Will Single Sex Classrooms Save Public Schools?

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Will Single Sex Classrooms Save Public Schools?
Learn about the benefits of single sex classrooms and why public schools are hoping this type of classroom will save the American school system.
Educators and public school leaders are always experimenting with new ways to improve classroom instruction and student learning.  One of the latest trends involves new plans to educate students in single-sex classrooms. 
  
While combined gender education has been, and continues to be, the strongest and most popular trend in public school classrooms, some educational experts assert that single-sex classrooms can boost student learning, performance, and behavior.  In fact, studies proving the benefits of single-sex classrooms have been so positive that the Department of Education overturned its ban on single-gender classrooms, creating new legislation allowing public schools to implement single gender instruction once again. This new legislation was groundbreaking, as single-sex instruction has been prohibited in public schools since 1975. 
 
With the new education legislation, school leaders are experimenting with new classroom designs to find out if a single-sex instruction can help save failing and struggling public schools and students. Currently, about 500 public schools are trying out new single-sex instructional models with the hopes that students will be able to focus and engage more effectively when separated from their opposite gender. 
 
 
The Benefits of Single-Sex Classrooms
 
Single-sex classrooms, historically more popular in private schools, are essentially classrooms designed to teach all boys and all girls in separate settings. According to research, the cognitive, behavioral, and social development of the two genders is so different and unique that separating the genders allows for more accommodating instruction. For example, as Interact Jacksonville explains, girls generally possess longer attention spans than boys, while boys are typically more active learners.  With this primary and simple difference, teachers can uniquely tailor their plans and assignments to allow boys more movement and girls more attention-based tasks. 
 
Adding to these more accommodating learning opportunities, experts assert that single-sex classrooms decrease student disruptions and behavioral distractions.  By eliminating the desire to impress the other gender, teachers and leaders are finding that single-sex classrooms are easier to manage and control.  In fact, one 14-year-old local Boston student reported her experience in a single gender classroom to the Boston Globe, “With both genders in the same classroom, the boys take advantage of us, they hardly do their work, and are too busy tricking us into doing theirs. . . . Single-sex classes give the boys an opportunity to step up their game, and the girls an opportunity to focus on them, and only them.”  While the opinions on single-sex instruction are certainly mixed, many public schools have been reporting positive results and optimistic student feedback.  
 
Single-Sex Instruction in Failing Schools
 
Schools are annually reviewed and assessed by the state and federal education boards.  Most schools with positive student performance and high success rates will be less likely to implement experimental single-sex instruction plans, as what they are implementing already “works.” 
 
In contrast, schools that are low performing and/or failing are reporting higher odds of trying out new single-sex classrooms. For example, as the Boston Globe further explains, one local Boston middle school quickly shifted its curriculum to implement single gender instruction in order to boost students’ dismal math scores.  After this school’s 2009 winter break, administrators put the two genders in separate math classrooms, as teachers are hoping that this new model will eliminate student distractions while improving student learning.  If the plan is successful at this first middle school in Boston, the local county’s other 10 middle schools may also implement single-sex curriculum plans. 
 
Adding to various Boston local schools, several public schools in Kansas City are also trying out the single-sex approach.  As the Kansas City Associated Press reveals, two local St. Louis public schools engaged students in single-sex experimental programs two years ago.  Although the two schools do not yet have substantial data to validate the progress and results of the experimental instruction plan, the single-sex instruction model has been highly reviewed by both parents and students. 
 
The single-sex instruction began with 1st-grade classrooms and has now been also added to 2nd-grade classrooms. Due to the positive feedback, more parents and students are requesting these separate sex settings, as the schools will soon even offer the separate sex options for 3rd-grade students as well. 
 
One of the main reasons the local St. Louis schools experimented with single-sex instruction two years ago was to further understand the performance discrepancies between the genders.  Why were boys reporting lower test scores, higher absent rates, and less school/club participation than girls?   
 
Once the genders were separated, teachers quickly learned that the boys’ participation and learning were enhanced because the male classrooms were able to implement more action-based activities.  As boys tend to prefer movement-based lessons, teachers leading all boy classes have the students physically move around from activity to activity. Similarly, the all-female classrooms also cater their plans and activities to the proclivities of the female-based groups. 
 
Overall, leaders are beginning to predict that all schools, especially those with failing and low-performance scores, may benefit from experimental single-sex programs.
 
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