Sunday, March 27, 2011

Single-sex classrooms

Wow, I didn't even know this existed. My first thought was "that is so NOT politically correct?!" and then my second thought was "what if this actually worked?"

Depending on who you ask, there is either no conclusive evidence or very strong evidence that separating boys and girls in school is effective.


"Researchers at Stetson University in Florida have completed a three-year pilot project comparing single-sex classrooms with coed classrooms at Woodward Avenue Elementary School, a nearby neighborhood public school. For example, students in the 4th grade at Woodward were assigned either to single-sex or coed classrooms. All relevant parameters were matched: the class sizes were all the same, the demographics were the same, all teachers had the same training in what works and what doesn't work, etc. On the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test), here were the results:

Percentage of students scoring proficient on the FCAT
    boys in coed classes: 37% scored proficient
    girls in coed classes: 59% scored proficient
    girls in single-sex classes: 75% scored proficient
    boys in single-sex classes: 86% scored proficient.
Remember, these students were all learning the same curriculum in the same school. And, this school "mainstreams" students who are learning-disabled, or who have ADHD etc. Many of those boys who scored proficient in the all-boys classes had previously been labeled "ADHD" or "ESE" in coed classes."

Ok, so it looks pretty promising. But I can't help but wonder what other effects might come of this... in the real world, men and women interact on a daily basis, so wouldn't this create a bunch of very socially awkward kids? Isn't socialization the most important part of public school? 

I really don't know what to think. My initial reaction is not terribly positive, but have I just been brainwashed into being too politically correct? If this really works and helps both genders, than why not? I think that it's generally accepted that there are real gender differences (or perhaps we should call them sexual differences since gender is a social construct whereas sex is biological), but for some reason it is not ok to really talk about it.  

NOW is not cool with it (not surprisingly, doesn't it sound an awful lot like "separate but equal"?) but from what I've been reading, it sounds like boys are getting the raw end of the deal in our school system these days, a huge reversal from a few decades ago, so my gut feeling is this isn't really discriminatory against women. If anything, this is almost geared more towards helping boys, and I don't think the feminist agenda is to destroy little boys.

Single-sex advocates argue that the key to successfully teaching boys and girls separately is to really understand gender differences instead of making sweeping generalizations like "boys like to build robots and girls would rather read about unicorns." 

Wait, wasn't there a Simpsons episode where Lisa and Bart are put in separate classrooms, and Lisa pretends to be a boy to get into the boys' class?

A few more stories on the topic:

I'm curious to hear what you think. Is this weird? Is it wrong? Or could it be the answer?


  1. Interesting post! My dad went to an all boys high school. He said it was the worst experience of his life ha ha ha. I think the opposite gender brings a lot of life to the scholastic experience, and I also think that life distracts from academics. Pros and cons, I suppose!

  2. true that! I'm sure a big part of the success in same-sex education has to do with the boys not having to impress the girls and the girls not flirting their heads off instead of listening to the teacher... :)

  3. What I would LOVE to see is the core classes (English, writing, math, science) being done separately and then have classes like music, PE, art, band etc. co-ed. I think those are the classes that lend themselves to interaction naturally. My thought is that then there could be more of a balance between the academic education and the social interaction/problem solving education.

  4. I agree with Sarah's comment. I think this is absolutely fascinating - in fact, I want to bring this up on the show as soon as we stop talking about Libya...