Single-Gender Classes: Are They Better?
Wesley Sharpe offers two points of view on this hot topic! What happens to the bright-eyed exuberance of girls between the primary grades and high school graduation? Do schools shortchange boys? Could single-gender classes or schools make a difference? Some California educators think so.
On opening day of the 1999 school year, the Jefferson Leadership Academies became the first public middle school in the country to offer separate classes for boys and girls. About 1,000 uniformed sixth, seventh, and eighth graders entered single-gender classes.
"Some people pay a lot of money to send their children to these kinds of schools. ... We thought maybe this is something that could work in a public school setting," Kristi Kahl, coordinator of the Long Beach California Unified School District's middle school reform, told the Los Angeles Times ("Same-Sex Classes to be Offered at Long Beach Middle School"; May 9, 1999). "It is really hard to say how you can attribute [improvements] to gender separation, how much you can attribute to instruction, and how much you can attribute to parent commitment. But in reality, probably all of those things come into play."
It's too early to judge the success or failure of the Jefferson Leadership Academies. "But there is evidence of change," principal Jill Rojas told Education World. According to a report recently released by the Long Beach USD Office of Research, Planning and Evaluation, the students are doing very well. The district has compared cumulative grade point averages (GPAs) to current GPAs for all students who attended Jefferson in 1998-99 and who are currently enrolled in 1999-2000. Among the findings:
- "Student grade point averages for students who had previously attended Jefferson in either grades 6 or 7 increased for all students, male and female, in both grades 7 and 8 under the single gender academy configuration.
- "The increase was statistically significant for both genders at grade 7 and for males at grade 8."
"We have seen many students start to focus heavily on academics," Rojas continued. "They no longer clown or try to impress the opposite sex. Girls are more apt to answer questions aloud in class as well as ask them. Girls are learning to be more academically competitive and boys are learning to collaborate."
When asked about specific problems in Jefferson's single-gender classes, Rojas responded, "Some teachers have had a hard time with their all-boy cores [classes], but I feel it is based somewhat on the fact that they feel more physically challenged by boys who misbehave than by girls."
In 1992, a widely publicized report stated that public schools shortchanged girls. The report fueled interest in single-sex classes and schools. The following year, American University professors Myra and David Sadker published Failing in Fairness: How America's Schools Cheat Girls. The book describes striking discoveries about fairness in American schools. During a three-year study, trained observers visited more than 100 classrooms in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The responses observers noted in those elementary-school classrooms included the following:
- Boys called out eight times as often as girls did. Teachers ignored the "raise your hand" rule. If a boy yelled out, the teacher usually praised his contribution. Girls who called out got reminders to raise their hands.
- Teachers valued boys' comments more than girls' comments. Teachers responded to girls with a simple nod or an OK, but they praised, corrected, helped, and criticized boys.
- Boys were encouraged to solve problems on their own, but teachers helped girls who were stuck on problems.
Teachers of all-girl classes seemed to validate the idea that girls performed better in single-sex classes. "I enjoy seeing girls participate so much in class discussions. ... And, like it or not, girls seem to talk more in class in an all-female school. I often see a whole classroom of eighth graders sharing ideas in an animated manner," said Sharon Johnson-Cramer. She teaches history to seventh and eighth graders at the all-girls Winsor School in Boston and wrote What a Single-Sex School Is Really Like, published in The Christian Science Monitor (electronic edition).
"Compare this with a scene I used to face daily: a coed class of 10th graders, in which many of the boys talked but it took the teacher's calling on the girls to get them to participate. Even when I taught such units as Women and Islam or Female Infanticide in India at the coed school, it was still the boys who talked the most in class," Johnson-Cramer said.
Anecdotal evidence seems to support the benefits of single-sex high school classes. But Anita P. Davis, Ed.D., director of teacher education at Converse College, a private liberal arts college for women, told Education World that research doesn't support that view. "With teachers who treat them fairly, female high school students can perform academically as well as male students in the same class," Davis said.
SINGLE-SEX EDUCATION CHALLENGED
In 1998, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) published Separated by Sex: A Critical Look at Single-Sex Education for Girls. Single-sex education is not necessarily better than coeducation, that report noted. The publication "challenges the popular idea that K-12 single sex education is better for girls than coeducation."
According to the report, boys and girls thrive on a good education, regardless of whether the school is single-sex or coeducational.
- "There is no evidence in general that single-sex education works or is better for girls than coeducation.
- "When elements of a good education are present, girls and boys succeed. Elements include small classes and schools, equitable teaching practices, and focused academic curriculum.
- "Some kinds of single-sex programs produce positive results for some students, including a preference for math and science among girls. [Although] girls' achievement has improved in some single-sex schools, there is no significant improvement in girls' achievement in single-sex classes."
CLOSING THE GENDER GAP
In fact, recent research seems to show that the gender gap between boys and girls has closed. "All of this suggests that the broad nationwide efforts to raise female achievement in schools have been effective," said Cornelius Riordan, a professor of sociology at Providence College, in The Silent Gender Gap, a November 17, 1999, Education Week story.
"As a result of these trends, boys rather than girls are now on the short end of the gender gap in many secondary school outcomes. Currently, boys are less likely than girls to be in an academic (college-preparatory) curriculum. They have lower educational and occupational expectations, have lower reading and writing test scores, and expect to complete their schooling at an earlier age," Riordan explained.
William S. Pollack, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School and author of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myths of Boyhood, offered a similar opinion in "The Hidden Suffering of Boys in the Classroom," (San Jose Mercury, August 8, 1998). Noting that schools are "failing boys in at least four ways," Pollack wrote that
- Boys' reading and writing problems often go unnoticed. "One study found a correlation between boys' low reading skills and their association of reading with feminine skills," said Pollack.
- People often handle boys emotional and social needs inappropriately or inadequately. "When we observe boys' emotional worlds more closely, we discover much quiet suffering under their outward bravado."
- Educators tend to interpret "boy behavior" as a discipline problem without probing to discover emotional needs. "Boys generally prefer to learn by doing, by engaging in some action-oriented task. In learning environments biased against their strengths, boys may become frustrated and attempt to get their needs met by seeking negative attention."
- Teaching methods fail to take into account boys' unique learning styles. "Many classes simply aren't conducted in a way boys, with their naturally high energy levels, find captivating. When boys aren't engaged, they become discipline problems," Pollack concluded.
WHAT'S IN THE FUTURE?
To help determine the future of single-gender classes, additional research on the effectiveness of those classrooms appears necessary, Anita Davis told Education World.
"Educators must expand the research base using existing single-sex classes and schools. And create additional classes . . . that improve the public school system. Researchers must promptly share significant findings on single-gender education with the education profession and with the general public." Davis explained.
Single-gender academies similar to the Jefferson Leadership Academies may be the answer. The California Department of Education summarized research on single-gender educational programs in a Fact Sheet: Single Gender Academies Pilot Program. The report indicates that single-gender education
- Seems to reduce the number of dropouts.
- Improves the general academic performance of urban males and the math and science achievement of females.
- Creates a setting that appears to reduce the distracting behavior boys and girls fashion for one another.
- Motivates students and parents. "The effectiveness of single-gender programs may be due more to students' and parents' motivation, commitment, and small class size than to the fact that they enroll only boys or girls."
What can educators and parents do about the gender gap between boys and girls? "There is plenty we can do. By designing an inviting educational experience for boys, by 'guy-ifying' certain aspects of schools, and by ensuring that schools help boys thrive as individuals, we can help boys boost not only their academic performance and self-esteem but also their dreams for the future," said Pollack.
RELATED ARTICLE FROM EDUCATION WORLD
The Yin and Yang of Learning: Educators Seek Solutions in Single-Sex Education This Education World story discusses California's approach to single-gender classrooms. In California, "A district cannot establish an academy for one gender without establishing a second, equal academy for the other."
Article by Wesley Sharpe, Ed.D.
Copyright © 2000-2008 Education World
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Choosing the right school for your son or daughter can be a difficult process and one that can cause a fair amount of stress if you are unsure what the best course of action is. While school isn't the be all and end all of a child's upbringing, it certainly is somewhere where they will learn a lot of their behavior and of their knowledge, and somewhere that they will simply spend a lot of their time.
One of the decisions you need to make when choosing which school to send your child to is whether to go for a single sex or mixed sex education � and this is something that can have a big bearing on their school experience. Here we will look at the pros and cons of single sex schools and whether they are right for you and your child.
If you send your child to a single sex school then there will be fewer distractions from the opposite sex that could in theory damage their education. If you went to a mixed sex school then you probably have memories of staring across the classroom at girls/boys rather than listening to the teacher, and this probably meant there were things that you didn't pick up on as a result that you otherwise would have. If you want your child to be as focused as possible in school then a single sex school is a good way to achieve that.
The relationships between kids and teenagers in school cause a lot of drama and are responsible for a lot of trouble. A lot of what we do we do in order to impress members of the opposite sex � even if that means taking up smoking or joining a gang. At the same time a lot of the time we fall out with our friends is over a girl or a guy, and just wouldn't have happened if we were in a single sex school. You'd be surprised at how much less 'bitchiness' there is between girls in a single sex school, and by how much less macho posturing there is from the guys.
Longer 'As a Child'
At the same time sending your children to an all-boys or all-girls school is a great way to keep them young and to avoid them 'growing up to soon' and thus missing out on some of their youth. This is a very real concern that some parents have � that they will find themselves 'tied down' in a relationship, experimenting with sex, and getting their heart broken too young when they should still be out there having fun and enjoying being young. There's plenty of time for relationships in the real world soon enough...
Part of the idea of going to school is to prepare your child for 'real life' when they leave. There is no doubt that 'the real world' is mixed gender rather than single sex and so that means that the best way to do this would be to emulate that in school. Further, learning to talk to members of the opposite sex is a very important skill and one that can leave you at a significant disadvantage if you've never had a chance to practice. By experimenting with relationships now when things are less serious, your child will be better at managing and finding them when they leave (in theory anyway).
By sending your child to a school where they'll encounter more diversity this gives them more appreciation, understanding and sympathy for people they encounter in their adult lives. This can help them to be more sympathetic, more well rounded and generally more open minded about different things. It's also a good idea to try and develop the feminine side in your male children and the more masculine side in your girls.
Girls bring a lot to a school that boys don't and vice versa. If you go to a mixed school you will have a bigger wealth of experiences, and those who do not may feel as though they are 'missing out'. Particularly when you consider that perhaps the 'norm' overall is for schools to be mixed, it's very possible that a child might feel short changed by not going to a mixed school, and of course as a parent the ambition is to ensure that your child is as happy as they can be in their school.
In conclusion there's no right or wrong answer, but rather it depends on how you feel personally and how your partner feels. Very often we end up wanting to send our children where we went when we were younger if we had a good experience. It also depends on an extent on the local schools in your catchment area, and on what your child wants. You can always try to counteract some of the negative aspects too in either case � if your child goes to a mixed school then emphasize the importance on their having fun and focusing on school work, and if they go to a single sex school then consider helping them to meet children of the opposite sex in other ways such as extra curricula activities.
Related Articles And Other Topics
- Comment #1 (Posted by Mike Myers)
This is a very great article bcuz it explains in detail of the pros and cons, well done.
- Comment #2 (Posted by Alela)
It provides invigorating views. Research more and let us get more angles of an argument.
- Comment #3 (Posted by an unknown user)
It helps me with my school project, thanks!
- Comment #4 (Posted by Gezza)
DO NOT I repeat DO NOT send your child to a single sex school. They will hate you for it!
- Comment #5 (Posted by Jada)
This was a very good pro and con, but you should have added more. But other than that you did perfect.
- Comment #6 (Posted by kev)
helped me with my school essay, thanks mate
- Comment #7 (Posted by Fellower 4-Her)
- Comment #8 (Posted by Amy)
Really good info. But it would have been nice if you made it easier to cite, because I needed to cite it for my persuasive paper.
- Comment #9 (Posted by Samara)
I gave it a three because there wasn't any details on cons of same sex schools.
It would be better if you add more ideas.
- Comment #10 (Posted by an unknown user)
Helped with my school essay, thanks!
- Comment #11 (Posted by Zayella)
This wasn't exactly as helpful as I thought it would be. I was kind of hoping for some backup evidence or others' experience.
- Comment #12 (Posted by Yo' Mama)
This website is great, but there isn't much evidence to back up the information. Helped me with my debate! :)
- Comment #13 (Posted by Packman1252)
Great site! It helped me a lot on my schoolwork. Might need some thoughts from schools across the country about it, but overall not bad.
- Comment #14 (Posted by MOMO)
holla @ yur gurl JGL
- Comment #15 (Posted by jan)
I feel strongly about this subject...
- Comment #16 (Posted by Kat)
This article was very resourceful for my research paper, but I wish it had MLA citation and more factual stats. Otherwise good.
- Comment #17 (Posted by Jennifer)
This helped me with my essay, but I would have liked you to gone in detail with some of the points. Overall, it's a good article for general ideas.
- Comment #18 (Posted by Joan)
Considering how much research has been done, and with experts like Micheal Gurian and Dr. Leonard Sax showing the differences in the boy/girl brain and their learning styles, you seem to rely on your own personal opinion instead.
Clearly, you prefer co-ed schools, and this is apparent in the way you've chosen to present your information.