SINGLE-GENDER EDUCATION

 

Single-gender (or single-sex) education, is the practice of conducting education where male and female students attend separate classes or in separate buildings or schools. At Coral Community Charter School, the boys and girls attend separate classes but are all within the same school. They have various activities they participate in together, such as attending cultural events at Popejoy Hall, but academics are taught separately.


What does single-gender mean?
What first comes to mind may be a private girls or boys school that has been in the US forever, but today single-gender programs can be found throughout the country in  public school districts and in public or state charter schools.  In many of these schools boys and girls attend the same campus, but they have some or all of their classes separated by gender.

Do single gender schools work and is there research that supports single gender?
The answer to both of these questions is yes.  Research shows single gender schools are effective in boosting academic achievement, especially for student from low-income and working class parents, most particularly for African-Americans and Hispanic students (Corneliuas Riordan/Providence College).  In a study out of Stetson University in Florida that looked at elementary students they reported the following results:  


  • Boys coed classes 37% proficient / Boys single gender classes 86% proficient

  • Girls coed classes 59% proficient / Girls single gender classes 75% proficient


Along with classroom data there is also brain research that shows there are biological differences in the brains of boys and girls.  The variance between them is not in any brain structure but instead in the brain development.  Researchers have found that areas of the brain involved in language and fine motor skills matured earlier in girls than boys, while ares of the brain involved in spatial memory and mapping matures earlier in boys than girls.  So what implications does this have in the classroom?  As a result of these and other brain differences most males and females approach the learning process from different viewpoints.


You can also find more research sited in the Coral Community Charter.  

Does the gender separation interfere with how boys and girls learn to get along in real life?
The research tells us no and this why.  According to recent research by Martin & Ruble, in a mixed-gender learning arrangement, gender identification is more apparent, a phenomenon called "gender intensification".  This means that when girls and boys are together, they may become more aware of what the prevailing culture says is appropriate for them.  As a result, a coed format often has the unintended consequence of intensifying gender roles instead of breaking down barriers.  A girl may be considered a "geek" because she enjoys studying physics and engineering.  Boys are "nerds" if they select are and write poetry.  You, as the adult, can try to tell them otherwise, but in the coed format, stereotyped notions of what is "girly" and what is "manly" often prevail.  With the right kind of classroom leadership the single-gender format offers a great opportunity to break down those gender stereotypes.  

What are the advantages for boys?
In an all boys' class a teacher can better differentiate lessons in order to custom tailor their learning and instruction.  Researchers such as Margaret Ferrara, in a 2006 study, find boys tend to be more engaged in all-boy classrooms where teachers use strategies that are aligned with the learning styles of many boys - more movement, timed-activities, and quick paced.  This is extremely important because the number of boys disengaging from school is on the rise.  Within Albuquerque at the elementary level, boys score 8.7% lower than girls on reading tests.  By high school the girls' graduation rate is 70.2% while the boys are at 59.4% - almost an 11% gap.  This picture continues in college where nationally the percentage of girls enrolled as compared to males is 3:1.

What are the advantages for girls?
In an all girls class a teacher can better differentiate lessons in order to custom tailor their learning and instruction.   At every age, girls in girl-only classrooms are more likely to explore "non-traditional" subjects such as computer science, physics, and precursors to physical sciences.  A nationwide report from UCLA's Graduate School of Education & Information Studies provides evidence that graduates of girls' schools report higher levels of self-confidence, engagement and ambition compared to their coed peers; they also report that they have more confidence in mathematics and computer abilities and are more likely to engage in political discussion, keep current with political affairs, and see college as a stepping stone to graduate school.   

Do teachers need special training to teach in a single-gender classroom? 
Simply putting girls in one room and boys in another is not guarantee that effective teaching and learning will take place.  This is why we will provide and require all of our teachers to have 20 hours of additional education each school year; 10 hours in best practices for single gender classrooms and 10 hours in general education training (e.g., math or reading techniques).  

Should every student attend a single gender school?  
Absolutely not.  We don't believe that every child should be in a single-gender classroom; but we do believe that every parent should have a CHOICE.   

What is the legal status of single gender education?

On October 25 2006, the United States Department of Education published new regulations governing single-sex education in public schools. These new regulations were required by a provision in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a provision intended by its authors to legalize single-sex education in public schools (specifically, sections 5131(a)(23) and 5131(c) of the NCLB). The new regulations allow coeducational public schools (elementary and secondary schools) to offer single-sex classrooms, provided that the schools:


  1. provide a rationale for offering a single-gender class in that subject. A variety of rationales are acceptable; e.g., if very few girls have taken computer science in the past, the school could offer a girls-only computer science class.

  2. provide a coeducational class in the same subject at a geographically accessible location.  That location may be at the same school, but the school or school district may also elect to offer the coeducational alternative at a different school which is geographically accessible.  The term "geographically accessible" is not explicitly defined in the regulations.

  3. conduct a review every two years to determine whether single-sex classes are still necessary to remedy whatever inequity prompted the school to offer the single-sex class in the first place.


The new regulations also cleared away the confusion surrounding the legal status of single-sex schools---schools which are all-girls or all-boys.  In fact, the new regulations provide some incentive for school districts to offer single-sex schools rather than single-sex classrooms within coed schools. Single-sex schools are specifically exempted from two of the three requirements above. They don't have to provide any rationale for their single-sex format, and they don't have to conduct any periodic review to determine whether single-sex education is "necessary" to remedy some inequity.  They do have to offer "substantially equal" courses, services, and facilities, at other schools within the same school district---but those other schools can be single-sex or coed. In other words, a school district may offer a single-sex high school for girls without having to offer a single-sex high school for boys. A school district can offer an all-boys elementary school without having to offer an all-girls elementary school.


Charter schools are exempt from all three of the requirements: they don't have to provide a rationale for single-gender classes, they don't have to offer comparable coed classes or schools, and they don't have to do periodic follow-up to justify their single-sex format
.