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Single-sex education is on the rise

Classes at an Alabama middle school come under fire by ACLU.

By Charyn Pfeuffer - MSN Living Editor Dec 10, 2012 11:00PM

In the mid-1990s, there were only two single-sex public schools in the U.S. Today, there are more than 500 public schools in 40 states that offer some single-sex academic classes or, more rarely, are entirely single sex, reports The New York Times.

Photo: Thinkstock/Getty ImagesThe topic of single-sex education is a controversial one as educators argue whether forcing students into a single-sex environment boosts academic success.

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Recently, single-sex programs at Huffman Middle School in Birmingham, Ala., as well as at another district in Idaho have come under fire by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), reports AL.com. Complaints filed by the nonpartisan non-profit organization with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights say such programs draw on gender stereotypes, such as men are active and independent while women are passive and dependent, and deprive students of equal educational opportunities.

"We understand that teachers and parents want to provide the best education for their children. But coeducation was never the problem with failing schools, and single-sex programs are not the answer," Christina Brandt-Young, attorney with the ACLU Women's Rights Project was quoted. "These programs are poorly designed and based on pseudoscience and stereotypes that do nothing to enhance learning, and only reinforce discredited ideas about how boys and girls behave."

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In a September 2011 article in Science, titled “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling,” authors argue that “sex-segregated education is deeply misguided and often justified by weak, cherry-picked or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence.” The article, written by eight social scientists who founded the nonprofit American Council for CoEducational School, goes onto assert, “Boys who spend more time with other boys become increasingly aggressive. Similarly, girls who spend more time with other girls become more sex-typed.”

Do boys and girls learn differently? Do same-sex classrooms create a better learning environment for students? Why or why not?

Photo: Thinkstock/Getty Images

Bing: The pros and cons of single-sex schools

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Dec 16, 2012 12:46PM
While critics suggest that single-sex educations reinforce stereotypes, no such data is provided, just as it was not provided in the article “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling,” referenced above. The central value of single-sex schools is freedom from, not reinforcement of, gender stereotypes. When you combine strong female mentors and positive role models, reduced sex stereotyping in curriculum and classroom, and abundant learning opportunities the results are clear. Educational researcher Cornelius Riordan, Professor of Sociology at Providence College and author of Girls and Boys in School: Together or Separate? sums it up: “Females especially do better academically in single-sex schools and colleges across a variety of cultures. Having conducted research on single-sex and coeducational schools for the past two decades, I have concluded that single-sex schools help to improve student achievement.” The US Department of Education’s comprehensive summary of research on single-sex vis a vis coeducation concludes: “The preponderance of studies in areas of academic accomplishment (both concurrent and long term) and adaptation or socioemotional development both current and long term) yields results lending support to SS (single sex) schooling.” Single-sex education is a choice, made by families because they value the extraordinary benefits of this learning environment. 
Submitted by Megan K. Murphy Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls' Schools (NCGS)
Dec 11, 2012 11:09AM
I think it's a very good idea the single sex schools and have always believed in it but didn't get a chance to be in such a school. there is too much distraction between the opposite sexes because of the age of the adolescents where curiosity surpases focus on studying. I hope this will be for all schools pretty soon the separation of sexes and we won't be hearing so many problems of girls dressing in appropiately to attract boy's attention and no problems of boys harassing the girls. we've tried to be an equal gender society but it has not helped and I can see why in some societies both genders are not allowed to socialize much. some of us are given the freedom and we don't know how to appreciate nor respect it, so it gets to be taken away in order to discipline.
Dec 11, 2012 11:04AM
The ACLU and EPA  are two of the most worthless organizations in our country today!!  Both bureaucracy's constantly stick their big Government noses in everybody's business, they should be disbanded!!  Both organizations are run mostly by liberal left wing people who want to expand the Government's roll in every aspect of are lives!!
Dec 11, 2012 10:04AM


i just don't see the problem and/or issues with all male & all female schools -- whether they are public or private


however, my primary concern has to do with the aclu's (as well as some commenters') denigration of single-sex schools.  the aclu's attorney stated that these schools are based on "pseudoscience", promote stereotyping, and that they "only reinforce discredited ideas about how boys and girls behave".  while other commenters basically used the same ideology to criticize the schools. 


are these people assuming that students' lives only revolve around their school?  or, to be more specific, that students in single-sex schools have no social life outside of school?  just because they attend a single-sex school does not mean that those students will forego their basic human need to interact with individuals of the other gender. 


my position on this issue is, of course, different and, in almost every way, the exact opposite of these critics:  stereotyping genders is a common occurrence that happens constantly in the various settings/situations of our environment.  not only is it not a "pseudoscience", but it is, in its simplest form, natural. 


like all issues that are presented to me, i analyze them and arrive at my conclusions by maintaining their basic context.  conversely, the critics are so preoccupied with finding fault, that they (inadvertently or not) create their own ideas of the actual issue and complicate them beyond recognition. 


the "social scientists" that were mentioned in the article lack credibility.  As founders of the nonprofit American Council for CoEducational School, their article and views are completely biased and, therefore, invalid. 

Dec 11, 2012 9:35AM
and I will go even further with you, tuturing, instead of many students being tutured, go to the one on one which to say, The true billionaires is what they used to do, Home schooling or tuturing.
Dec 11, 2012 9:27AM

Its about time someone had the guts to do the right thing, 500 single sex education that is great. When I went to Linman school at Shepperd Airforce Base in Kansas it was single sex and as I compare it to the coed college that I attend there is no competition, there is no compareson. I learned more in that school than in the entire time I spent in all the years of coed education, such as elementary, jr high and school. I have been promoting single sex education for the past 20 yrs.  I wanted my children to attend single sex education as they were growing up but in los angeles, ca they did not have one, Single sex classroom as well as single sex education are more educational and are given the tools to success. sex-segregated education is deeply misguided and often justified by weak, cherry-picked or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence. My complaint about the public coed school education is that teachers do not know how to teach, As a coach teaching children how to play soccer, and a parent taking care of another parents childs I learned they did not teach. In fact, they should begin a report card for the teachers and you will see for yourself of how lame they are. If you talk to a teacher about a car, wheather any grade, all they know is about the interior of the car instead of all the car. If you ask a teacher if they know what a dolphin looks like, they will say I don't know and they earned a master degree in zoology. I recently took a college class in biology and I asked the teacher whom had a master degree in zoology if he ever had been to a zoo, no he said, I said have you ever spent times with animals and he said no, I mean this teachers don't even know how to paint. It get even better when you get into the teachers that have a doctors degree the known PHD. And Yes I agree with all the statements that I read on this

Dec 11, 2012 9:16AM
As long as people are taking education seriously enough to give it a good evaluation, then we are on a good track, regardless if one opts for a single-sex or a co-ed track.

Regardless of which path one takes, a school must ask a fundamental question:  WHAT KIND OF "PRODUCT" (read: STUDENT) DO WE WANT TO PRODUCE?" and design their program around that idea.  Catholics and Jews have been following this formula with their educational institutions - both co-ed AND single-sex - and they can proudly say that, for the most part, they have been successful.

At least single-sex students don't need condoms distributed, and girls don't have to worry about being parents before their time.  Make sure they use school uniforms too, to stave off other forms of gender pettiness.

Dec 11, 2012 8:55AM
Single sex classes are a great idea except for the intermingling skills. There would be no more distractions with boys and girls and all the hormones that goes with coed classes. However, how would that reflect on the skills that our children receive by intermingling.
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