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“You can’t simply attribute the outcome to the fact that they’re single-sex when you’re changing lots of other things at the same time,” says Diane F.
Halpern, Ph D, a psychology professor at Claremont Mc Kenna College who has served as an expert witness in several federal court cases on single-sex education in public schools.
Single-sex education has been growing in popularity since the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act was passed, allowing local educational agencies to use “Innovative Programs” funds to support same-gender schools and classrooms “consistent with existing law.” The U. Department of Education loosened its Title IX regulation in 2006 to diminish prohibitions on single-sex education.
Today, Urban Prep is among the nation’s 95 single-sex public schools, according to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education (NASSPE).
In addition, more than 445 public coed schools offer single-sex classrooms.
While simply separating boys and girls doesn’t guarantee success, schools that use best practices for gender-specific teaching may be more successful at teaching to boys’ and girls’ strengths, says NASSPE Executive Director Leonard Sax, MD, Ph D, a psychologist and family physician.
Coeducation advocates and researchers also report that segregating students by gender — be it via entire schools or simply classrooms — can lead to greater gender discrimination and make it harder for students to deal with the other sex later in life.Chicago’s Urban Prep Academy boasts of some remarkable statistics: In 2006, only 4 percent of the inaugural freshman class at the school — a public all-male, predominantly black high school located in one of the city’s most beleaguered neighborhoods — could read at grade level.Yet in May, 100 percent of the school’s seniors had been accepted to four-year colleges or universities, many on full academic scholarships.“You can’t conclude a thing about single-sex schooling if you don’t check for and control those two potential biases.” Research on single-sex education is also complicated by the legal requirement that assignment to single-sex classes must be completely voluntary.Bigler adds, however, that as public single-sex schools increasingly begin to offer admission based on a lottery system, opportunities for more effective studies on the topic should emerge.