Should Single-Sex Classrooms be Offered in Public Schools?

According to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, in 2002 there were just a dozen schools that offered single-gender classes. As of the end of last year, there were at least 524 public schools in the U.S. that offered them. At least one school in 39 states and the District of Columbia offered single-sex classrooms. South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, and Texas were states with the most schools offering the single-gender option.

Woodbridge Middle School in Virginia has allowed parents for the last three years to choose whether they want their children in a single-gender class for the core classes. Officials at the school maintain the program has led to improved standardized test scores and attendance. One teacher in a pilot program in South Carolina commented that “brain researchers have proven that boys learn differently than girls.”

Speaking of research, some developmental psychologists have identified a phenomenon called “gender intensification,” which means that when boys and girls are together they are very aware of what culture says is appropriate for boys and what is appropriate for girls. As a result, the coed format can have the unintended effect of intensifying gender roles.

Some are not so sure, worrying whether this sort of segregation is ethical and/or legal. Other detractors say gender differences in learning aren’t the same across the board and separating boys from girls is discriminatory. One argument states that in the real world men and women must work together.

The notion of single-gender classrooms is so new that data regarding outcomes is scarce, but some excellent scholarly articles can be found at Google Scholar.

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About mprater

I'm a recently retired school teacher/administrator continuing to help people grow through personal learning. When not blogging, I do consulting work for schools and organizations, make presentations at conferences, and research for publication. At the same time, I have to set aside enough time to enjoy the "good life" of retirement!
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