Single-sex schools: Could they harm your child?
Gender-segregated education is making a comeback. Single-sex classrooms, long discouraged under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education, have been gaining prominence in recent years, especially in urban charter schools.
This fall, Los Angeles saw the launch of two all-girls’ schools – the Girls’ Academic Leadership Academy and the Girls’ Athletic Leadership School (known by the perky acronyms, “GALA” and “GALS”) – and Washington, D.C. district opened the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School for boys (or “Young Kings,” as they refer to their students). These schools join growing networks of inner-city single-sex public schools, such as the Urban Prep Academies for boys and the Young Women’s Leadership Academies geared largely toward students of color.
Parents who choose single-sex schools do so for many reasons, but a major one is the belief that “boys and girls learn differently.” Single-sex schools also claim to better tailor instruction to one or the other gender.
But brain and behavioral research does not support such beliefs. I study gender development in the brain, and my research has found no difference in the way boys and girls process information, learn, remember, read or do math. Similarly, in-depth analysis of educational outcomes by Janet Hyde and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin has found scant evidence that single-sex schooling leads to better academic achievement.
On the other hand, research suggests that single-sex schooling may actually be harmful to children – by failing to prepare them for gender-integrated workplaces, shared leadership and equal partnership in families.