No red flags in single-sex classes

The ACLU is sending “cease and desist” letters to schools and districts that offer single-sex classes, reports Ed Week.

“We all want to fix failing schools, but co-education is not the problem, and single-sex education is not the answer,” said Galen Sherwin, a staff attorney for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, in a press release. “Over and over, we find that these programs are based on stereotypes that limit opportunities by reinforcing outdated ideas about how boys and girls behave.”

Single-sex classes are popular with parents, teachers, principals and students, writes Sandra Stotsky, who studied single-sex classes in two Arkansas public elementary schools. She found “no academic downside” to giving parents and students what they prefer.

In one school, single-sex students — especially boys — did better in reading than students in a mixed class. In another school, boys in the mixed class did better on one reading test than boys in the all-male class.

The teachers, parents and principals agreed that single-sex classes seem to provide less distraction for both sexes, better accommodation of each sex’s interests, better learning environment for shy or quiet children, more opportunity to use examples for academic concepts and class readings tailored to each sex and more opportunity for leadership skills of each sex to emerge.

On the other hand, a few teachers and parents perceived them as causing girls to become chattier and boys less polite and too competitive.

Girls were more likely than boys to request single-sex education, Stotsky notes.

More research should be done before banning the single-sex option, she argues.

 

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Comments

  1. So the academic reason for continuing the experiment is, “We have no evidence that this works so we should keep on trying it”? Which side are you coming down on – pro or con?

    • Mark Roulo says:

      How about an alternate reading: “Single-sex classes are popular with parents, teachers, principals and students” and it doesn’t cause any harm, so we should keep on trying it.

      • This

      • There’s this thing you may have heard of – the Constituion – that prohibits gender discrimination not supported by an exceedingly Persuasive justification. Perhaps you’re fine with discrimination if you like it, but the law is more skeptical.

        • Aaron, the Constitution allows freedom of association, which is a better analogy here. We’re not talking about discrimination; we’re talking about students and families wanting and choosing single-sex classrooms. Why is that threatening to you? Anti-choice in everything but abortion?

        • There’s this thing you may have heard of – the Constituion – that prohibits gender discrimination

          Why are single-sex classrooms discriminatory?

          • You truly don’t understand that we’re talking about children with two different genders – boys and girls – and that treating them differently without a legally sufficient reason – an exceedingly persuasive justification – is sexual discrimination? Do I also need to explain the issues in Brown v Board?

          • You are not treating them differently. You are putting both genders into a room with only members of that gender. You are treating both exactly alike, not differently.

          • I guess I do have to explain the issues in Brown v Board….

            You are endorsing the philosophy of the Supreme Court in Plessy v Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), upholding “separate but equal”, but the Court reversed that thinking in its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). Nothing has changed in the past 58 years – “separate but equal” does not excuse discrimination based on ethnic or national origin, color, race, religion, or sex.

          • Aaron, what part of “giving parents and students what they prefer” don’t you understand? Brown v Board is a non sequitur. I ask you again: Why is that threatening to you? Anti-choice in everything but abortion?

          • A major part of the rationale for Brown v Topeka was that while there was plenty of “separate” there wasn’t anywhere near as much “equal” so the Supreme Court was willing to buy the argument that “separate” was inherently not “equal”. Therefor, if a case could be made for “separate” and clearly “equal” it would arguable that Brown v Topeka ought to be modified or even reversed.

            By the way, notice how Brown v Topeka’s been an almost complete failure intra-district? The various efforts to extend Brown v Topeka to the state level having almost uniformly failed completely and the major “success” – Texas – not having brought anywhere near the implied egalitarian bliss.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      If we couldn’t do anything in education until we had good evidence that it works, we wouldn’t be doing much of anything.

      • That’s the sort of thinking that results in educational reforms that turn out to be expensive flops. It simply isn’t true, as evidenced by the metrics cited in the article above.

        • Single sex classes are no more expensive than coed classes, are they?

          If parents like it and it doesn’t cost more, where’s the harm?

          • Gender segregation can be more expensive. But that’s not the point – perhaps I need to be more clear.

            A lot of people come out with ideas that boil down to, “I think this will fix [something that's wrong] with schools”. Some cost a little bit of money, some cost a lot of money.

            If I were to take your position – “If we couldn’t do anything in education until we had good evidence that it works, we wouldn’t be doing much of anything” – I would be trying out all of the stupid, expensive ideas because, under your reasoning, examining their reasonableness and prospect for improving schools would impede your preferred course of “change for change’s sake”, and I would bee needlessly wasting taxpayer money and potentially harming children in the process.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Aaron, I think you misunderstood what I meant. I am actually concerned that in this business, we do so much (and change so much) without good evidence that it works.

            I would love to do lots of well-controlled, small-scale experiments, to gather good data about what works and what doesn’t. Right now, we just don’t know much and instead decide what to do by what sounds nice or agrees with our politics.

  2. BadaBing says:

    My first order of business when I become dictator will be to eradicate the ACLU.

  3. Supersub says:

    “Over and over, we find that these programs are based on stereotypes that limit opportunities by reinforcing outdated ideas about how boys and girls behave.”

    I didn’t realize that the idea of hormonal teenagers acting like idiots to attract someone of the opposite sex was outdated. I’ll be sure to tell the students who reach first or second base daily in the halls of my school…their behavior is so yesterday.

    Why, oh why, does no one look at the behavioral effects of single sex classrooms and schools… all I ever see is academic comparisons.

  4. Random assignment of students to class with random assignment of teachers.

    That’s how we find out.

    Has that been done? I don’t think so.

    • Sandra Stotsky says:

      Please remember that teachers and children aren’t guinea pigs. All the single-sex classes in public elementary schools that I visited were voluntary. Teachers were interested in teaching them, parents and children agreed to participate in them. Not one parent, I was told in Siloam Springs, had taken their child out of a single-sex class he/she was in. If they wanted a mixed class, they had that option from the begnning. These classes cost no more than mixed classes. I trust the judgment of the principal, the teachers, and the parents. I don’t trust the judgment of the ACLU, which has, to my knowledge, never visited these classes, talked to dozens of teachers, parents, and kids. Sandra Stotsky