Public Education & Single-Sex Classrooms

Image courtesy of Librado Romero/The New York Times

When it comes to private education, single-sex schools are not an oddity. However, many readers may be surprised to learn that single-sex classrooms are being experimented with in over 400 public schools around the country, and certainly not without a decent amount of controversy. Educators, administrators, parents and politicians are heatedly debating whether single-sex classrooms help or hinder academic and social success among students.

Until recently, supporters of single-sex education have dominated the conversation. However, as the prevalence of single-sex classrooms in public schools grows, so does the criticism of them. While supporters tout the benefits of molding lesson plans specifically to boys or girls, critics worry that gender stereotypes will be enforced through over-specialized curricula and teaching tactics. When supporters note higher test scores in single-sex classrooms, critics point out the gaps in data and the limited research on the subject. Social concerns arise about how students educated in single-sex classrooms will relate with peers of the opposite sex when they go out into the working world.

It’s important to note that single-sex classrooms can legally only be offered as an option, not a requirement, in public schools. So far, in districts where the option is offered, parents seem grateful to have more choices when it comes to their children’s educations.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I’m the product of an all-girls high school. I received an excellent education there and feel most grateful for the social freedom the single-sex environment encouraged.

If you are interested in the debate surrounding single-sex classrooms in public schools, follow the links below to learn more.

Research Spotlight on Single-Gender Education from The NEA

Single-Sex Education: The Pros and Cons from

Do you think that all public schools should offer single-sex classrooms? In your experience, what would be the benefits and drawbacks of teaching in a classroom of all boys or all girls?

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One Response to “Public Education & Single-Sex Classrooms”

  1. Debra HerrimanDecember 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    I have been teaching on a sixth grade team that groups our students in 3 groups—all boys, all girls, and mixed. I teach the boys class for literature and writing; and all three classes for science. This is my fourth year teaching in this type of arrangement. I have seen a lot of growth and risk taking in the writing done in the boys group and a great deal of speaking up in the girls science class. My partners have seen similar behaviors in their math, social studies and lit/writing classes.
    In lit/wring, I’ve seen the boys share empathy and understanding when discussing lit.or writing on topics with emotional issues, and even dance around when listening to music mentioned on different books (polkas and Maniac Magee). Something I had never seen in 15 years reading Maniac Magee in a traditional classroom. To me, this demonstrates a level of comfort and enjoyment sixth grade boys frequently hide when discussing books.