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Why Gender-Segregated Schools Persist

Despite research showing that single-sex schooling does not produce improved academic outcomes, it is staging a comeback ("Single-sex schools: Could they harm your child?" the conversation.com, Dec. 21).  Less known is that single-sex schooling can have negative effects.

The rationale for gender segregation is that boys and girls learn differently.  Therefore, separating them allows teachers to design instruction more effectively.  Although there will always be exceptions, there is little evidence that boys and girls process knowledge differently. 

Instead, I think the reason most parents opt for single-sex schools is the distraction factor.  I'm referring specifically now to middle and high schools when students begin puberty.  The absence of members of the opposite sex removes that distraction.

If parents believe their children can best learn in gender-segregated schools, then that is their right.  But I wonder if they have fully considered the downside.  When students graduate and enter the workplace, they will be unprepared for such gender-integrated environments.  In a fast-changing world, the ability to work with people of different sexes -and races - is indispensable. The growth of charter schools, however, does not bode well for sexually-integrated schools. 

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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