Single-gender education comes to an end at Morningside Middle in North Charleston

Source: https://www.postandcourier.com/news/single-gender-education-comes-to-an-end-at-morningside-middle/article_88d5c51e-d9d2-11e7-b0a5-d376f4123453.html

Morningside Middle School in North Charleston has ended its policy of educating boys and girls in separate classrooms, closing a chapter on what once was a growing trend in South Carolina.

Principal Stephanie Flock said leaders at the public school made the decision to drop its single-gender programs this school year after prolonged dwindling support from the S.C. Department of Education, which used to provide free training and curricula for such initiatives.

“With the lack of professional development, it wasn’t an effective strategy,” Flock said.

Eighth-grade students at Morningside will continue to be separated by gender for the rest of this school year, and it will continue offering single-gender physical education classes and an all-girls STEM class, Flock said.

But the school’s era of strict gender separation for all students has come and gone in the course of less than a decade.

Under a 2006 amendment to the gender-equity law known as Title IX, the federal government began allowing the creation of all-boys and all-girls public schools and schools that segregate by gender. The idea saw a brief renaissance among some education leaders who said it catered to gender-specific learning styles.

Democratic S.C. Education Superintendent Jim Rex hired a statewide coordinator for single-gender initiatives shortly after taking office in 2007. In 2008, the state reported that 214 public schools offered single-gender programs.

Morningside created its ARMS Academy for boys and EXCEL Academy for girls in 2009 amid a golden age of state support for the practice.

In 2011, Republican Mick Zais took office as state superintendent and eliminated the single-gender coordinator position. The last time the state provided an unofficial count, in 2015, only 26 schools statewide offered single-gender programs.

“There are still some, but not as many as there were back in the heyday of it,” said Ryan Brown, a spokesman for current Republican state Superintendent Molly Spearman.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Rex said his push for single-gender education was part of broader push he made for public school choice, including Montessori and other specialized programs.

Single-gender education has since fallen out of fashion: A 2011 Science magazine paper called the research behind the movement “pseudoscience,” and the American Psychological Association found in 2014 that the advantages were “trivial and, in many cases, nonexistent.”

Rex said he still sees value in single-gender education as one of an array of choices.

“It’s a little bit like Christianity: It’s an idea that might work if it were ever really tried,” he said. “So many different approaches fell under that descriptor ‘single-gender.’ Some had curriculum and training for teachers, some had support, some didn’t, so I know there were mixed results.”

Rex added that the idea still shows promise, “particularly at the middle school level where so many students are distracted by the opposite sex.”

Members of the North Charleston Constituent School Board and Charleston County School Board were unaware of the change at Morningside when reached by phone this week. As of Wednesday, the school district website still identified Morningside as a “Neighborhood Single-Gender” school, and the school’s website still displayed the ARMS and EXCEL logos.

Flock said school officials notified parents in January that changes were coming and that none had complained about it.

“We haven’t had any negative feedback,” Flock said. “Our parents want our scholars to get the best education.”

The Charleston County School District still has one option for parents seeking single-gender education for boys: Prestige Preparatory Academy, an all-boys public charter school that opened in North Charleston in 2016 serving kindergarten through fourth grade. The school hemorrhaged teachers and students in its first year amid complaints about a chaotic environment and lack of basic resources, including books.

 

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Single-sex schools: Could they harm your child?

  • Lise Eliot, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

Gender-segregated education is making a comeback. Single-sex classrooms, long discouraged under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education, have been gaining prominence in recent years, especially in urban charter schools.

This fall, Los Angeles saw the launch of two all-girls’ schools – the Girls’ Academic Leadership Academy and the Girls’ Athletic Leadership School (known by the perky acronyms, “GALA” and “GALS”) – and Washington, D.C. district opened the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School for boys (or “Young Kings,” as they refer to their students). These schools join growing networks of inner-city single-sex public schools, such as the Urban Prep Academies for boys and the Young Women’s Leadership Academies geared largely toward students of color.

Parents who choose single-sex schools do so for many reasons, but a major one is the belief that “boys and girls learn differently.” Single-sex schools also claim to better tailor instruction to one or the other gender.

But brain and behavioral research does not support such beliefs. I study gender development in the brain, and my research has found no difference in the way boys and girls process information, learn, remember, read or do math. Similarly, in-depth analysis of educational outcomes by Janet Hyde and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin has found scant evidence that single-sex schooling leads to better academic achievement.

On the other hand, research suggests that single-sex schooling may actually be harmful to children – by failing to prepare them for gender-integrated workplaces, shared leadership and equal partnership in families.

Read more …………..

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OCR released Q&A guidance on the strict criteria needed to justify single sex education under Title IX and the U.S. Constitution.

Questions and Answers on Title IX and Single-Sex Elementary and Secondary Classes and Extracurricular Activities∗

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Idaho Elementary School Found Non-Compliant with Title IX Due to Sex-Segregated Classrooms

by FEMINIST NEWSWIRE on Dec 6, 2016 • 11:08 AM No Comments

Last week the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the US Department of Education (ED) determined that Idaho’s Middleton School District was in violation of Title IX for segregating elementary school students into all-girl and all-boy classrooms.

A complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleged that since 2006, Middleton Heights Elementary School separated 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders into classrooms by sex under the debunked theory that boys’ and girls’ brains are fundamentally different, and therefore they need to be taught in different ways.

According to the ACLU, “The school did this by, for example, providing boys with more space to move around, asking boys questions about actions in English class and girls questions about characters’ emotions, and emphasizing competition for boys and cooperation for girls.” There is no evidence that this type of education benefits children of either sex, and, in fact, this model can contribute to illegal sex discrimination and stereotyping.

Not only was the school unable to justify the sex-segregated classrooms, but the ED’s investigation discovered that the practice led to discriminatory educational opportunities. For example the student-to-teacher ratio was lower in almost all of the boys’ classes than it was in both the girls’ classes and the coed classes.  Similarly, there was no adequate justification for single sex instruction in any subject based on beginning year sex differences or on comparative improvement data from previous years. Also for many years the school failed to notify parents that the single-sex classes were completely voluntary or to obtain their consent for their child’s participation.

The Middleton Heights Elementary School returned to co-educational classrooms at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. Under the OCR resolution agreement the school will provide public website notification that it is discontinuing the single sex classes and remain under ED supervision until 2020.  It must also provide Title IX training and other justification requirements if it plans to re-institute any single sex classes.

The Feminist Majority Foundation’s (FMF) 2014 report “Identifying K-12 Public Schools with Deliberate Sex Segregation” identified 699 coed public K-12 schools offering some type of all-boys and all-girls classrooms and 106 public single sex schools.

In December 2014 OCR issued guidance on justifications needed for single-sex public education. Title IX Coordinators and educators with questions about what constitutes an adequate justification for single-sex classrooms can access the OCR Questions and Answers guidance here.

The 2016, the FMF report on “Reinvigorating the Role of the Title IX Coordinator” describes how to find the names and contact information for 23,000 school district and post-secondary education Title IX Coordinators.

Visit the FMF Title IX Coordinators web page and the sex segregation web page, and sign up for FMF’s Title IX Network emails.

Media Resources: ACLU 11/30/16; OCR 11/14/16, Feminist Majority Foundation 10/13/16.

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Guidance Issued on How Schools Can Partner with Outside Organizations that Provide Single-Sex Programs under Title IX

U.S. Department of Education

Office of Communications & Outreach, Press Office   

400 Maryland Ave., S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202                 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

Dec. 15, 2015

 

Contact: Press Office

(202) 401-1576 or press@ed.gov

 

 

Guidance Issued on How Schools Can Partner with Outside Organizations that Provide Single-Sex Programs under Title IX

 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights today released guidance in the form of a Dear Colleague Letterdetailing schools’ responsibilities under Title IX when partnering with certain outside organizations that provide single-sex programs to a school district’s students. The letter explains the circumstances under which a school district may work lawfully with “voluntary youth service organizations” under Title IX.

 

“We know that outside organizations can be great resources for school districts trying to improve the quality and diversity of the educational opportunities they offer,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “We hope this guidance provides schools with additional clarity on how to comply with Title IX’s requirement to provide equitable opportunities for students regardless of their sex, including, where the law allows it, while working with organizations that serve students of only one sex.”

 

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. The law generally bars school districts both from excluding students from educational opportunities based on their sex and from providing significant assistance to outside organizations that do so, but it allows schools to work with certain outside organizations that limit membership by sex.

 

The new guidance reminds schools that Title IX prohibits school districts from providing significant assistance – such as financial support, staff, equipment, and facilities – to any outside organization that discriminates on the basis of sex, unless Title IX excepts the organization from its reach.

 

The letter explains that Title IX does not apply to the membership practices of voluntary youth service organizations even when they receive significant assistance from a school district.

 

In order for an organization to qualify for this exemption, its membership must be voluntary, traditionally limited to members of one sex, and principally limited to persons under age 19. The organization also must facilitate public service opportunities for its members.

 

Finally, the letter clarifies that, even though Title IX allows a school to provide significant assistance to a voluntary youth service organization, the district still has a Title IX obligation to ensure that girls and boys have comparable educational opportunities overall.

 

OCR’s mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. The office is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. For more about the office, click here.

 

More information about Title IX and other OCR guidance documents on Title IX issues can be found here.

 

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