He loved us, but he was lonely. Boys would have been a big distraction. Separate boys and girls so they can get their work done. Boys seem less sure of the benefits. But the headmaster, Kerry Brennan, is certain: Rethinking Single-Sex Schooling, agrees: The new rules give local districts the option of offering single-gender public schools and programs for the first time in more than 30 years.
Charter schools are exempt from all restrictions. As late as , James Coleman remarked that that it was considered suspect to even study the question of single-sex schooling. Specifically, what are the intellectual consequences, the psychological consequences, and the social consequences? He found that single-sex schooling helps to improve academic achievement, with benefits greater for girls than boys, and that underprivileged children derived the most benefit.
Emma Willard — Founded in in Troy, New York, Emma Willard was among the first schools in the country to offer girls an academic curriculum. Emma Hart Willard, a teacher, principal, author, and mother of four, determined to offer girls the same education as boys then received in their schools, and over the ensuing years, the school—renamed for its foundress in —has cultivated a reputation for serious academic study.
The school receives several hundred applications a year, accepts some and ends up enrolling 90 new students, favoring the bright 61st percentile on the SSAT or higher and the extracurricular-inclined. At the turn of the twentieth century the school moved to Mount Ida, just north of Troy. Its current acre campus sits in a leafy, middle-class neighborhood, and three of its Tudor-Gothic stone buildings, built in , are on the National Register of Historic Places.
There were lots of disruptions in each class. In the Hunter science building, for instance, Angela Miklavcic, a tall and serious woman, is lecturing her 18 students on fractals and helping them work on an esterification project.
The sports are nice. And I was on a math team. Me and five boys. You get really tired of dealing with boys. Yes, boys are very immature. But teachers always favored them. By now maybe they are mature enough to hang out with. Going, Going, All but Gone While there are no reliable counts of single-gender schools in the first half of the 20th century, best estimates are that most were schools for white boys.
Schooling for girls was an afterthought, either in single-sex institutions of their own, or with boys, where small numbers made single-sex institutions inefficient. Public single-gender schools were all but eliminated in the process. Boston Latin, one of the oldest and most prestigious public schools in America, succumbed to coeducation in , the same year that Congress passed Title IX mandating equal education for the sexes. Central High School in Philadelphia, founded in , may have been the last all-boys public school in America when it finally went coed in Although insulated from laws governing public schools, private schools felt the pressure as well, and many single-gender institutions, often fighting for economic survival, opened their doors to both sexes after For example, the Nichols School for boys in Buffalo, founded in , accepted girls in Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts, began in with male and female students, was a school for boys by the s, and became coed again in Yale went coed in , as did dozens of colleges and universities.
The wave of coeducation sentiment was intense: In barely more than two decades, from to , over half of the women-only colleges in America closed, and many others went coed. By , according to the National Institute on Postsecondary Education, Libraries, and Lifelong Learning, there were just 83 women-only colleges. All boys, all the time. Roxbury Latin—the school still requires three years of Latin—enjoys the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating school in America though that statement always comes with a footnote: Boston Latin was founded ten years earlier, in , but closed during the Revolutionary War: But this means that the school can have a need-blind admission policy—money is no object, brains are—and can keep tuition relatively low: Not easy to get in, of course.
The acceptance rate is 14 percent, which is why the student body scores in the 95th percentile on the SAT. A third of its 36 teachers have been here for 25 years. There are no teachers unions. But they also do many different things. We can do what we want. Keeping the school single sex is very important to both the character-building and academic mission. When parents came in for their interview, we asked them if they were prepared to back that. There was some hot discussion, and it got confrontational and combative, but we wanted total compliance.
More than 60 percent of the boys are in a choral group, and 90 percent are on at least one athletic team. At this age, with the onset of puberty and the raging hormones, girls can be a very big distraction. It just makes academics easier without them. The American Association of University Women AAUW published a series of studies in the s called Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America, which highlighted the fact that girls aged 9 to 15 suffered from lower self-esteem, less willingness to stand up for their views with teachers, and lower interest in science and mathematics than boys.
The AAUW report sparked an intense national debate, with its findings that girls were disadvantaged in classrooms by, among many inequities, being called upon less frequently and encouraged less than male students. More boys than girls are prescribed mood-managing drugs. We have chosen a charter to profile because charters are public, operate with public school budgets or less , often have student bodies of very limited means—and are extremely successful.
A completely different path. A college preparatory path—and keep them out of the daycare business altogether. You could really start to break some cycles. She stared down the zeitgeist and started a school that educated only girls. And now her school is at the top. And it got that way by focusing on academics, discipline the girls wear uniforms , and college—and eliminating the distraction of boys.
The school has students, all girls, in grades 7— There are no admissions exams. The school receives three to four times as many applicants as it has openings. TYWLS has a full-time college counselor and tours of college campuses begin in 7th grade.
TYWLS is intensely focused on education. I saw a report in the Daily News that said that the area between th and th streets along Lexington has the highest concentration of convicted criminals in the city. Girls in the public school system really do deserve a choice. For being a boy. In all of those cases—it was a sad story—they were driven out or shut down by principals and teachers and parents.
The one in Detroit went to court, but for the most part they were shut down by political pressure and threats of legal action.
All the justices—from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Antonin Scalia—agreed that single-sex education offers positive educational benefits. Kathy Piechura-Couture, a professor at the Institute for Educational Reform at Stetson University in Deland, Florida, has studied children at the Woodward elementary school in Deland, which has had separate classes for boys and girls for three years. She concluded that boys and girls are different enough that they demand, or should be offered, separate schools.
Over the years, she explains, other researchers have discovered a significant number of differences between boys and girls that affect their learning abilities at any given time. The review found that roughly one-third of studies favored single-sex schools on measures of short-term academic accomplishment.
The researchers characterized most of the remainder as finding no difference or having null findings. They found little support, however, for coeducational schooling being more effective.
This, argue proponents of single-sex schools, suggests that parents should at least be given a choice. The K—4 school that building houses—along a corridor of poverty and despair in Albany, New York, that would shake even the resolute bones of an Emma Willard or John Eliot—is the best in the city. And he looks more like an accountant than a school reformer although many school reformers these days have MBAs.
The news that his charter school kids—98 percent black and 98 percent poor—had gotten top honors in the city on the math and English language arts tests made the former legislative assistant positively ecstatic. The public schools in that part of town were among the worst in the state—some said, in the nation. And then, as early as 4th and 5th grades, you start getting the hormonal issues of attraction and sex and boys and girls being impressed with each other and so forth. Boys are slower to gain literacy skills and girls are slower to learn math skills.
But what does it actually mean as a practical thing to the teacher? Well, no matter where you want to bring the kid at the end of the day, you have to start where they are. The rewriting of Title IX addressed confusion created by the restrictions in the original statute and the support for single-sex education in the No Child Left Behind Act of Study after study has demonstrated that girls and boys in single-sex schools are academically more successful and ambitious than their coeducational counterparts.
Minority students in single-sex schools often show dramatic improvements in attitudes toward school, greater interest among girls in math and science, and dramatically fewer behavior problems. James Coleman, who died in , probably would have appreciated the cultural shifts that have made the single-sex school take on new meaning, since he was one of the first modern academics to propose that coed schools offered a false promise of equality. As those who have studied the racial educational gaps in our public elementary and secondary schools have noticed, throwing children together does not solve the problems of dominance; it can, in fact, exacerbate them.
The choice of single-sex education is affirmative action for the sexes. The decision, of course, came with what Martin Davis of the Thomas B. And while various groups threatened legal actions, none have materialized. It is a new world, especially for women, and serious educators seem to realize that single-sex schools and classrooms are not a threat, but another arrow in the quiver of education quality. Peter Meyer, former news editor of Life magazine, is a freelance writer and contributing editor of Education Next.