Friday, September 18, 2009

Are Single-Sex Classes the Answer?

School is not usually a boy-friendly place. But what if your son was in an all-male classroom? Would make a difference?

A just-released report from Arizona suggests that it might. Officials at Anderson Junior High School say that four years of single-sex education have increased boys' test scores. Boys' scores increased from:
  • 62 to 69 percent in reading
  • 77 to 84 percent in math
  • 55 to 73 percent in writing

But it's not enough to just separate boys and girls into different classrooms. According to Dr. Leonard Sax, a vocal supporter of single-sex eduction, boys and girls must be taught differently. "If you put a teacher with no preparation into an all-boys classroom and she still expects the boys to sit still and be quiet, you're not going to get good results," Sax said. "In fact, you may have trouble."

If the teachers are aware of the learning differences between boys and girls, though, the results can be almost magical. At Anderson, teachers in all-boy classrooms utilized competive learning environments, physical movement and visual lesson plans.

Dr. Sax believes that young boys stand to gain even more than older boys from single-sex classrooms. "What's best for a five-year-old girl is different from what's best for a five-year-old boy," Sax says. "The most dramatic success stories we have of huge jumps in grades and test scores and drops in discipline referrals are at the elementary school level."

Think there aren't any single-sex elementary classes where you live? You may be wrong. According to Dr. Sax, just 11 public schools were offering single-sex classroom in 2002. Today, there are over 500. For a complete list, visit

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  1. I was just commenting to a friend how when I was in college (I went to school in AZ) at the time there was no such thing as a co-ed just wasn't allowed. Then the trend changed. Now I'm hearing more about single-sex schools younger grades. Just fascinating. An interesting post.

  2. Thanks, Meredith. I'd always been rather anti-single-sex schools, thinking that the world is co-ed anyway. But now that I have boys and I see the research on the differenes b/t boys and girls and how they learn, I can see some very distinct advantages, esp. at the younger ages.

  3. We've always thought school was very much designed for girls - especially at the elementary level where kids are expected to sit at a desk or table all day with a single teacher. Our very active younger son just started middle school, and he is thriving already! We knew he'd love changing classes every hour and the variety of different teachers and classes - it allows him to move around a little every hour, so he can better sit still and focus during class time. He loves it!

    Another interesting aspect - the best elementary teacher he had was a man. He totally "got" our son and appreciated his enthusiasm (though he still got in trouble sometimes for talking out of turn). Then again...his worst teacher was also male, but that was more due to his immaturity and personality rather than his maleness!

    Interesting and thought-provoking post!