Single-sex education is based on “pseudoscience,” charge a team of neuroscience and child development experts in a Science article. There is “no empirical evidence” that segregating students by sex improves education, they argue. There’s plenty of evidence it can increase gender stereotyping among students and adults.
The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education estimates more than 500 schools separate boys and girls for at least some classes, reports Inside School Research.
A new curriculum may yield a short-term gain because it’s evaluated by true believers, the scientists said.
“Novelty-based enthusiasm, sample bias, and anecdotes account for much of the glowing characterization of [single-sex] education in the media. Without blind assessment, randomized assignment to treatment or control experiences, and consideration of selection factors, judging the effectiveness of innovations is impossible.”
“There are some definite brain differences in boys and girls as children, but there are a lot of overlaps, and there’s absolutely nothing to suggest that they learn differently,” Claremont McKenna Psychology Professor Diane Halpern told Inside School Research. “The underlying biology of learning is the same.”
Students in single-sex classes don’t perform significantly better than those in mixed-gender classes, once the students’ prior performance and characteristics are taken into account, the critics said.
Update: If there’s no evidence single-sex education is any worse than mixed classes — and there isn’t — then let parents decide, responds Paul Peterson on Ed Next. Many parents like the idea for a variety of reasons, he writes.