While parents of some private-school kids have long had the option of enrolling their kids in single-gender classes, the trend is slowly creeping into public school systems across the country. According to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, more than 500 public schools currently offer single-sex education opportunities for kids from kindergarten through 12th grade.
The latest public school to launch a single-sex education program is Prince William Middle School in Virginia. But while parents and teachers have both expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity for kids to opt out of coed classes, the idea is not without its detractors.
Proponents of single-sex classrooms say that because boys and girls learn differently, teaching them separately allows the teacher to customize instruction methods based on the gender of the students. Others who favor the approach say that this type of setup helps students feel more confident in class and makes them more likely to explore subjects they might not otherwise.
But critics claim this segregation can actually do harm by turning out students who are unprepared for the real world in which men and women must work together.
Because single-sex classrooms weren’t even legal in public schools until 2006, there are not a lot of long-term statistics to back up the opinions of either side. But the anecdotal evidence would seem to suggest that, when done correctly by properly trained teachers, single-sex instruction does result in higher grades and test scores for both boys and girls.
Of course, that evidence says nothing of the social and emotional impact that might result from single-sex education. Feminists argue on both sides of the issue. Some say single-sex classrooms perpetuate gender stereotypes while others say they benefit girls by providing an environment in which they can be nurtured to become strong enough to compete in a male-dominated society.
What do you think? Is an overall improvement in grades reason enough to split them up? Or are we ultimately doing kids more harm than good by reinforcing the idea that boys and girls are different when it comes to education?
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