Does single-sex education boost academic success? Read the arguments for and against. The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education estimates that approximately public schools now offer some form of single-sex education. What is fueling this movement? And what are the risks and benefits of single-sex education?
A driving force in the single-sex education movement is recent research showing natural differences in how males and females learn. Putting this research into practice, however, has triggered a debate that extends beyond pure academics. Political, civil rights, socioeconomic and legal concerns also come into play. As the debate heats up, it helps to understand all sides of the issue. Other influences stem from the way parents and society nurture the child: Making the case for single-sex education Those who advocate for single-sex education in public schools argue that: Leonard Sax and others agree that merely placing boys in separate classrooms from girls accomplishes little.
But single-sex education enhances student success when teachers use techniques geared toward the gender of their students. Some research indicates that girls learn better when classroom temperature is warm, while boys perform better in cooler classrooms. Some research and reports from educators suggest that single-sex education can broaden the educational prospects for both girls and boys. Advocates claim co-ed schools tend to reinforce gender stereotypes, while single-sex schools can break down gender stereotypes.
For example, girls are free of the pressure to compete with boys in male-dominated subjects such as math and science. One mother, whose daughter has attended a girls-only school for three years, shared her experience on the GreatSchools parent community: In , Education Secretary Margaret Spellings eased federal regulations, allowing schools to offer single-sex classrooms and schools, as long as such options are completely voluntary.
This move gives parents and school districts greater flexibility. Few educators are formally trained to use gender-specific teaching techniques. For a sensitive boy or an assertive girl, the teaching style promoted by advocates of single-sex education could be ineffective at best or detrimental at worst. Educating students in single-sex schools limits their opportunity to work cooperatively and co-exist successfully with members of the opposite sex. At least one study found that the higher the percentage of girls in a co-ed classroom, the better the academic performance for all students both male and female.
Professor Analia Schlosser, an economist from the Eitan Berglas School of Economics at Tel Aviv, found that elementary school, co-ed classrooms with a majority of female students showed increased academic performance for both boys and girls. In high school, the classrooms with the best academic achievement were consistently those that had a higher percentage of girls.
Schlosser theorizes that a higher percentage of girls lowers the amount of classroom disruption and fosters a better relationship between all students and the teacher. The American Council on Education reports that there is less academic disparity between male and female students overall and a far greater achievement gap between students in different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, with poor and minority students children faring poorly.
Bridging that academic chasm, they argue, deserves more attention than does the gender divide. Measuring public perception How does the general public view single-sex education? To answer that question, Knowledge Networks conducted a nationwide survey in early More than one-third of Americans feel parents should have the option of sending their child to a single-sex school. If the single-sex education movement continues, you may find yourself in a position to vote for or against it in your own community.