Which is better – co-educational or single-sex education?
Module: Academic English
Write an essay of 800 words on the following question:
Which is better – co-educational or single-sex education?
You are expected to support your answer with the two sources attached below (mandatory). In addition, you need to add more sources (all sources must be academic sources). All sources must be cited correctly and you must include a list of sources at the end of the document (the list of sources does not count towards the word count).
The essay must be written in academic writing.
Reference list must be in Harvard referencing style. Old sources are not acceptable (maximum 5 years prior)
The Promise and Peril of Single-Sex PublicEducation
Mr. Chips Meets Snoop Dogg
Single-sexeducation, long a fixture inthe private sector, is moving intopublicschools. Five years ago, fewer than a dozenpublicschools in this countryoffered any kindofsingle-sexeducational options. Today, at least 156publicschoolsoffersingle-sexclassrooms, with many more planning tooffer that format forthe2005-06 academic year. That’s more than a tenfold increase in just five years.
Whythesurgeofinterest insingle-sexeducation?Andshould we perhaps be more cautious,andmore concerned aboutthepossibility thatsingle-sexeducationmight reinforce harmful gender stereotypes? Also, mostoftheNorth American research onsingle-sexeducationhas been conducted in private or parochial schools. Can single-sexeducation really work in the more diverse setting of American publicschools, particularly in low-income, inner-city neighbourhoods where academic excellence is leastoften found?
Advocatesofsingle-sexpubliceducationcan point to several success stories. Seattle’s Thurgood Marshall Elementary School used to be a failing school in oneofthatcity’s poorest neighbourhoods.Thentheschool’s energetic principal, Benjamin Wright, reinventedtheschool as a dual academy: girls in all-girls classrooms, boys in all-boys classrooms.Theresults have been encouraging. Boys’ test scores onthereading portionofthe Washington Assessment ofStudent Learning, or WASL, exam have increased fromthe10th percentile to the66th percentile. Girls have benefited as well. Intheyear beforethechange, when theschool was coed, not a single girl passed themath portionoftheWASL. Intheyear afterthechange, 53 percent ofthegirls passed. Andtheimprovement has not been limited to grades andtest scores: student behaviour has also improved. Discipline referrals dropped from 30 referrals per day to fewer than two a day—“overnight,” according to Mr. Wright. Allthese improvements occurred without any additional funding, and without any change in class size. Theprogram at Thurgood Marshall has now achieved consistently high results for four consecutive years.
Similar stories ofimprovement in neighbourhood schools, with slightly less spectacular results, can be told about other public schools, such as theAfricentric School in Columbus, Ohio, andOdyssey Middle School in themiddle-class community ofBoynton Beach, Florida.
But not all schools achieve good results when they venture into single-sexeducation. Newport Middle School in Newport, Kentucky, andEagle Rock Junior High School in Idaho Falls, Idaho, abandoned single-sexclassrooms after just one year. In each case, there was no significant improvement in grades or test scores; at Newport Middle School, discipline referrals for theboys soared. Becky Lenihan, a teacher at Newport Middle School with 14 years ofteaching experience, said that she wrote up more boys for discipline problems during the one year thesingle-sexprogram was in place than in allofher previous years in educationcombined.
Whythedifference? Why do some schools achieve good results when they begin offeringsingle-sexclasses, while other schools show no improvement or even show deterioration? Professionaldevelopment appears to play a crucial role. At the schools where single-sexclassrooms were not effective, teachers received no specific training in best practices for gender-specific teaching. Putting a teacher in a single-sexclassroom for which she is not suited by temperament or training may be a recipe for failure.
But what are best practices for gender-specific teaching? Do girls andboys really learn differently? Ten years ago, thefairest answer to those questions would have been: Nobody knows. In thepastdecade, however, good research has demonstrated that there are, in fact, hard-wired differencesin the ways girls and boys learn, and that there are evidence-based techniques that can exploit those differences.
One simple example derives from innate differences in theability to hear. Baby girls have a moresensitive sense ofhearing than baby boys have. Those differences get larger as kids get older.By the age of 12, the average girl has a sense ofhearing at least seven times more sensitivethantheaverage boy. We also know that girls are distracted by extraneous noise (another student tapping a pencil, for instance) at sound levels 10 times lower than those that distract boys. Most girls learn best in a quiet classroom, free ofdistractions. That’s not true for many boys. If you’ve visitedsome oftheschools where boys’ academic achievement has risen aftertheintroductionofthesingle-sex format, thefirst thing you’ll notice is how loud those classrooms are. “It was a scene ofcontrolled chaos,” said one reporter after visiting an all-boys classroom at a publicschool in Independence, Kentucky. The boys “shouted their answers and jumped up to share their work. …Despite thenoise, it was clear theboys were learning.”
Scientists now also have a better understanding ofsex differences in brain development.Researchers at Virginia Tech used sophisticated electrophysiological imaging ofthebrain to examinebrain development in 508 normal children ranging in age from 2 months to 16 years. Theseresearchers found that whilethe areas ofthebrain involved in languageandfine-motor skills such ashandwriting mature about four years earlier in girls than in boys,the areas ofthebrain involved ingeometry andspatial relations mature about four years earlier in boys than in girls. When it comesto learning geometry, the brain oftheaverage 12-year-old girl resembles the brain oftheaverage 8-year-old boy. When it comes to writing poetry, the brain oftheaverage 12-year-old boy resembles thebrainoftheaverage 8-year-old girl.
These researchers concluded that the various areas ofthebrain develop in “a different order,time, andrate” in girls, compared with boys. A curriculum that teaches thesame subjectsin thesame sequence to girlsand boys runs the risk ofgiving rise to 12-year-old girls who think theycan’t do geometry—and that they will never be any good at geometry—and12-year-old boys who don’t like to read or write.
I’ve just returned from Waterloo, Iowa, where I had the privilege of observing single-sexclassroomsat three publicschools. At Cunningham Elementary School, I watched how master teacher JeffFerguson led his class of 1st grade boys. Thefirst thing that struck me on entering that class was howmuch it looked like a can ofworms. Some oftheboys were standing, some were sitting; another boywas twirling in circles. But all ofthem were, in their own way, paying close attention to Mr. Ferguson. When Mr. Ferguson told them to start on their assignment,they got right to work. One boy was so pleased with his work that he kissed his paper when he had finished.
Of course, later on in their schooling these boys will have to to sit down andbe quiet. But whyshould they have to do so in 1st grade? In a coed class,theboys have to sit, because boys jumpingup and down will unfairly distract the girls. But in an all-boys class, theother boys seem unbotheredby theboys who are jumping andtwirling.
Experiences such as these have left me doubtful about the value of studies that merely compare“single-sexschools” in one category with “coed schools” in another category—studies suchasthe one launched last year by the U.S. Department ofEducation, scheduled for completionin the spring of2006. Merely adopting thesingle-sexformat, without appropriate professional development for teachers, is no guaranteeofsuccess. On thecontrary, it often leads to failure.
The growing recognition ofhard-wired gender differences in learning may explain anotherfeatureofthe movement toward single-sexpubliceducation: Namely, almost allofthepublicschoolsthat have launched such programs in thepast five years are elementary or middle schools, not highschools. Before 2000, the most common rationale for single-sexeducationwas to “minimizedistractions.” Today, educators are more likely to mention gender differences in how girls andboyslearn as the principal justification for single-sexeducation. From that perspective, if you wait untilhigh school, you’ve waited too long. You’ve got to catch kids at an earlier age, before they give up on school.
We are a long way from having a well-established setofbest practices for gender-specificeducation,however. One area that clearly needs further research concerns gender-atypical children. Whatabouttheshy boy who wilts inthenoisy, boisterous classroom where most other boys thrive? Whatabouttheloud, rambunctious girl who disdainsthequiet classroom most girls prefer? Whilethere has been some research on pedagogical practices that work for gender-atypical children, this research is far from conclusive.
For that reason,andothers,single-sexeducationinpublicschools must remain voluntaryfortheforeseeable future. Parents, in consultation with teachers, must makethefinaldeterminationofwhetherthesingle-sexformat is right fortheir child. Inthepublicsector asintheprivate sector, allowing parents a choice between coeducation andsingle-sexeducationis likely to yieldthebest results for all children.
Leonard Sax istheexecutive directoroftheNational Association forSingle-SexPublicEducationandtheauthorof “Why Gender Matters: What ParentsandTeachers Need to Know abouttheEmerging Scienceof Sex Differences” (Doubleday, 2005).
The Pseudoscienceof Single-Sex Schooling
Diane F. Halpern,Lise Eliot, Rebecca S. Bigler,Richard A. Fabes, Laura D. Hanish, Janet Hyde, Lynn S. Liben,Carol Lynn Martin
23 SEPTEMBER 2011
SCIENCE VOLUME 333 pp1706-1707
In attempting to improve schools, it iscritical to remember that not all reformslead to meaningful gains for students.We argue that one change in particular—sex-segregated education—is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked,or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence.There is no well-designed research showingthat single-sex (SS) education improvesstudents’ academic performance, but thereis evidence that sex segregation increasesgender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.
From a policy perspective, implementationof SS schooling should stand on evidencethat it produces better educational outcomesthan coeducational schooling. But such evidenceis lacking. A review (1) commissionedby the U.S. Department of Education itselfto compare SS and coeducational outcomesconcluded: “As in previous reviews, theresults are equivocal.” Large-scale reviewsin Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and NewZealand, as well as analyses of data from theProgramme for International Student Assessment,similarly found little overall differencebetween SS and mixed-sex academic outcomes(2-6).
Although SS outcomes may at firstappear promising, apparent advantages dissolvewhen outcomes are corrected for pre-existing differences (3– 6). Students enteringSS schools are often academically moreadvanced. For example, students at a publicmiddle school in the Southwest UnitedStates boast higher test scores than moststudents in their district. But they had significantly higher test scores in the yearbefore admission than girls who applied butwere not admitted, although admission wasreported to be a lottery, and their subsequentachievement was no better than that of studentsin a coeducational program with similar entry-level scores (7).
In addition, underperforming children inSS schools often transfer out prematurely,which inflates final performance outcomes.An example is Chicago’s Urban Prep CharterAcademy for Young Men, a school whosehigh college admission rates have led toits praise as a success story for SS education(8). However, when graduation rates at Urban Prep (9) and similar schools (10) arecomputed relative to freshman enrolment,they are comparable to those of other areapublic schools.
A new curriculum, like a new drug orfactory production method, often yields ashort-term gain because people are motivatedby novelty and belief in theinnovation (11). Novelty-basedenthusiasm, sample bias, andanecdotes account for much ofthe glowing characterization of SS education in the media [e.g.,(12)]. Without blind assessment,randomized assignment to treatmentor control experiences, andconsideration of selection factors,judging the effectiveness of innovations is impossible.
In short, although excellentpublic SS schools clearly exist,there is no empirical evidence that their successstems from their SS organization, asopposed to the quality of the student body,demanding curricula, and many other featuresalso known to promote achievement atcoeducational schools.
Some proponents of SS education claim itis well suited to countering sexism found incoeducational classrooms that may promotegender stereotypes. Teachers may interactless often with girls than boys (with low achievingboys who interrupt class) (13)and highlight gender through labeling (e.g.,“Good morning, boys and girls”) or classroomorganization (e.g., lining children upby sex). But gender divisions are made evenmore salient in SS settings because the contrastbetween the segregated classroom andthe mixed-sex structure of the surroundingworld provides evidence to children that sexis a core human characteristic along whichadults organize education.
Research has demonstrated that, whenenvironments label individuals and segregatealong some characteristic (e.g., gender,eye colour, or randomly assigned t-shirtgroups), children infer that the groups differin important ways and develop increasedintergroup biases (14-16). Such effects havebeen shown explicitly for gender even withincoeducational classes (16), and it is likelythat these effects would be even more powerfulwhen sex is used to divide children intoentirely separate classrooms or schools ratherthan merely into separate lines to go to lunch. The choice to fight sexism by changing coeducationalpractices or segregating by gender has parallels to the fight against racism. Manyinstances of daily racial discrimination facedby students of colour in racially integratedschools could be eliminated by creating, forexample, all-African American or all-Latinoacademies. But the preponderance of socialscience data indicates that racially segregatedschools promote racial prejudice and inequality(17).
The strongest argument against SS educationis that it reduces boys’ and girls’opportunities to work together in a supervised,purposeful environment. Whenteachers make children’s sex salient, studentschoose to spend less time interactingwith other-sex peers (16). Even in coeducationalschools, boys and girls spend considerabletime with same-sex peers, whichexaggerates sex-typed behaviours and attitudes.Boys who spend more time with otherboys become increasingly aggressive (18),and certain boys experience greater risk forbehaviour problems because they spend moretime with boys (19). Similarly, girls whospend more time with other girls becomemore sex-typed (18). Institutionalizing gender-segregated classrooms limits children’sopportunities to develop a broader range ofbehaviours and attitudes. Positive and cooperativeinteraction with members of othergroups is an effective method for improvingintergroup relationships (20).
Beyond fostering academic skills, publiceducation has many goals, including preparingchildren for mixed-sex workplaces, families,and citizenry. The idea that there arefar-reaching consequences is supported bya large-scale study in the UK showing thatmen in their early 40s were more likely to bedivorced if they attended SS rather than coeducationalschools, although no parallel differences
were found for women (21).
Advocates argue that although SS education may not be beneficial for all children, it createsdiversity of opportunity and thereby benefits certain students. This is a specious argument(10), and there are several policy reasonswhy SS education is not a choice thatpublic schools should embrace. First, thereare no data identifying children who standto benefit from SS education in particularRather, student characteristics that predictsuccess in SS settings predict success incoeducational settings (e.g., higher familyincome) (22). Second, schools face schedulingnightmares if they must offer all-boys,all-girls, and coeducational options for everysubject. Third, funds spent on training teachers in nonexistent “gender-specific learningstyles” could be better spent on training themto teach science, mathematics, and reading,or to integrate boys and girls more completelyin the learning environment.
The Obama Administration has declaredthat the Department of Education is committedto “evidence-based policy-making”(23). This principle must be applied to decisionsabout SS public education. We callupon policy-makers to heed the scientific evidence
References and Notes
1. U.S. Department of Education, “Single-sex versus coeducationalschooling: A systematic review” (Department ofEducation, Washington, DC, 2005).
2. A. Smithers, P. Robinson, The Paradox of Single-Sex andCo-Educational Schooling (Univ. of Buckingham, Buckingham,UK, 2006).
3. T. Thomson, C. Ungerleider, Single Sex Schooling: FinalReport Canadian Centre for Knowledge Mobilisation(CCKM, Waterloo, Ontario, 2004).
4. H. W. Marsh, K. J. Rowe, Aust. J. Educ. 40, 147 (1996).
5. R. Harker, Br. J. Sociol. Educ. 21, 203 (2000).
6. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development,Equally Prepared for Life? (OECD, Brussels, 2009).
7. A. R. Hayes, E. Pahlke, R. S. Bigler, Sex Roles, publishedonline 16 January 2011; 10.1007/s11199-010-9903-2.
8. L. Sweet, Duncan cites Chicago’s “Urban Prep” in “quietrevolution” speech at the National Press Club, ChicagoSun Times, 27 July 2010; http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2010/07/duncan_cites_chicagos_urban_pr.html.
9. C. Lehmann, Urban Prep and the Whole Story: PracticalTheory (2010); http://practicaltheory.org/serendipity/index.php?/archives/1232-Urban-Prep-and-The-Whole-Story.html.
10. N. Levit, Univ. Ill. Law Rev. 2005, 455 (2005).
11. J. D. Adair, “Hawthorne effect,” in Encyclopedia ofPsychology, A. E. Kazdin, Ed. (American PsychologicalAssociation, Washington, DC, 2000), vol. 4, p. 66.
12. K. Tibbles, NBC News, Today Show, “Are same sex classroomsgood for kids?”3 March 2009; http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/29480854#29480854.
13. R. Beamanet al., Educ. Rev. 58, 339 (2006).
14. R. S. Bigler, L. S. Liben, Adv. Child Dev. Behav. 34, 39(2006).
15. C. L. Martin, C. F. Halverson, Child Dev. 52, 1119 (1981).
16. L. J. Hilliard, L. S. Liben, Child Dev. 81, 1787 (2010).
17. G. Orfieldet al., Urban Rev. 40, 96 (2008).
18. C. L. Martin, R. A. Fabes, Dev. Psychol. 37, 431 (2001).
19. R. A. Fabeset al., Dev. Psychol. 33, 693 (1997).
20. S. L. Gaertneret al., in Intergroup Attitudes and Relationsin Childhood Through Adulthood, S. R. Levy andM. Killen, Eds. (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2010), pp.204–219.
21. D. Leonard, Single-sex and co-educational secondaryschooling: Life course consequences? Economic andSocial Research Centre (ESRC) Report (RES-000-22-1085,ESRC, Swindon, UK, 2007).
22. M. M. Patterson, E. Pahlke, Sex Roles, published online15 December 2010; 10.1007/s11199-010-9904-1.
23. M. D. Shear, N. Anderson, Washington Post, 23 July 2009.10.1126/science.1205031
Published by AAASDownloaded from www.sciencemag.org on September 22, 2011
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