Single-sex schools might be a good option in Washington stateon July 10, 2012 @ 4:45 pm (Updated: 9:16 pm - 7/10/12 )
Dillon Elledge, 8, right, and Brody Kemble, 7, second from right, work with flash cards in their all-boys classroom at Middleton Heights Elementary in Middleton, Idaho. Middleton is believed to be the only public school in Idaho offering all-boy and all-girl classrooms, though the movement is widespread in other states and is now being targeted by the American Civil Liberties Union in a bitter struggle over whether single-gender learning should be continued. (AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner)
Single-sex classes began proliferating after the U.S. Education Department relaxed restrictions in 2006. With research showing boys, particularly minority boys, are graduating at lower rates than girls and faring worse on tests, plenty of schools were paying attention.
In 2002, only about a dozen schools were separating the sexes, according to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, an advocacy group. Now, an estimated 500 public schools across the country offer some all-boy and all-girl classrooms.
But it's against Washington state law to separate genders.
Proponents argue the separation allows for a tailored instruction and cuts down on gender-driven distractions among boys and girls, such as flirting. But critics decry the movement as promoting harmful gender stereotypes and depriving kids of equal educational opportunities. The ACLU claims many schools offer the classes in a way that conflicts with the U.S. Constitution and Title IX, a federal law banning sex discrimination in education. Researchers also have weighed in.
Dr. Leonard Sax, the founder of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, tells Dori we've gone from a culture where it's cool to be working harder to get an A in math, to a culture where it's cool to be an ex-convict. He believes single sex schools do better at promoting the scholarly culture.
"At most co-ed schools, it is unusual to find that the top football player is also writing poetry for the school journal and wants you to know that. At a boys school, it is common; you can do both."
Sax says high school girls taking computer science classes have dropped dramatically in the past 20 years.
"We are teaching computer programming in a way that is interesting only to boys," Sax says. "It's not that girls can't do computer science, it's because they don't want to. It's taught in a way that is friendly to boys. It's not that boys can't do creative writing, it's that they don't want to."
Sax says the difference between girls and boys is not inability, but in motivation.
There is hope for Washington, according to Sax. He says Jonathan Kellet, principal at Jason Lee Middle School in Tacoma, is working with Senator Debbie Regala (D) to get single sex classrooms legalized so that it's at least an option.
Your thoughts from Facebook:
Jonathan Gerber While I've never been in a single- sex schoolroom setting, I can say, that as a boy, I was rather enamored with the opposite sex, and if in the same room with a pretty girl, I couldn't focus at all. I love this idea. They did it for years in English schools and universities, why not go back to it?
Brandon Shropshire Good, it might curtail all the kids having kids.
Jason Osborne I have to agree with Jonathan. I'm still distracted by girls at work :D
Daniel Finnigan As long as the education is equal, I say go for it!
By Stephanie Klein, MyNorthwest.com The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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