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Putting Single-Sex Schooling Back on Course

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Law professor Rosemary Salomone writes in this Education Week Commentary that the time has come for educators to put single-sex schooling back on track and to rescue it from "the extreme rhetoric on both sides of a perplexing ideological divide."

Backed by recent federal regulations, the way has been eased for single-sex public schools and classes in the U.S., Salomone writes, but it has to be embraced by parties on both sides of the ideological argument, as well as by those that matter most: Educators.

Salomone argues that single-sex schooling is "a sound educational option, particularly for at-risk students."

What do you think? Does single-sex schooling have a role to play in public education?

10 Comments

I was educated in public, coed schools. I have just completed my second semester of doctoral study in curriculum and education as well as having taught in a coed high school for 34 years. I am planning to do my dissertation on single-sex schools and have done a significant amount of reading on the subject from both positive and negative perspectives as well as done some interesting research on the education backgrounds of school leaders at a large suburban high school. The literature and research done clearly slants in favor of single-sex education. My own research showed a significantly disproportionate number of single-sex grads end up in school leadership compared to both public and private coed grads.

I agree with the idea of single sex schooling being implemented in the public school system. I believe it would prove beneficial for children because it will diminish the need for competition among the sexes. Children will be able to focus on their education without attempting to impress the opposite sex. A single sex model would also allow educators to teach each sex how to interact with one another. We must admit that socialization skills have decreased in recent years, something must be done to assist our children in meeting academic and social expectations.

Having taught in both public and private systems in France and in the States (one of the private schools I taught in in France offered single sex classes from 6th to 12th grades) and having been a student of an all girls school only, I must admit that I much prefer teaching single-sex classes.
Boys and girls do not mature at the same rythm and do not view education /school / academics in the same way than girls. With the feminization of the teaching world, I have encountered situations that could qualify for a discrimination-based trial: many female teachers know how to teach girls more than they know how to teach boys and therefore do not relate enough to the boys' specific educational needs or learning styles. In some schools, boys are purposely left aside and ignored.
I am not sure whether it is the result of post-feminism. In an ideal world, choices should be offered both in the private and the public fields of education, so that the children's best interests be considered: some children will prefer co-ed classes, others will feel happier and...safer in a single-sex class. A good consequence might be that less boys would be diagnosed with PDDs, ADHD, etc.

As it stands now Americans who can afford it have access to single sex education in private American primary schools, secondary schools, and colleges.
Why should this choice be restricted to the wealthy? And why should the state be micromanaging this issue at all? The burden of proof as to the relative merits of single sex education should be placed on those who would trammel up choice.

It is difficult to look at the evidence of girls advancing rapidly and boys not without wondering what is occuring in coed public schools that is ill serving the boys. We have turned math virtually into reading and writing with numbers and that has resulted in what some call "stunning" success for girls in math. What can we do to make reading and writing more boy friendly? Would voluntary single-sex classes or schools offer a better alternative than the present situation where boys poorer reading skills put them at a distict disadvantage in early grades? At least teachers should be aware of the differences in boys and girls learning styles and teach to their strengths.

Despite Mr. McKinney's assertions to the contrary, I believe that research, once the socio-economic variables are accounted for, does not show an overwhelming advantage, or disadvantage to single-sex education.

I suspect that like many of the simple solutions that are flocked to (uniforms, zero tolerance, curriculum-in-a-box), the end result is very small in comparison to the more difficult to impact variables (family income and education, teacher quality, district resources). I can't get excited about banning single sex set ups (now that soccer moms have become a recognized political force to be reckoned with)--because I don't think that the extent to which it may be implemented can result in a second class education for either side. My personal experience in working with kids (18 years in after-school and residential camping programs) is that co-ed situations bring about a tempering of some of the extremes of stereotypical group behavior. Teaching effective group/cooperative strategies is a weakness that we need to strengthen. It can be done in single-sex situations--the question would be, why would we want to go there?

Having just dealt with some issues today, I would be more than happy to see single-sex systems come back into the picture. Teachers have a tough time teaching when students want to spend time gazing into the eyes of the other sex and planning the next move, not academic. The pressure to "be somebody" with boyfriends, girlfriends, etc. has become more intense than ever. Those who don't pursue this avenue are left to feel "less than". The media pushes younger and faster relationships on a sexual level. Then you add the number of single family homes, where stable relationships and modeling are not seen on an everyday basis, and you have many teens looking for "love" from the opposite sex to fill those needs.
I personally had to deal with 2 students today who can't seem to leave each other alone; however, one is sexually active and very high risk. The other does not appear to be in the same category - yet. Often we see girls who are more advanced sexually, and boys who are still "developing" and not as experienced. It is not unusual for pregnacies within the 8th grade girls - with older boys. Would you want your child to be under this pressure every day? It's enough out of the classroom. Keeping your attention on academics can be helped in a more structured environment where girls and boys both have a chance to focus on books instead of each other, at least for that period of time. Giving this approach another chance will not make things any worse, and could help in striving to present the importance of good grades and knowledge in future jobs, careers,etc.

As an educator in an urban setting, I believe single-sex classrooms would create a more welcoming atmosphere in regard to learning. The belief of needing to "show off/out" in order to save face a lot of times; coupled with not wanting to "lQQk smart" would be less one hindering factor (the other sex).

From this, more risk-taking, positively assertive, creative, thinkers and doers will be enhanced which will be a benefit for all of society!

this is good because some friend of mines are doing a project on this.

I completely agreee with what is most said. Being a mom of a 9 year old boy, I see the struggles that he continues to have in 3rd grade, not just him, but other boys too. Continuely trying to educate myself on boys and how to instill the love of learning, I find myself continuely fighting the curriculm found in our classrooms. Boys do not learn the same as girls, they feel the need to try and keep up the pace, when in fact emotional, socially and academically they are not capable. Sit still, don't stand,be quite, etc. etc. etc. What happens is they struggle with not being smart, stupid, not wanting to learn, hating schoolm, not wanting to particpate because they fell the pressure to either do it or you loose. No wonder boys feel inadequate, helpless and not good enough, think about it. Why do we as parents, educators continue to push this on our boys when they are not ready. Having single-sex schools, which parents should have a choice, would perhaps engage our young boys minds to be creative, express themselves verbally and not have the fear of girls giggling and distracting them in the classroom. Yes, boys are a challenge, and we can all learn from them (I have) but we need to learn to accept them and provide them with a learning environment, that will challenge each of their uniquenesses, not hinder them nor push them under the rug. Why are there so many boys on "med's"? Think about it, if boys were able to learn the way boys do-perhaps there wouldn't be the need for med's. AND society would benefit from this--think of all the costs involved, medicine, therapists,researchetc.

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  • Tonya/Parent: I completely agreee with what is most said. Being a read more
  • brianna: this is good because some friend of mines are doing read more
  • Karl/Educator: As an educator in an urban setting, I believe single-sex read more
  • Margaret/Department Head: Having just dealt with some issues today, I would be read more
  • Margo/Mom: Despite Mr. McKinney's assertions to the contrary, I believe that read more

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