New York Times “Room for Debate” – 7 short discussions of single sex schools in the US

Room for Debate: A Running Commentary on the News

 

Segregation Is Not a Cure

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/10/17/single-sex-schools-separate-but-equal/sex-segregation-is-not-a-cure

Updated October 17, 2011, 09:58 PM

Galen Sherwin is a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project.

The education crisis has led schools to search for ways to improve educational outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged students. Unfortunately, this has led many schools to turn to sex segregation. These programs are often mere gimmicks that give administrators a splashy way to show they’re doing something — even if it fails to produce results. However, emerging evidence raises serious questions not only about their legality, but also about whether they do more harm than good.

The arguments in support of segregation are alarming. For example, some proponents claim girls perform poorly under stress and shouldn’t be given timed tests, and that boys should be allowed to hit things with Nerf baseball bats to relieve tension.

When it comes to our kids’ educations, stick to what works, like smaller class sizes, more teacher training and greater attention to curriculum.

Most of these programs are based on little more than outdated notions about differences between boys and girls that have long been discredited. What students really need is an education system that understands that all children learn differently, and is tailored to their individual needs — not their sex. A system that makes crude judgments about learning styles based only on sex limits opportunities for all, and should never be a price we’re willing to pay for education reform.

The American Civil Liberties Union recently won a significant victory in Vermilion Parish, La., where a school agreed to halt a sex-segregated program that was based on faulty science and had failed to attract enough community support to continue. The Vermilion program’s failure should send a message. When it comes to our kids’ educations, stick to what works, like smaller class sizes, more teacher training and greater attention to curriculum. Coeducation is not the problem with our schools, and sex segregation is not the cure.

Single-Sex Schools: Separate but Equal?

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/10/17/single-sex-schools-separate-but-equal/what-our-research-on-single-sex-education-shows

A new study debunks the benefits of segregation by sex in the classroom, and says the practice does more harm than good. Should it be illegal?

What Our Research Shows

October 17, 2011

Richard Fabes is the Dee and John Whiteman Distinguished Professor of Child Development in the School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University and the director of operations for the American Council for Coeducational Schooling. The view expressed here is that of all the authors of the recent Science report.

The recent Science article by me and my colleagues has sparked much-needed discussion of single-sex education. Past reviews and our own peer-reviewed research led us to conclude that academic achievement is not superior in single-sex schools after controlling for qualities of children at entry (for example, socioeconomic status) and programs (demanding curriculums, for instance).

Single-sex education fails to produce academic benefits and inflates gender stereotyping.

Additionally, based on voluminous research of the negative effects of separating people into groups, we warned that single-sex classrooms would likely generate and exacerbate stereotyping and sexist attitudes. Rather than promoting gender segregation, public schools should be striving to teach a diverse body of students to work together and to respect each other.

For nearly a decade, proponents of single-sex schooling have argued that boys and girls differ so fundamentally in brain functioning, sensory abilities, interests, stress responsiveness and more that they cannot be taught effectively in the same classrooms. However, scientific data do not support these claims, and, indeed, many single-sex advocates have recently backed away from them. Nonetheless, such advocates have already trained hundreds of teachers (often at taxpayer expense) in mythic “gender-specific learning styles” that make a mockery of Title IX’s requirement to eliminate sex discrimination in schools.

Now these advocates are emphasizing “social justice” as their rationale, arguing that parents who cannot afford private, elite single-sex education deserve comparable educational options. But this argument is hollow given the evidence that single-sex schooling has nothing to do with a school’s success. Certainly, there is great social injustice in the quality differences between elite private schools and many public schools, but this injustice is never going to be remedied by segregating the sexes.

We and many other scientists and educators agree with the U.S. Department of Education’s demand for “educational practitioners to use ‘scientifically-based research’ to guide their decisions about which interventions to implement.” Anecdotes do not meet this standard but are frequently used to support single-sex schooling. If modern science has learned anything, it is to be highly skeptical of anecdotes.

The preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that single-sex education fails to produce academic benefits and inflates gender stereotyping.

 

Don’t Be Tempted

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/10/17/single-sex-schools-separate-but-equal/dont-be-tempted-by-single-sex-schools

October 17, 2011

Verna L. Williams is a professor of law and the co-director of the Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

It’s so tempting. Single-sex schooling evokes images of elite academies and institutions of higher learning, like Wellesley or Phillips Andover in the days of yore. Why shouldn’t this jewel in the crown of education be available to even our poorest students?

While the law may permit single-sex schooling in some circumstances, it’s not the magic bullet proponents proclaim.

Proponents claim separating boys from girls is especially helpful in urban — read “low income, high concentration minority” — school districts. They help black boys become men. They help black girls avoid pregnancy.

Here’s where my red flags go up.

There is little to no data showing that sex separation alone leads to better outcomes. These schools work when class sizes are reasonable, academics are paramount and parents are involved. Gender neutral factors, all.

So, what’s the appeal? Look more closely at the rhetoric. It recalls time worn images of matriarchal black families, emasculated men, perpetually fertile women. For poor people of color, sex segregation is the balm for their supposed pathology. Really?

California’s experiment is telling. Researchers found that separating sexes meant “All Quiet on the Western Front” for boys, “Pride and Prejudice” for girls. Survival skills helped boys learn about Western expansion, while quilt-making was the focus for girls. One spot of equality: neither boys nor girls could take Advanced Placement courses. Investigators concluded that sex segregation might be the next dead-end track for low-achieving students.

So, while the law may permit single-sex schooling in some circumstances, it’s not the magic bullet proponents proclaim. We know what really works and we know what children need, notwithstanding the fact that particulars will vary child by child. Let’s home in on evidence-based strategies and resist the mythic remedy of single-sex education.

Single-Sex Schools: Separate but Equal?

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/10/17/single-sex-schools-separate-but-equal/more-federal-oversight

A new study debunks the benefits of segregation by sex in the classroom, and says the practice does more harm than good. Should it be illegal?

More Federal Oversight

October 17, 2011

Rosemary C. Salomone, the Kenneth Wang Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law, is the author of “Same, Different, Equal: Rethinking Single-Sex Schooling.”

The authors of the recent article in Science debunking the “pseudoscience of single-sex schooling” rightly take issue with simplistic and overstated justifications from brain research, but they too selectively rely on findings of little scientific relevance to support their position. Moreover, their flawed interpretation of the law, their narrow view of programmatic success and their call to rescind the 2006 Title IX regulations miss the mark.

The problem isn’t single-sex schooling or Title IX regulations, it’s the way in which some school districts have implemented the regulations.

Despite suggestions to the contrary, sex separation does not necessarily undermine equality. Unlike the state-enforced racial segregation struck down by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), thoughtfully planned, well executed and voluntary single-sex programs are designed to empower students, making them masters of their own destiny. The court in United States v. Virginia (1996), striking down the all-male admissions policy in the state-supported Virginia Military Institute, further reaffirmed that the two sexes are not “fungible” and that we should “celebrate” the differences. But the justices also made clear that the state must provide an “exceedingly persuasive justification” when it classifies on the basis of sex, a standard embedded in the 2006 regulatory revisions.

As soon as the regulations took effect, brain research proponents highjacked the justification argument.

No matter how they might now attempt to back-pedal, brain researchers have convinced many well-intentioned educators and parents that sex differences in brain development categorically affect learning styles and justify different teaching methods. Their provocative assertions have eclipsed reasonable social rationales embraced particularly among newly formed single-sex schools.

At their best, these single-sex programs counter socially conditioned expectations. They help students unlearn sex stereotypes, encouraging interest among girls in math and science and among boys in writing and foreign languages, skills critical to the global information economy. Many single-sex schools in particular aim to close the minority achievement gap, providing at-risk students with positive role models in a rigorous academic environment free of social distractions. Beyond test scores, they look to academic investment and long-term outcomes in college attendance and career choices.

The problem is not single-sex schooling. Nor is it the Title IX regulations. The problem is the way in which some school districts have misguidedly implemented the regulations, following a course where the rhetoric on brain differences has outpaced the science and its relevance to pedagogy.

The obvious solution is more vigorous federal oversight. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights should investigate reports of teachers shouting at boys and speaking softly to girls, or adjusting classroom temperature to accommodate hard-wired sex differences in hearing or heat sensitivity, for example. Based on its findings, the department should clarify such blatant and more subtle policies, practices and rationales that promote harmful sex stereotypes and run counter to the law. It also should offer technical assistance in compliance. Only then might the air finally be cleared for educators to fine-tune this work-in-progress free of ideological misconceptions.

What We’ve Discovered

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/10/17/single-sex-schools-separate-but-equal/bucking-the-trend-at-womens-colleges

October 17, 2011

Jane Dammen McAuliffe a scholar of Islamic studies, is the president of Bryn Mawr, a liberal arts college for women.

What’s missing from the report in Science magazine is an examination of the larger cultural forces that, in the case of young women, lead many to believe that there are some fields of study that just aren’t for them.

Even after the majority of U.S. colleges and universities have gone coed, women’s colleges continue to prepare an inordinate percentage of their students to succeed in fields traditionally dominated by men.

Cultural forces lead many young women to believe that there are some fields of study that just aren’t for them.

At Bryn Mawr College, our students are six times more likely to graduate with a degree in chemistry than college students nationwide and nine times more likely to do so in math. Indeed, we are second in the nation in the percentage of female students receiving degrees in math, beating out science-oriented coed universities like the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Do a lot of our students enroll with the idea of being math and physics majors? Yes, many do.

But there are also a great number who at some point during their first or second year take a course in computer science and discover a love for programming language that’s even greater than the love they had for a Romance language.

We recently profiled a student on the college’s Web site who graduated a few years ago with a degree in computer science after initially intending to get a degree in anthropology.

She wrote in an e-mail: “Studying computer science at a women’s college meant that I could concentrate on learning instead of being the representative of a gender. Gender became irrelevant instead of being something that defined me.”

 
New York Times
Single-sex programs in the public schools are legal. The 1972 Title IX equity law explicitly protects single-sex academies, and Title IX regulations permit

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Her books include “Who Stole Feminism?” and “The War Against Boys.”

Single-Sex Schools: Separate but Equal?

A new study debunks the benefits of segregation by sex in the classroom, and says the practice does more harm than good. Should it be illegal?

A Necessary Option

October 17, 2011

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Her books include “Who Stole Feminism?” and “The War Against Boys.”

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/10/17/single-sex-schools-separate-but-equal/a-necessary-option

Single-sex programs in the public schools are legal. The 1972 Title IX equity law explicitly protects single-sex academies, and Title IX regulations permit single-sex programs in coed schools that are voluntary and provided equally. Moreover, the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act endorses innovative single-sex classes and academies. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who introduced the provision with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison,explained: “We know that single-sex schools and classes can help young people, boys and girls, improve their achievement.”

Critics of single-sex education cannot reasonably claim that it is illegal — but they can and do argue that it should be. For them, girls and boys schools are like racial segregation. But race and sex are different, as the Supreme Court has emphasized and as most everyone recognizes. Mandatory racial separatism demeans human beings and forecloses life prospects. Single-sex education is freely chosen and has helped millions of pupils flourish intellectually and socially. Boys and girls, taken as groups, have much in common but also have different interests, propensities and needs. No sensible person thinks of the Camp Fire Girls or Boy Scouts as gender apartheid.

Single-sex schooling is not for everyone, but it is legal and cannot be compared to racial segregation.

Single-sex schooling is not for everyone. But it can help some students to become more focused and well-rounded. Girls cannot leave it to boys to dissect the frog, and boys cannot leave it to girls to edit the school newspaper. When a 2007 British study compared life outcomes for thousands of middle-aged graduates of single-sex and coed schools, it found that “gender stereotypes” were “exacerbated” in coed schools and “moderated” in single-sex schools. In single-sex schools, males were more likely to focus on language and literature, and females on math and science. And for girls, “single-sex schooling was linked to higher wages.”

The research on single-sex education is far from conclusive. But the option has produced many heartening successes in the public system — especially in poorer districts where parents lack the resources to send their children to private single-sex schools. American education today needs more options, not fewer.

Know Your Child

October 17, 2011

Leonard Sax is the author of “Why Gender Matters,” “Boys Adrift” and “Girls on the Edge.” He is the director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education.

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/10/17/single-sex-schools-separate-but-equal/know-whats-best-for-your-child

Some girls act more “girly” when there are boys in the room. This is a robust empirical finding, going back to Cota & Dion 1986 and earlier.

Some girls might benefit from an all-girls classroom, and parents should have the right to choose, even if they can’t afford private school fees.

Likewise, some girls are less constrained by gender stereotypes in an all-girls classroom. In 1998, Pamela Haag, of the American Association of University Women’s Education Foundation, wrote that “published studies that use subject preferences and girls’ attitudes toward math and science as indicators have concluded uniformly that single-sex environments have a positive effect for girls.” In 2008, German researchers randomly assigned 401 teenage girls and boys to single-sex and coed classrooms to study physics, for one year. They found that girls who were randomly assigned to girls’ classrooms were less likely to regard physics as a “boys’ subject” at the end of the year, compared to girls assigned to coed classrooms.

For some girls, the all-girls format can inspire and nurture an interest in physics and computer science in a way that a coed classroom cannot. Surely, the authors of the Science article don’t believe that all girls act less girly when boys are around. And if that’s not the case, then they have failed to grasp what many parents and teachers of pre-teenagers and teenagers intuitively understand: some girls might benefit from an all-girls classroom.

Not every child should be in a single-sex classroom. But parents should have the right to choose among single-sex and coed formats, even if they can’t afford to pay private school fees.

Room for Debate: A Running Commentary on the News
New York Times
Single-sex education fails to produce academic benefits and inflates gender of Title IX’s requirement to eliminate sex discrimination in schools.

 

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