Zac Posen and Jane Avrich

“Clarity, risk, and brevity” are what Zac Posen learned from Jane Avrich, the English teacher whose class on the literature of seduction influenced his aesthetic.

“Once he turned the classroom into an Eden-like paradise,” recalls Ms. Avrich. “Silvery music played in the background, iridescent fabric swirled, paper flowers bloomed, and glitter rained down around us.”

Behind Every Famous Person is a Fabulous Teacher.

Single-Sex Education

What’s it all about?
What does it mean for you?
Arguments in Favor
Arguments Against
FYI: Further Reading

What’s it all about?

  • In recent years, interest in single-sex education (separate educational environments for boys and girls) has grown considerably. A large amount of this interest can be attributed to the ease of regulations on single-sex education by the Department of Education in 2006.

What does it mean for you?

  • In the 2008-2009 school year, there will be 392 public schools in the U.S. with single-sex educational opportunities, although most of those schools only have single-sex classrooms and do not separate boys and girls on a school-wide basis.

Arguments in Favor:

  • Some studies show that boys and girls have different learning patterns and these differences can be addressed in a single-sex environment to ensure each gender is learning up to their potential, especially in underperforming schools.
  • Single-sex schools diminish academic stereotypes and give freedom to boys and girls to pursue their interests despite what may seem “normal” for their gender.
  • Some studies show that girls become more reclusive and tentative during their adolescent years while boys become more outspoken. Separate classrooms for girls could allow them to flourish and feel more comfortable participating in class.

Arguments Against:

  • Separate classrooms for separate genders may reinforce or encourage academic stereotypes, such as the idea that boys are better in the sciences and girls are better in the humanities.
  • Same-sex schooling was originally established for women because they were seen as intellectually inferior to men, therefore, if they are separated from men once again, public schools could revert back to this sexist notion that women do not belong in the classroom with men.

FYI: Further Reading

  • International Debate Education Association: Single-Sex Schools is a website that gives back-to-back responses on the single-sex education debate. It is an unbiased resource that is useful for anyone writing an opinionated paper on the topic.
  • New York Times: Federal Rules Back Single-Sex Public Education (10/25/06) This article is about the original ruling by the U.S. Department of Education declaring single-sex public education to be legal as long as it is voluntary.
  • Single-Gender Classes: Are They Better? is a summary of research from Education World, a comprehensive online resource for teachers and administrators. It is very useful because it offers commentary on both sides of the debate and is written clearly and succinctly.
  • K-12 Single-Sex Education: What Does the Research Say? is an article from Education.Com that summarizes many recent studies on single-sex education and highlights the few consistencies among the different studies. It is also particularly focused on achievement by girls in single-sex schooling.
  • The WEEA Digest at the Education Development Center has a series of articles on its website that explores the background of single-sex education and issues a demand for more research on the subject, especially since none of these essays include an empirical study of the effects of single-sex schooling.
  • The NEA provides a webpage exploring both sides of the single-sex education debate, citing two different studies that found differing results. They call for more research on the issue but also provide links to two existing studies.
  • The National Association for Single Sex Public Education is a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance single sex public education, and, therefore, has a strong bias in favor of single sex education which it supports through extensive and up-to-date research. They are a great resource for learning about the advantages of single sex education.
  • Single-Sex Versus Coeducation Schooling: A Systematic Review is a report from the U.S. Department of Education that compares single-sex education to education with both genders. The findings mostly favored single-sex education in both academic and social areas.
  • The Feminist Majority Foundation provides an article that clarifies what is allowed under Title IX with regard to single-sex education. It also urges cautious implementation of single-sex schools and classrooms and lists steps to make sure this is done correctly.
  • The American Association of University Women  has many studies on its website concerning the achievement of girls in single-sex schools. They are often critical of such a policy seeing it as separate and unequal.
  • The Atlantic: The Trouble with Single-Sex Schools (4/98) is an article that looks at the history and controversy surrounding single-sex education for girls, especially in light of the fact that women fought for coeducational schooling for so many years.
  • A blog post from the New America Foundation attacks the notion of gender-based education based on the lack of evidence which proves that single-sex schools have a positive effect on student achievement. The author argues that findings in neuroscience about how boys and girls learn differently are not enough to make a separate learning environment feasible or beneficial.

For opinions from our readers, see our “Be Counted” Poll on Single-Sex Education