Friday, March 13, 2009

NY Times on Single-Sex Classrooms

The New York Times reports on the blossoming of single-sex classrooms in public schools, particularly in struggling schools in New York City where principals are looking for new ways to improve the learning experience and test results for their students.

As we've discussed previously, single-sex education--albeit being tried for very good and noble intentions--raises some serious concerns about gender stereotyping. This particular article reports on teaching techniques that one teacher reports that he would not try in a coed environment because of his belief that "girls would cry" if faced with his stern remarks. Although the teacher's goals are laudable, his assumptions and the way in which he structures his curriculum appear to collide against Title IX's prohibition against gender stereotyping in schools.

Further, studies on the achievement level of students in single-sex environments versus coed requirements show mixed results at best. This article raises the important point, however, that so-called low achieving students are often the ones who get steered toward single-sex classrooms because teachers hope the environment will help focus the student. Finally, teachers write that students seems more engaged in school and less prone to disciplinary issues when they are in the single-sex environment. Does this make such a set-up Title IX-proof? No, but it does give food for thought as educators continue to struggle with how to encourage students to achieve academically.