Historically, single-sex schools were the purview of private school systems. However, in 2006 federal legislation allowed public school districts to create single-gender schools and classrooms for their students. Since there are only about a hundred single-sex schools nationwide, it's too early for long-term studies comparing co-educational and single sex-schools. Initial reports, though, indicate that single-sex schools may benefit students.
In 1972, the government enacted Title IX laws to fight sex discrimination in schools. The legislation was set up so that activities geared toward women were given the same financial support as those geared toward men. This legislation also kept districts from establishing single-sex classrooms and schools unless they could also provide a class or school for the other gender. In 2006, in response to studies that indicated boys and girls had different learning styles, the Department of Education changed its regulations to specifically allow public school districts to establish schools for one gender without providing an equal facility for the other.
The U.S. Department of Education reports that high school graduation rates are at an all-time high. In 2010, 78.2 percent of high school students graduated on time. However, many single-sex schools are reporting even more impressive numbers. Eagle Academy in New York, the state's first public all-male school, reported an 82 percent graduation rate for the same time period. Similarly, the Young Women's Leadership Charter School in Chicago reported a 100 percent graduation rate. Proponents say this is because students in single-sex schools are less distracted by their peers and surroundings.
Standardized Test Scores
A main argument in favor of single-sex education is that different genders have different learning styles. In a single-sex environment, then, teachers can better educate each gender. A public school in Florida tested this theory by randomly dividing fourth-grade students into coed or single-sex classrooms. The classes were the same size and students were taught the same curriculum. However, at the end of the study, students in the single-gender environment scored dramatically better on standardized tests. In fact, only 37 percent of the boys in the coed classes scored proficient on the state test while 86 percent of the boys in the single-sex classrooms did.
A final argument in support of single-sex education is that in coed schools, female students still tend to gravitate away from technical classes. Currently, in spite of the fact that more females than males earn college degrees, females are still underrepresented in many math and science fields. In 2010, fewer than 20 percent of all computer science graduates were female. Single-sex schools report that female students are less likely to consider science or computer classes "boys’ classes" and therefore stay more engaged.
- U.S. Department of Education: Single-Sex Versus Coeducational Schooling: A Systematic Review
- U.S. Department of Labor: Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972
- American Association of University Women: Separated by Sex:
- U.S. Department of Education: High School Graduation Rate at Highest Level in Three Decades
- The Online Journal for African American Education: Single-Sex Education: Does it Really Work?
- National Association for Single Sex Public Education: Single-Sex vs. Coed: The Evidence
- National Association for Single Sex Public Education: Advantages for Girls
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images