Which is better co-educational or single-sex education?

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Write an 800-word essay on the following subject:
Coeducational or single-sex education—which is preferable?

You must cite the two sources listed below in support of your response. You should also provide extra sources (all of which must be academic sources). A list of sources must be included at the end of the paper, and it must be properly referenced throughout (the list of sources does not count toward the word count).

Academic writing must be used in the essay.

Harvard referencing style must be used in the reference list. Old sources (more than five years old) are not accepted.

The Benefits and Risks of Public Education for Single Sexuality
Meets Mr. Chips and Snoop Dogg

Single-sex education, a mainstay of the commercial sector for many years, is spreading to public schools. Less than a dozen public schools in our country offered any type of single-sex educational opportunity five years ago. At least 156 public schools currently offer single-sex classrooms, and many more are expected to do so for the 2005–2006 school year. In just five years, that is a tenfold gain.

Why has interest in single-sex education increased? And should we perhaps exercise greater caution and worry given the potential for single-sex education to propagate negative gender stereotypes? The majority of single-sex education research in North America has also been done at private or religious institutions. Can single-sex education really succeed in the increasingly multicultural environment of American public schools, especially in low-income inner-city areas where intellectual brilliance is less common?

Advocates for single-sex public education can cite numerous examples of success. When Benjamin Wright, the school’s vivacious principal, decided to transform Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Seattle into a dual academy with boys and girls learning together in separate classes, the results have been encouraging. The reading part of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL, exam for boys has seen an increase in test results from the 10th to the 66th percentile. Additionally, girls have benefited. Not a single girl passed the WASL part during the school’s coed year prior to the shift. 53 percent of girls passed in the year following the modification. Additionally, improvements in student behavior have been made in addition to improvements in grades and test scores. More than two discipline referrals per day were reduced from 30 per day to “overnight,” claims Mr. Wright. These advancements happened without the need for more funds or a reduction in class size. Thurgood Marshall’s curriculum has now produced consistently excellent results for four years running.

Other public schools, such as the Africancentric School in Columbus, Ohio, and Odyssey Middle School in the middle-class neighborhood of Boynton Beach, Florida, can be described in a similar way, though with slightly less impressive outcomes.

However, not all schools that experiment with single-sex education find success. Single-sex classes were discontinued after just one year at New Providence Middle School in New Providence, Kentucky, and Eagle Rock Junior High School in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Neither the grades nor the test scores significantly improved in any of the cases, and at Newport Middle School, the boys’ discipline referrals skyrocketed. Becky Lenihan, a teacher at Newport Middle School with 14 years of experience, claimed that during the one year the single-sex school was in place, she wrote up more males for discipline issues than she had in all of her prior years in education put together.

Whythedifference? Why do certain schools prosper once single-sex classes are introduced, whilst other schools make no progress or even worsen? Professional growth seems to be really important. Teachers were not specifically trained in the best methods for teaching to individual genders at the schools where single-sex classrooms were ineffective. It may not be a good idea to place a teacher in a single-sex classroom for which she is not temperamentally or educationally prepared.

But what are the ideal methods for teaching specific genders? Do boys and girls actually learn in different ways? The truthful response to those queries ten years ago would have been, “Nobody knows.” However, over the past ten years, solid research has shown that there are, in fact, hard-wired variations between how boys and girls learn and that these differences may be manipulated using strategies that are supported by the available data.

One straightforward illustration results from natural variations in the capacity to hear. Baby girls have a more refined hearing sense than baby boys do. As children get older, those differences become more pronounced. By the age of 12, the average girl’s hearing sense is at least seven times more sensitive than the average boy’s. We also know that girls are more easily distracted than boys are by background noise, such as another student tapping a pencil, at sound levels that are ten times lower. Most females learn best in a calm, distraction-free environment. Many boys would disagree with that. The first thing you’ll notice if you visit some of the schools where boys’ academic achievement increased after the single-sex format was introduced is how noisy those classes are. One reporter described the all-boys classroom at a public school in Independence, Kentucky, as “a scene of controlled chaos.” The young men “shouted their solutions and leaped to present their work. It was obvious that the boys were learning despite the commotion.

Researchers at Virginia Tech employed advanced electrophysiological imaging of the brain to evaluate 508 healthy youngsters ranging in age from 2 months to 16 years in order to better understand gender disparities in brain development. The parts of the brain involved in language and fine motor abilities, like handwriting, mature around four years sooner in females than in boys, according to these researchers. However, the portions of the brain involved in geometry and spatial relationships mature about four years earlier in boys than in girls. The average 12-year-old girl’s brain is similar to the typical 8-year-old boy’s brain when it comes to learning mathematics. The average 12-year-old boy’s brain is similar to an 8-year-old girl’s brain when it comes to producing poetry.

These researchers came to the conclusion that females’ brain development occurs in “a different order, time, and rate” than that of boys’. A curriculum that teaches the same subjects to females and boys in the same order runs the danger of producing 12-year-old girls who doubt their ability to learn geometry and boys who dislike reading and writing.

I recently got back from Waterloo, Iowa, where I had the honor of visiting three public schools and watching single-sex classes. I observed how Jeff Ferguson, a master teacher at Cunningham Elementary School, guided his class of male first graders. When I walked into that class, the first thing that struck me was how much it resembled a can of worms. A few of the boys were seated while others were standing, and one boy was spinning around. But everyone of them was paying close attention to Mr. Ferguson in their own unique way. When Mr. Ferguson instructed them to begin working on their task, they did so immediately. One of the boys kissed his completed paper because he was so proud of his effort.

Of course, young guys will eventually have to sit down and be quiet during their time in school. However, why should kids have to in first grade? Lads are required to sit in a coed class because girls will be unjustly distracted by lads hopping up and down. However, in a class of all boys, the other boys don’t seem to mind the boys who are jumping and spinning around.

The efficacy of studies that only compare “single-sex schools” in one category with “coed schools” in another category, like the one the United States launched last year, has been cast into doubt by experiences like these. Department of Education, with a completion date set for the spring of 2006. Without proper professional development for teachers, simply implementing the single-sex system is no guarantee of success. On the other hand, it frequently results in failure.

One such aspect of the drive toward single-sex public education that may be explained by the rising awareness of hard-wired gender differences in learning is the fact that most public schools that have started such programs in the last five years are elementary or middle schools rather than high schools. Before 2000, “minimizing distractions” was the most frequently cited argument for single-sex education; however, today’s educators are more likely to point to gender variations in how girls and boys learn as the main justification for single-sex education. According to that logic, waiting until high school is too long. Children must be caught sooner, before they stop trying to learn.

However, there is still a long way to go before there is a well-established set of best practices for gender-specific education. Clearly, more research is needed in one area, namely, gender-atypical children. What about the quiet child who withers in the raucous classroom where the majority of boys flourish? What about the boisterous, loud girl who despises the calm classroom that other girls enjoy? There has been some study on instructional strategies for children with gender differences, but it is far from conclusive.

Single-sex education in public schools must continue to be optional for the foreseeable future due to this and other factors. Parents must ultimately decide whether the single-sex model is best for their child after consulting with teachers. Giving parents the option between coeducation and single-sex education is likely to produce the best results for all children, whether in the public or private sector.
Author of “Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences” (Doubleday, 2005), Leonard Sax is the executive director of the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education.

The False Science of Single-Sex Education
Lisa Eliot, Rebecca Bigler, Richard A. Fabes, Laura D. Hanish, Janet Hyde, Lynn S. Liben, and Carol Lynn Martin are among the authors.
ISSUE 333 OF SCIENCE, PAGE 1706–1707
We argue that one change in particular—sex-segregated education—is deeply misguided and frequently justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence. There is no well-designed research demonstrating that single-sex (SS) education improves student academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation worsens academic performance.

From a policy standpoint, the adoption of SS education should be based on data showing that it outperforms coeducational education in terms of educational outcomes. Such proof is, however, missing. (1) A study that was ordered by the U.S. Large-scale reviews in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as analyses of data from the Program for International Student Assessment, similarly found little overall difference between SS and mixed-sex academic outcomes (2–6). The Department of Education itself, to compare SS and coeducational outcomes, concluded: “As in previous reviews, the results are equivocal.”

Although SS results may initially seem positive, these benefits disappear when results are adjusted for pre-existing disparities (3–6). Students who enroll in SS schools are frequently more advanced academically. Pupils in a public middle school in the Southwest United States, for instance, have test results that are higher than those of the majority of pupils in their district. Although entrance was reportedly determined by lottery, they had much higher test scores the year before admission than girls who applied but were rejected, and their subsequent accomplishment was on par with students in a coeducational program who had similar entry-level scores (7).

A school with strong college entrance rates, such as Chicago’s Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, has been hailed as a success story for SS education due to the frequent early transfers of underperforming students in SS schools. However, when calculated relative to freshman enrollment, Urban Prep’s (9) and related institutions’ (10) graduation rates are comparable to those of other local public schools.

People are motivated by novelty and believe in innovation; therefore, a new curriculum, like a new drug or industrial production method, frequently provides a short-term gain (11). Anecdotes, sampling bias, and novelty-based enthusiasm are mostly to blame for the media’s glorification of SS education [for instance, (12)]. It is impossible to evaluate the efficacy of innovations without blind assessment, random assignment to treatment or control experiences, and consideration of selection criteria.

In summary, even though there are many good public SS schools, there is no factual proof that their success is due to their SS organization rather than the caliber of the student body, rigorous academic requirements, and numerous other elements also known to foster excellence at coeducational schools.

Some supporters of SS education contend that it is better adapted to combating sexism that may establish gender stereotypes in coeducational classes. When dealing with low-achieving boys who disrupt class, teachers may interact with girls less frequently than they do with boys (13) and emphasize gender through labeling (“Good morning, boys and girls”) or classroom structure (“lining children up by sex”). The contrast between the segregated classroom and the mixed-sex structure of the surrounding environment, however, makes gender divisions even more apparent in SS contexts. This is because it shows children that sex is a fundamental human feature through which adults organize schooling.

Children infer that the groups differ in significant ways and develop higher intergroup biases when environments label individuals and separate them based on some attribute (such as gender, eye color, or randomly assigned t-shirt groups), according to research (14–16). Such effects have been explicitly demonstrated for gender even in coeducational classes (16), and it is likely that these effects would be substantially stronger if sex were employed to segregate children into fully separate classrooms or schools rather than just into separate lines for lunch. Similarities exist between the fight against racism and the decision to change coeducational practices or implement gender segregation to combat sexism. By establishing all-African American or all-Latino academies, for example, many instances of daily racial discrimination suffered by kids of color in racially integrated schools may be abolished. However, a resounding body of social scientific research shows that separated racial schools foster racial prejudice and inequality (17).

The most compelling argument against SS education is that it decreases the possibilities for boys and girls to collaborate in a monitored, purposeful environment. Students opt to spend less time socializing with other-sex peers when teachers make children’s sex explicit (16). Boys who spend more time with other boys become more aggressive (18), and some boys experience a higher risk for behavioral problems because they spend more time with boys (19). This is true even in coeducational schools, where boys and girls spend a lot of time with same-sex peers. The same is true for girls who spend more time with other girls (18). The institutionalization of gender-segregated schools restricts kids’ chances to learn a wider variety of attitudes and behaviors. Interacting with people from different groups in a positive and cooperative way is an efficient way to strengthen intergroup ties (20).

Beyond improving academic performance, public education aims to prepare kids for mixed-sex households, workplaces, and civic roles. A large-scale study in the UK that found men in their early 40s were more likely to get divorced if they attended SS rather than coeducational schools, but no equivalent disparities were seen, supports the premise that there are far-reaching effects.
were discovered in women (21).

Although SS education may not be advantageous for all children, proponents contend that it does create a diversity of opportunities, which favors some pupils. This is a fallacious argument (10), and there are various policy reasons why public schools shouldn’t support SS education. First off, there is no data identifying children who will benefit specifically from SS schooling; rather, student traits that predict success in SS settings (e.g., higher family income) predict success in coeducational settings (22). If schools must have all-boys, all-girls, and coeducational alternatives for every subject, scheduling headaches will ensue. Third, money spent on educating teachers about fictitious “gender-specific learning styles” might be better used to help them teach science, arithmetic, and reading, or to effectively integrate boys and girls in the classroom.

The Obama Administration has declaredthat the Department of Education is committedto “evidence-based policy-making”(23). This principle must be applied to decisionsabout SS public education. We callupon policy-makers to heed the scientific evidence
References and Notes
1. U.S. Department of Education, “Single-sex versus coeducationalschooling: A systematic review” (Department ofEducation, Washington, DC, 2005).
2. A. Smithers, P. Robinson, The Paradox of Single-Sex andCo-Educational Schooling (Univ. of Buckingham, Buckingham,UK, 2006).
3. T. Thomson, C. Ungerleider, Single Sex Schooling: FinalReport Canadian Centre for Knowledge Mobilisation(CCKM, Waterloo, Ontario, 2004).
4. H. W. Marsh, K. J. Rowe, Aust. J. Educ. 40, 147 (1996).
5. R. Harker, Br. J. Sociol. Educ. 21, 203 (2000).
6. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development,Equally Prepared for Life? (OECD, Brussels, 2009).
7. A. R. Hayes, E. Pahlke, R. S. Bigler, Sex Roles, publishedonline 16 January 2011; 10.1007/s11199-010-9903-2.
8. L. Sweet, Duncan cites Chicagos “Urban Prep” in “quietrevolution” speech at the National Press Club, ChicagoSun Times, 27 July 2010; http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2010/07/duncan_cites_chicagos_urban_pr.html.
9. C. Lehmann, Urban Prep and the Whole Story: PracticalTheory (2010); http://practicaltheory.org/serendipity/index.php?/archives/1232-Urban-Prep-and-The-Whole-Story.html.
10. N. Levit, Univ. Ill. Law Rev. 2005, 455 (2005).
11. J. D. Adair, “Hawthorne effect,” in Encyclopedia ofPsychology, A. E. Kazdin, Ed. (American PsychologicalAssociation, Washington, DC, 2000), vol. 4, p. 66.
12. K. Tibbles, NBC News, Today Show, “Are same sex classroomsgood for kids?”3 March 2009; http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/29480854#29480854.
13. R. Beamanet al., Educ. Rev. 58, 339 (2006).
14. R. S. Bigler, L. S. Liben, Adv. Child Dev. Behav. 34, 39(2006).
15. C. L. Martin, C. F. Halverson, Child Dev. 52, 1119 (1981).
16. L. J. Hilliard, L. S. Liben, Child Dev. 81, 1787 (2010).
17. G. Orfieldet al., Urban Rev. 40, 96 (2008).
18. C. L. Martin, R. A. Fabes, Dev. Psychol. 37, 431 (2001).
19. R. A. Fabeset al., Dev. Psychol. 33, 693 (1997).
20. S. L. Gaertneret al., in Intergroup Attitudes and Relationsin Childhood Through Adulthood, S. R. Levy andM. Killen, Eds. (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2010), pp.204219.
21. D. Leonard, Single-sex and co-educational secondaryschooling: Life course consequences? Economic andSocial Research Centre (ESRC) Report (RES-000-22-1085,ESRC, Swindon, UK, 2007).
22. M. M. Patterson, E. Pahlke, Sex Roles, published online15 December 2010; 10.1007/s11199-010-9904-1.
23. M. D. Shear, N. Anderson, Washington Post, 23 July 2009.10.1126/science.1205031

Published by AAASDownloaded from www.sciencemag.org on September 22, 2011


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