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Researchers slam single-sex classrooms

A typical classroom.
A typical classroom.
BES Photos/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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A new article in the journal Science argues there is no proof that separating boys and girls in the classroom is more conducive to learning. Moreover, the researchers say single-sex instruction hurts more than it helps. Evidence shows the practice increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutionalized sexism.

The authors have even created a new advocacy group at the University of Arizona devoted to co-ed schooling. That group will have to contend with the National Association for Single Sex Public Education. Its founder, Dr. Leonard Sax, says the proof is in the pudding; educators who separate girls and boys have experienced the success.

Their poster children come from Booker T. Washington High School in North Carolina. It splits up boys and girls for their freshman and sophomore years. Since that began in 2006, test scores increased dramatically. Does correlation prove cause in this case? Booker T. even had the privilege of President Obama delivering its commencement speech this year because it won Race to the Top. In this age of widespread school reform, parents and educators want the freedom to choose what works best for their kids. That demand spurred a regulatory reform that allows for more single-sex classes in public schools.


Was that a mistake? Has enough research really been done to prove what works? Do these studies apply to the distinct needs of all communities, classrooms and kids?


Lynn Liben, Co-author, "The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling" in the latest issue of Science; Distinguished Professor of Psychology; Human Development & Family Studies; and Education; Penn State University; Co-author of Gender Development

Dr. Leonard Sax, Director, National Association for Single Sex Public Education based in Exton, Pennsylvania; Author of Girls on the Edge: The four factors driving the new crisis for girls and Boys Adrift: The five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men