The Argument for Single-Sex Schools [AU]

More and more research is showing that students achieve and learn better in single sex schools.

In a twenty-year Australian study of 270,000 students, Dr. Ken Rowe found that both boys and girls performed between 15 and 22 percentile points higher on standardized tests when they went to separate schools.

A 2001 British study of 2954 high schools and 979 primary schools showed that while boys at the lowest ends academically improved the most in single sex schools, nearly every girl regardless of her ability or socio-economic status performed better in single sex classrooms than co-ed ones. The study concluded that single sex education was particularly beneficial to girls. Highest achieving students in this study were girls in single sex schools followed by co-ed girls, then boys in single sex schools and finally co-ed boys. The study noted that every one of the top fifty elementary schools and top twenty high schools in Britain are single sex.

In a 1995 experiment in Virginia, 100 eight graders separated for math and science. The girls immediately began to achieve more, become more confident and participate more often in class.

Just within the past few years researchers have used magnetic resonance imaging to actually watch the human brain work. They have been able to observe physical differences between female and male brains as they function, particularly at high level tasks such as the SAT exam. Understanding these differences have led to using different kinds of teaching methods for each sex, which may partly explain why single sex schools work so well.

At all-girls’ schools, girls learn in ways that are in keeping with the female learning style. They use teaching materials and textbooks without male bias. They are freer to participate in class discussions, which boys dominate in co-educational schools. They tend to gain confidence in themselves as students. They tend to score higher on their College Board and Advanced Placement examinations. There are many adult female role models and no favoritism of males. Girls no longer have to live up to expectations that they must be nice, quiet, non-athletic, and passive.

College professor Robin Robertson said she could identify students from girls’ school on the first day of class. “They were the young women whose hands shot up in the air, who were not afraid to defend their positions, and who assumed I would be interested in their perspective.”

In all-girls schools, girls take over all the positions of leadership in the school whether it’s drama, sports, yearbook, or debate team. Students are more likely to continue in math and science and athletics. For example, 14% major in math compared to 10% of boys and only 3% of girls in co-ed schools.

Professors Myra and David Sadker spent ten years studying sexism in classroom teaching. Two of their conclusions are that girls stay confident and learn more in single sex schools – “where girls are the players, not the audience.”

Girls are free from sexual harassment that affects almost 90% of girls in co-ed high schools. An all-girls school can create an atmosphere that counteracts the negative influence of mass media and its often troubling depictions of women and girls.

Women graduates of all-girls high schools and colleges report extreme satisfaction with their education. One-third of all female members of Fortune 100 boards graduated from all-women’s colleges as well as 24% of the female members of Congress.

Single sex education has been illegal in public education since Title IX passed in 1972. Just twenty years later, only two public girls’ schools were left. Despite all the research that shows both girls and boys benefit from single sex classrooms, organized political pressure prevents any experiments. Public school teacher unions are against “charter schools” (which can be single sex) and many feminists do not like an emphasis on sexual differences.

Meanwhile, applications and enrollment in private all-girls’ schools have been soaring. Since 1991, student enrollment is up 29 percent in member schools of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, applications increased 40 percent, and more than thirty new schools have opened.