Do Single-Sex Classes = Single-Minded Students?

Single-sex classes for K-12 students are increasingly popular in the nation's schools (supposedly). From a recent Cincinnati Enquirer story on the matter:

This school year, there are at least 442 public schools in the United States offering single-sex educational opportunities, according to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education.

"It's very common for public schools to do single-sex education in an elementary school," said Dr. Leonard Sax, director of the association. "That is much more common than the high school level, where it is rather rare. The great success stories are almost entirely among elementary schools."...

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Education published new Title IX regulations governing single-sex education in public schools. The regulations allow public schools to offer single-sex classrooms with some restrictions, such as providing a co-ed class in the same subject at a geographically accessible location.

Proponents say single-sex classrooms allow teachers to address the different learning styles of both genders and eliminate issues between boys and girls that hinder learning.

Detractors say there's not enough evidence to show vast improvement in student achievement. The ACLU opposes single-sex classrooms, saying separate was equal was tossed out with Brown v. Board of Education. "It can't be done," said Carrie Davis, staff counsel at ACLU Ohio....

In science, [fourth through sixth grade teacher Joe] Olding found the arrangement benefited girls the most. Their scores increased about 16 percentage points.

"There was less intimidation," he said. "It took the flirting ... out of it. The competition with boys for the girls, it eliminated that."

Boys had about a 4.5- to 5-percentage-point increase overall.

More here.

Some immediate reactions: 1. Intimidation and flirting in grades 4-6? Sounds more like prison than school, but that's almost always the case, isn't it, at all levels of education, whether public or private? 2. Different kids will flourish under different regimes. The same goes for teachers. I'd hazard a guess that a good goal of educational policy would be to allow as many different arrangements as possible, thus increasing the odds that everyone finds a good fit. 3. Anything that doesn't fundamentally address the top-down, monopolistic nature of educational services is doomed to failure. 4. With the possible exception of, er, the financial industry, education is filled with the most phoney-baloney godawful research, stats, etc. There is a study out there that proves anything you want proven. And a school district acting on it. 5. Pushing public money down to the level of the student and giving them more options would be the best way to spend it. 6. Education should be paid for not by public money but by the people directly benefiting from it (e.g., parents, businesses, and others), and a variety of philanthropic efforts. 7. It is not clear that single-sex education actually improves academic achievement, but that is not and should not be the only way of evaluating education, especially when it's paid for by the people using it. Other factors, including parental and student and even teacher satisfaction, should be considered. 8. I need to go to get my seven year old son ready for his multi-gendered classroom.

reason on education.

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  • anarch||

    Like universally enforced alcohol-abstinence till age 21, gender-segregation throughout childhood and youth sure works well for cultivating emotional maturity in priests, doesn't it?

  • ||

    6. Education should be paid for not by public money but by the people directly benefiting from it (e.g., parents, businesses, and others), and a variety of philanthropic efforts.

    Shouldn't that be students, rather than parents? It's not clear to me that parents benefit directly from the education of their children.

  • anarch||

    It gets them out of the house.

  • ||

    I think what I've learned from my years of schooling is that:
    1. Having an all girls classroom is beneficial to girls because they learn differently from boys, and the system has been set up by men (obviously)
    2. There is no difference between boys and girls!!! NO! END OF DISCUSSION!

  • ||

    I hear that single student classrooms work even better. That way there's no competition from anybody and the poor student won't feel intimidated...

    In any case, I vote we reduce mandatory school to 1st-6th grade and the subjects down to reading, writing and arithmatic. Science, history, music, athletics become optional. Everything else depends on how parents want to spend their property tax dollars.

  • ||

    gender-segregation throughout childhood and youth sure works well for cultivating emotional maturity in priests, doesn't it?

    Most priests I know were educated in mixed gender environments until they entered seminary. But your point is not really about that, it was meant to slur priests generally. Please crawl back under your rock.

    2. Different kids will flourish under different regimes. The same goes for teachers.

    And at different times. My daughters have been in both mixed and single-sex classrooms at different times, but we really saw the most benefit grades 5 through 10.

  • ||

    I had friends who had attended boys-only private school and said they loved it. No worries about how you look, impressing girls, etc. They said it was often ameliorated by having "sister schools" which they would pair up with for dances and other events, allowing some interaction with girls.

    I didn't buy it, as I would have hated an all-boys environment, but everybody has their thing.

    As Nick said, the more options, the better, so that there is an option for everybody.

  • robc||

    I find it interesting that this is opposite of the way most catholic schools do it (at least where I live). They are all coed from grades 1-8 and then mostly single sex in high school (we have 1 coed catholic high school here - it was a merger of 2 single sex schools into a larger, more financially stable school).

  • robc||

    Oh, and as usual with school issues, the "problem" can be "solved" by separation of school and state. If there arent any state schools, we dont have to worry about the ACLU suing over violations of Brown.

  • Fluffy||

    Unfortunately, although an all-boys environment eliminates the "distraction" of girls, it probably increases the amount of intimidation that goes on, and doesn't decrease it. With the girls not there, there's really nothing else to do.

    The worst hazing takes place in single-sex environments. When you make a school all-boys, you're basically taking the ethos of the sports teams [with their heavy focus on initiation, and dominance of the younger by the older] and applying it to the entire school.

  • ||

    With the girls not there, there's really nothing else to do.

    While you have a point, Fluffy, one thing they can do is run the boys ragged with tons of schoolwork and sports, leaving them little energy or time for intimidation.

  • ||

    If you really want to change the way American schools are run, a good start would be to educate the teachers in the difference between stupidity and boredom.

  • libertarian democrat||

    I think most studies find benefits in some areas and disadvantages in others (if they look at many areas) which is what you would expect.

    I personally preferred hanging out with girls from like K-3, and I never would have wanted a single-sex classroom. Options are good though - I imagine there are many students who would really, really, benefit from it.

  • BakedPenguin||

    There seems to be a conflation of "single-sex classroom" and "single-sex school". You can have single sex classrooms with coed lunches, recesses, etc.

  • ||

    2. Different kids will flourish under different regimes. The same goes for teachers. I'd hazard a guess that a good goal of educational policy would be to allow as many different arrangements as possible, thus increasing the odds that everyone finds a good fit.

    ....

    4. With the possible exception of, er, the financial industry, education is filled with the most phoney-baloney godawful research, stats, etc. There is a study out there that proves anything you want proven. And a school district acting on it.


    Doesn't #2 partially explain #4? If different kids flourish under different systems and each study has different samples, then it's possible that a study is accurate, but limited.

    6. Education should be paid for not by public money but by the people directly benefiting from it (e.g., parents, businesses, and others), and a variety of philanthropic efforts.

    Doesn't the public benefit from it? Especially when you have the people benefiting as parents, businesses and others, you've pretty much included everyone but hermits. Education seems to be one of the things that suffers from a free-rider issue. Parents love it until all of their kids graduate from school, then they tire of paying for it with their taxes, even though they depend on it to make sure their 401k doesn't go kaput.

    Let's face it, the reason that education has suffered in recent decades is because we can't rely on getting the best and brightest women to become teachers. Historically, gender-discrimination in the workforce limited the best working women to become teachers, nurses and secretaries. Now those same women are free to become doctors, lawyers and bankers*. And they do because it pays better. The subsidy to education due to gender discrimination is long gone.

    * And this is a good thing.

  • ||

    If you really want to change the way American schools are run, a good start would be to educate the teachers in the difference between stupidity and boredom.

    Amen brother.
    I think part of the problem with public schooling is that, in an effort to simultaneously cut costs and have more qualified teachers, you end up with some of the least-intelligent people in college getting education degrees and going on to become teachers.

    States like New York make it worse by requiring them to get masters degrees in order to teach at all. Basically anyone who likes children and can read and write (although the "write" part is sometimes optional) can get a masters in education, which creates a barrier to people who are more intelligent and capable who do not want to go back to school for 2-6 years to earn $35,000 a year and deal with unions.

  • Wormser||

    Seeing as how the nerds of the class are generally the ones subject to the most intimidation, I find it hard to believe that intimidation hurts academic performance.

  • Chicken Shit for the Soul||

    Those who can, do.

    Those who can't, teach.

    Those who can't teach, intimidate.

  • ||

    If the justification for single sex classrooms is that girls generally perform better under a particular style of education and boys generally under another one, wouldn't it be better to create "Style 1" classes and "Style 2" classes and then let students choose which class they wanted to be in? Surely, there must be some boys who perform better with "girls' style" education, and visa versa. This would seem to provide the desired result without legitimizing gender-based discrimination.

  • ||

    6. Education should be paid for not by public money but by the people directly benefiting from it (e.g., parents, businesses, and others), and a variety of philanthropic efforts.

    Doesn't the public benefit from it? Especially when you have the people benefiting as parents, businesses and others, you've pretty much included everyone but hermits.



    That argument sounds suspiciously like ones forwarded by those who would use eminent domain for economic development.

  • cunnivore||

    That sounds like my junior high, where we had a choice between talking home ec or taking shop. Don't think it really helped to tone down the intimidation for the guys who wanted to cook and sew instead of build birdboxes and rockets.

    Of course, as you might have guessed from my name, I found a few benefits from baking cookies and making aprons.

  • cunnivore||

    The ACLU opposes single-sex classrooms, saying separate was equal was tossed out with Brown v. Board of Education.

    Ah! Another well-intentioned, but constitutionally unjustified, SCOTUS decision's chickens come home to roost. This is what happens when you treat the constitution as a sandbox for guys in black robes.

  • ||

    Doesn't the public benefit from it? Especially when you have the people benefiting as parents, businesses and others, you've pretty much included everyone but hermits.



    That argument sounds suspiciously like ones forwarded by those who would use eminent domain for economic development.



    Not really. How do I benefit from a Walmart if I never go to the Walmart or work at it? My neighbors can buy the cheap shit, but they're the ones that benefit from it. An educated populace has numerous positive externalities to those that never use the service.

  • ||

    Isn't this going to produce a whole generation of Trigg level gay people?

    hmmm, maybe that's the point of the whole deal. Are the Christians behind this?

  • ||

    How do I benefit from a Walmart if I never go to the Walmart or work at it?

    * You don't have to have all of those low-class buffoons (not my opinion) shopping at the same store that you shop at, improving your quality of life
    * If you run a business, you can afford to pay your employees less because they can shop at Wal-Mart to make up their budget gap

  • ||

    In other words, Mo, you can't have it both ways. Everything can't be simultaneously so interconnected that it's "for your own good" that we have public education, but then you are so economically isolated as to not feel any impacts what-so-ever by the existence of Wal-mart, only one of the largest companies in the world

  • Abdul||

    I've worked in a lot of alternative education settings with all sorts of special needs populations as well as mainstream populations (juvenile delinquents, developmentally disabled, and combinations of both). Eliminating differences between students often helps focus recources on the educational goals instead of on overcoming the differences in the population. That's why we have age segregation, ability segregation, interest segregation, etc. Obviously, geographic distribution often leads to de facto wealth and racial segregation as well.

    For good reasons, our society has stopped doing involuntary racial segregation and, to a lesser extent, gender segregation. However, when groups opt for voluntary racial segregation for educational purposes (such as charter schools with afrocentric curriculums), the educational results are often positive.

    Interestingly, in my experience one of the least effective types of segregation in the classroom has been age segregation. This is not to say that 6 year olds should be in advanced chemistry, but that enforcing strict 12 month cut-off periods for grades regardless of the ability or interest of the individual is counter-productive.

    I've taught classes where the spread went from 12 to 16, and the younger kids benefit from the maturity and basic skills of the older kids. The older kids benefit by demonstrating competence to the younger ones.

  • ||

    Abdul,

    That's pretty interesting stuff. Your age discrimination point makes sense and eliminating it work in the undergraduate and graduate levels (and to a lesser extent high school). I'm sure I would have benefited from more advanced math as a kid, while sticking to my grade level in English.

    Reinmoose,

    The difference is the extent of the free rider problem. The same argument I make is similar to the argument for community police and fire departments as well as national defense, it doesn't mean the argument is bad. Walmart makes plenty of money for the benefit the provide society, there's no need for them to have the government steal land.

  • robc||

    Also,

    Having a wal-mart drives down prices at competing stores.

  • robc||

    Mo,

    I dont think education has a major free rider problem. The benefit of getting an education pays off to the individual much, much more than they will gain from not paying for it and free riding off of the benefits gained from others.

  • ||

    As a current junior in an all male high school, this is my two cents; make of it what you will

    Overall academic performance is improved. When you remove the distraction of girls, grades do improve to a degree. Of course, the cost for this improved academic credit is, in my teenaged opinion, too high and punishing.

    And don't let anybody tell you that we get the same interaction with girls as anybody else. Spending eight hours of every day surrounded by females is much different than maybe seeing them once a week if you have a coordinate extra-curricular activity.

    All in all, I would much prefer to go to a coed school.

  • ||

    Mo -
    Public education is not a major player in the free rider issue. I agree that Walmart benefitting from emminent domain and "the public" "benefitting" from emminent domain are not the same, and are not supported by the same reasoning. However, "eminent domain for economic development," as J sub D put it, does not immediately require that it be used for the private sector. Roads, convention centers, train stations, power lines, etc. are all benefactors of eminent domain.

    To bring this back to education, the danger of bringing education into the "free rider problem" club is that just about any government program can be justified under that blanket. Healthcare, housing, welfare, prisons, free bread, an iPhone for everyone...

  • ||

    The high school here was all set up to segregate classes a couple of years ago. But surprisingly they bailed out the day before school started. Apparently they had no stomach for a legal battle with the ACLU.
    Nice to see a high schooler around here. We need young bolood to sustain the one or two percent of free thinkers. My tenth grader is using cases from the IJ newsletters for her law class, but doubtful she's ever browsed Reason.

  • ||

    This will just increase the faggotry of our society.

  • BigLiberty||

    I'm wary of single-sex classrooms. While I think some of the trouble incurred dealing with teenage hormonal influxes while trying to learn how to integrate sin^2[x] would have been ameliorated, the real world, and real careers, are NOT single-sex environments.

    Perhaps we should stop trying to take the easy way out by cramming students into unrealistic bubble-environments, and address the real problems with how and by whom classes are taught.

  • Elemenope||

    Shouldn't that be students, rather than parents? It's not clear to me that parents benefit directly from the education of their children.

    The person who benefits most spectacularly from a child being educated is the person who ends up employing him.

  • tex||

    Thank you. I should not have to pay for day-care for some lazy "parents'" 7 little monsters.

  • anarch||

    @ fish 8:29 a.m., and anyone else interested

    Most priests I know were educated in mixed gender environments until they entered seminary.


    If that's representative, then I apologize for, at 7:50 a.m., sloppily having taken my "fact" from journalistic accounts that linked sacerdotal pederasty to pedagogical gender-insularity.

    When those atrocities first hit the news and reports snowballed in volume, a shocked public cast about for explanations. I recall complaints from admitted abusers that their gender-isolation had ensured that they wouldn't learn how to deal with women at all levels and their own natural passions at any constructive level. When the priests were suddenly invested with unsupervised access to and great power over children and adolescents, these presented unfortunate priests with a potential outlet for appetites whose integration into social life had been arrested by early incubation. Never having suffered, negotiated, and won maturity in relation in mixed-gender peer-settings, and permanently restricted from forming intimate alliances with adults, the priests had had no opportunity to develop facility with, opportunity for, nor a taste in, relating to an autonomous sexual partner. Predictable result: protracted, horrific exploitation.

    Imho, the Church, and churches, have bestowed great good on humanity, chief among them the message of salvation. Also (as many both here and in the Church itself will point out), like any institution, she has fostered evils, with perhaps less excuse than less informed agents.

    But your point is not really about that, it was meant to slur priests generally.



    My point was that the immediate benefits such as a more orderly classroom may come at the long-term cost of compromised social skills in adulthood. Hence the analogy to favoring integrating into family life the moderate use of alcohol vs. banning underage alcohol consumption altogether, and then demanding that self-control spontaneously emerge upon unrestricted access to inebriates - a caution that has been invoked in relevant threads here.

    I'm ready to believe I used false testimony to support my proposition, and appreciate being corrected.

    Please crawl back under your rock.


    In whatever degree of charity the correction is offered.

  • ||

    Not really. How do I benefit from a Walmart if I never go to the Walmart or work at it? My neighbors can buy the cheap shit, but they're the ones that benefit from it. An educated populace has numerous positive externalities to those that never use the service.

    Wealth and increased tax revenues don't have any positive externalities? Don't get me wrong, I'm a supporter of publicly financed* K-12 education. Yeah, it's a welfare payment to kids, but I can live with it.

    *Financed, not supplied.

  • anarch||

    Inebriants, not inebriates, Silly.

  • robc||

    lmnop,

    The person who benefits most spectacularly from a child being educated is the person who ends up employing him.

    I disagree, I think the employer is probably 3rd at best:

    1. Person educated
    2. Children of #1
    3. Employer of #1

  • ||

    The person who benefits most spectacularly from a child being educated is the person who ends up employing him.

    But that is also the person who pays most handsomely for those benefits, in the form of salary, etc. The benefit that the employer gets, he gets in a negotiated exchange; its not some free-floating social benefit.

  • Elemenope||

    But that is also the person who pays most handsomely for those benefits, in the form of salary, etc. The benefit that the employer gets, he gets in a negotiated exchange; its not some free-floating social benefit.

    Not true, RCD, because it is a universally (or near enough) disbursed good. It is not merely the employee that was educated, but every other person that the person might employ. The individual person is competing with the others for the job, but the employer need not compete for educated employees when *everyone* is educated.

  • ||

    Not true, RCD, because it is a universally (or near enough) disbursed good.

    It may be universally offered, but it is not universally accepted. The employer is not paying for what is offered to everyone he doesn't employ, but is paying only for what was accepted by, and put to use on his behalf by, his employee. That is his direct benefit from education, which he pays for, directly.

    It is not merely the employee that was educated, but every other person that the person might employ.

    Beg to differ. All too many of the people that the person "might" employ are unqualified for the job, in some part because they are insufficiently or wrongly educated. I'm not competing against high school dropouts; I'm competing against law school graduates.

    The individual person is competing with the others for the job, but the employer need not compete for educated employees when *everyone* is educated.

    I think what you're arguing here is that the employer doesn't pay full value for his educated employee because the market is glutted with such people. I think this is counterfactual - there is no such glut - and I think it presumes that the employer is not entitled to retain some surplus value from the work of the employee, which is very Bakunin of you, but not very economically realistic.

  • LarryA||

    When I started first grade the school had a white line down the center of the playground separating boys and girls. That was 1953.

    2. Different kids will flourish under different regimes. The same goes for teachers.

    Bingo. It isn't a gender difference. I raised two daughters with diametrically opposite learning styles. But you can walk down the (insert subject) wing of most high schools and every class will be in the same book, about on the same page.

    If you really want to change the way American schools are run, a good start would be to educate the teachers in the difference between stupidity and boredom.

    I think that would only work with teachers who are bored.

    My favorite suggestion is to prohibit schools with over 500 students.

    If different kids flourish under different systems and each study has different samples, then it's possible that a study is accurate, but limited.

    That would be a good point if every education bureaucracy study wasn't written to produce the One True Perfect Way To Educate Every Student, and further the idea that Teachers Need Higher Pay.

    When you remove the distraction of girls, grades do improve to a degree. Of course, the cost for this improved academic credit is, in my teenaged opinion, too high and punishing.

    Agreed. It's not like male-female relationships in the U.S. are so trouble-free we can pass up the practice afforded in school.

    The person who benefits most spectacularly from a child being educated is the person who ends up employing him.

    Except that if better employees benefit employers the business will produce better products more efficiently, which will directly benefit customers. We're all customers.

  • Elemenope||

    RCD --

    You are lucky enough to work in an industry (law) where the educational requirements are steep, and pointedly go far beyond the average educational level of the average employed person. That is distorting your analysis somewhat. In many fields, one high school graduate is interchangeable with another (they need to know how to read, count, and take orders). It is in these that there is an obvious glut of employable persons.

    And I'm not a Marx/Bakunin "extracting the surplus value is teh evil!!!" type of guy. I'm just pointing out that the marginal benefit of education for people not consuming the good is much larger than people normally perceive.

  • Elemenope||

    Except that if better employees benefit employers the business will produce better products more efficiently, which will directly benefit customers. We're all customers.

    Oh, I agree. I'm just curious if anyone has ever measured the social cost of education (a *huge* sunken cost per individual) versus the positive impact in productivity and efficiency of a universally literate and numerate workforce (my guess is *more huge*). If the second is more hug-er-er than the first, we can't just throw up our hands and say "heck! surplus value! good for them!".

  • Rationalitate||

    As a gay male, I fear that generalizing about how males learn will be detrimental to those of us whose brains are more like those of straight females as opposed to straight males.

  • zoltan||

    Hasn't it been shown time and time again that intrasexual differences are far too great to make a general conclusion of brain function on sex? Personally, I would have liked being called by my last name and hated expressing my emotions when confronted with good literature.

  • hottstuff||

    We shouldnt have single sex schools because it is segragation, it dosent help you develope the right socail skills, and a lot of people that come out of single sex schools actually turn out to be gay, or they think that sinse they dont have any atention during school that they would get more atention from guys by wearing trashy clothes and going to bars and different clubs

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