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.