'90s FAMILY : An Unfair Test for Girls?

Items are compiled from Times staff and news services

Nearly three-fifths of the $25 million in National Merit Scholarships awarded this spring will go to boys, even though girls earn better grades in high school and college. The discrepancy is caused by bias in the test used to determine award eligibility, according to the Cambridge, Mass.-based National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest).

"Reliance on standardized test scores as the sole factor in choosing National Merit Semifinalists will again cheat girls out of tuition aid they have earned by their superior academic performance," said Bob Schaeffer, FairTest public education director.

Elaine Detweiler, public information director of the National Merit Scholarship Corp. in Evanston, Ill., confirmed that girls don't score as high as boys, and said, "This is cause for concern."

But, she said, "The test is only reporting differences that exist; the test is not the cause."

A Quicker Goodby

The Roman Catholic church hopes for speedier marriage annulments following the Pope's approval of streamlined rules.

Court sources say they hope the reforms will mean judges can concentrate less on red tape and more on "the good of souls," meaning the church's distinction between weddings that are considered valid when celebrated (and therefore not eligible for annulment even if they break down) and those that were never valid "before God" and may be dissolved.

Disadvantaged Day Care

Day-care providers in low-income neighborhoods face significant obstacles, according to a study that finds most lack training and may not earn enough money to buy books, toys and equipment to keep the children safe.

"Providers in low-income neighborhoods typically attempt to give the children in their care a reprieve from the poverty and stress they face at home," said the study by the National Center for Children in Poverty. "But they themselves are taking on a responsibility that is demanding, uncertain and poorly paid."

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