforcement of Title IX, expanded powers for the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education, and a new federal oversight agency to ensure that more girls take math, science and computer courses.

Nowhere in the report is there any serious analysis of government statistics proving that girls are taking more high-level math and science courses than boys. Nowhere in the report is there any discussion of the disturbing downward trend exhibited by boys in math and science proficiency over the past decade. Nowhere is this report is there any discussion of whether the feminist “research” is accurate, despite overwhelming academic analysis that it is not.

The Independent Women’s Forum is concerned that accurate information about the condition of our children’s education be made available to parents and lawmakers. To that end, we are posting this dissent which was submitted to the Commission by the two commissioners who voted against the report’s adoption.

Statement by Commissioner Russell G. Redenbaugh and Commissioner Carl A. Anderson as submitted to the Commission:

Two years ago, the Commission rejected the original version of this report, Equal Educational Opportunity and Nondiscrimination for Girls in Advanced Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education: Federal Enforcement of Title IX. This revision contains, at a minimum, the same serious flaws as its predecessor. We strongly object to the revising of the report without a vote of the Commissioners authorizing such an undertaking. We continue to object to its findings and recommendations. Our major concerns include the following:

  • The report’s conclusion — that there is widespread bias against girls and women in the Nation’s schools — is not supported by any of its data. Many of the statistics cited in the report, as well as a number of more recent and more credible studies, tell a much different story: Girls and women have made and continue to make impressive gains in both K-12 and higher education. Women are finding more support and earning more advanced degrees than ever before.

  • The report does not articulate a sound methodology, nor does there appear to be one. The methodology used in the report is never explained, and it is evident that no outside experts in the fields of math and science achievement were consulted. The report reaches conclusions — for instance, that differences in test scores are due to bias — without articulating the methodology used to establish cause and effect.

  • The report fails to present a balanced and fair discussion of the issues. As evidenced by an astounding number of cites to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the Commission’s report is basically an advocacy report for an advocacy group. Alternative viewpoints are either given just cursory mention or altogether omitted. In fact, other than the section on single-sex education which gives views from both sides, the report is remarkably one-sided.

  • The report makes numerous assumptions that have no basis in fact. For example, it alleges that girls are being “steered” away from fields they might otherwise choose; that parents, teachers, and counselors inappropriately “direct” them away from these fields because of a conscious or even unconscious bias; and that it is appropriate for the Federal government to step in to steer, in loco parentis. But the report provides no facts to support these assumptions and some that contradict them. In the absence of complaints or evidence of injury, there is no basis to assume, as this report does, that girls are unable to make their own choices or individual decisions and that they passively endure discrimination or “steering” out of fields that truly interest them. Moreover, if girls are being “shortchanged” or discriminated against, why are they more likely to attend college and earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees than boys? Why do girls consistently earn higher grades as high school students than boys in the face of such discrimination? Why has the annual total of women receiving Ph.D.’s increased by more than 50 percent over the past decade, growing at twice the rate of the number of men getting those degrees?

  • The report defines equity in terms of “equal outcomes” rather than “equal opportunity.” By insisting that gender equity is nothing less than equal outcomes, whether measured by test scores, career choice or income, the report also assumes that any disparities in outcome must be due to discrimination. The anthropological assumption here is that both genders are identical in terms of values, interests, and abilities. In fact, psychologists have documented substantial differences between males and females in these areas. Further evidence demonstrates that it is virtually inconceivable that these differences are due primarily to “gender socialization” as this report assumes. The report provides no basis for its assumption that statistical parity by sex can be achieved in each and every field and that government engineering can effect such an outcome.

  • This report was soundly rejected by the Commission two years ago, the revision process was never authorized, nor were specific revisions discussed in any detail by the full Commission. A side-by-side comparison of the current version of the report and the original draft clearly shows that the most extensive changes that have been made are in the sections on “high stakes” testing. This suggests that the report has been resurrected not so much to address gender inequities, but rather to serve as a vehicle for attacking standardized tests and questioning their legitimacy as a tool in higher education admissions policy. A disproportionate amount of the new material in the present report consists of a broadside against these tests and recommendations for vastly increased government investigation of them. Is it mere coincidence that the Commission’s report was approved on December 12 (a Friday), and on December 15 (the next Monday) the Civil Rights Office of the Department of Education released new draft “guidelines” regarding the use of standardized tests?

    Examples of Methodological Problems and Their Effects

    The lack of methodology and adherence to standards for scholarly research raises serious questions about the factual accuracy of this report and its conclusions. The section on gender bias in standardized testing provides several clear examples. We note the statement in Chapter 5 that “some studies indicate that both boys and girls tend to perform better on standardized achievement tests when their sex is frequently represented in the questions.” The reference for this statement is a popular book by Myra and David Sadker. Turning to that book, we find that the Sadkers do make an assertion to this effect, but do not back it up with any references to specific “studies” or even a single experimental study about the wording of test questions. In other words, there is no evidence for the statement at all. We are merely asked to rely on an undocumented assertion contained in one non-academic book.

    Another statement in that same section claims that “a study of the SAT found the test had 42 references to men and only three to women.” The footnote cites the 1992 edition of How Schools Shortchange Girls, by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Turning to the relevant discussion in that book, one discovers that the tests examined by the AAUW were conducted 15 years ago. It violates accepted procedure to cite data that are so old without inquiring as to whether changes have occurred since. In fact, a quick visit to the Educational Testing Service’s web site reveals that ETS has a comprehensive set of review criteria that prescribe a “suitable balance of multicultural material and a suitable gender representation.” Remarkably, the AAUW’s report admitted that “reference to male or female names, pronouns, possessions, or occupations in the place of neutral language had no demonstrable effect at all on examinee performance on mathematics (italics added) word problems.” It is extraordinary that this acknowledgment is conveniently omitted from the report. In this way, the AAUW is quoted when the content is consistent with the desired conclusion and ignored when it is not. This is not an acceptable practice for any government agency.

    In addition to a practice of selective quotation, the report contradicts itself. For example, in its introduction the report alleges that girls face indirect barriers to equal opportunity in advanced math and science, including a lack of encouragement from parents, teachers, and guidance counselors. However, the next chapter presents data refuting that claim:

    For instance, among 9th to 11th graders, 70 percent of girls and 68 percent of boys reported being encouraged by their parents to take more advanced mathematics and science classes; 64 percent of girls and 58 percent of boys were encouraged by their teachers; 52 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys were encouraged by their guidance counselors.

    Errors of fact are also evident. The report acknowledges that more girls than boys now take Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II, but it then notes the “disturbing trend” that “[b]oys are still more likely than girls to take courses beyond Algebra II.” However, this appears to be false. In Chapter 3 a table from the National Center of Education Statistics shows that more girls than boys are taking math courses beyond Algebra II. This is because girls, generally, follow more rigorous academic programs than boys so that they can meet the demands of competitive colleges and universities, and (according to recent studies) more girls than boys are bound for those institutions.

    The report makes note of another “disturbing” finding — i.e., that “boys are found in somewhat larger numbers in advanced placement calculus.” This is accurate. Approximately 7.2 percent of high school males and 6.7 percent of high school females enroll in advanced placement calculus. What the report never explains is why this small gender difference in such a select group of gifted students is a “disturbing trend” or how it can possibly constitute a civil rights problem. There are much larger gender gaps that favor girls — for example, in writing and reading achievement, and in advanced placement in history and biology. In fact, a review of statistics related to overall academic achievement shows boys, not girls, on the weak side of a widening educational gender gap. According to the data from the National Center for Education Statistics, boys tend to earn lower grades, to be less committed to school, and less likely to go to college.

    Lack of Balance

    A report that is ostensibly concerned with equity should present dissenting views. In this case, experts who dispute the “women as victims” perspective should certainly have their own viewpoints thoroughly discussed. Instead, this report is essentially a repackaging of claims first issued by the AAUW almost a decade ago — allegations which since that time have been thoroughly discredited. Studies disproving the AAUW’s claims are either ignored, given but a passing mention, or buried in the footnotes. We would note, in particular, the American Enterprise Institute-Independent Women’s Forum study, Women’s Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America, by Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Christine Stolba; Christina Hoff Sommers’ Who Stole Feminism?; and Dr. Judith S. Kleinfeld’s The Myth That Schools Shortchange Girls: Social Science in the Service of Deception. The essence of these works — all of them written by credible scholars — is nowhere to be found.

    Moreover, as several experts, including Dr. Kleinfeld, have pointed out, the greatest achievement gaps in America have to do with race, not sex. As Dr. Kleinfeld puts it, “The shortchanged group is hardly female — it is African-American males.” Instead of squandering time and staff resources in resurrecting this report, the Commission should have looked at a more valuable endeavor — i.e., building on the consultation that was held regarding the “Crisis of the African American Male.” Also, focusing on a bogus crisis diverts attention away from another serious gap — the deteriorating performance of American students compared to international students in advanced sciences and mathematics. In 1994, students from the U.S. earned only 53 percent of the doctorates in mathematics and the physical sciences awarded by American universities. That is arguably not a civil rights issue, but, then, neither is the one in this report, at least as the case is presented here.

    The Real Issue: The Attack on Standardized Tests

    Because the report’s conclusions about gender inequity are largely unsupported by facts, it appears that the real issue lies elsewhere. Specifically, we find troubling evidence that this report is really a Trojan horse for attacking standardized testing under the guise of gender concerns. It prescribes various standards for eliminating gender bias on tests without even considering that these are already in place at testing agencies. It recommends that tests such as the SAT be examined for gender bias on the assumption that this is not already part of the test development process when, in fact, it is. The report fails to acknowledge the many steps that have been taken to insure test fairness and implies, without any sound evidence, that “high stakes” testing is inherently discriminatory. Nowhere in the report are the testing agencies given a chance to respond to such a serious charge. The net effect of the charge and recommended interventions by government would be to tie the hands of testing agencies for years and perhaps reduce their use or, at minimum, question their validity. If the Commission is going to head in that direction, a far more scholarly, comprehensive, and informed approach is requisite.


    Congress has made clear that it did not intend Title IX to become a quota machine. Still less did it intend this Commission to become one. Yet by calling for increased, heavy-handed Federal interference into the Nation’s classrooms to effect statistical parity by gender, this report advocates exactly that — quota-driven bureaucracies justified by bizarre interpretations of both Title IX and this agency’s mission. The destructive policies conveyed in the findings and recommendations, which cannot be supported or justified by the data presented, would undermine the choices of American students, stress proportionality over excellence as the national ideal, and overwhelm the courts with frivolous and pernicious lawsuits. There is a crisis in education in this country today; but it has nothing to do with gender disparities in opportunities to pursue education in advanced math and science. Rather, the real crisis is that so many students — male and female — are trapped in failing schools that deny them the opportunity to fully develop the skills they will need to enter specialized fields and participate effectively in the Nation’s workforce.

    Commissioner Russell G. Redenbaugh is a Congressional appointee to the Commission. He is Partner and Director of Cooke & Bieler, Inc. in Philadelphia, PA.

    Commissioner Carl A. Anderson is a Congressional appointee to the Commission. He is Vice President for Public Policy of the Knights of Columbus, and Dean, Vive President and Professor of Family Law at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family Law in Washington, DC.

    Commissioner Carl A. Anderson is a Congressional appointee to the Commission. He is Vice President for Public Policy of the Knights of Columbus, and Dean, Vive President and Professor of Family Law at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family Law in Washington, DC.

    Commissioner Carl A. Anderson is a Congressional appointee to the Commission. He is Vice President for Public Policy of the Knights of Columbus, and Dean, Vive President and Professor of Family Law at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family Law in Washington, DC.

    Commissioner Carl A. Anderson is a Congressional appointee to the Commission. He is Vice President for Public Policy of the Knights of Columbus, and Dean, Vive President and Professor of Family Law at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family Law in Washington, DC.