CWA 3 Revised

Is single-sex schooling a better way to teach that Coeducational schooling?
Shawn Soares
Virginia Commonwealth University
In the recent decades, arguments have started to come up for and against singlesex education in all public schools. Single-gender schools use to be a popular form of
schooling, however now it is mostly practiced by private schools. People are starting to
learn more and more about how single-gender and coeducational schooling and its effects
on students’ academic, psychological, and social development. It is a controversial topic
as advocates of it argue that it aids students in their academic’s, however opponents say
that it costs the students their social skills. That is why the public school system should
start implementing single gender classrooms, as it has proven to assist students in
academic performance, increase graduation rates, and score better results on test scores
while allowing them to socialize with the opposite gender.
Single-sex schooling was a common practice before the 19th century. Since then,
more and more coeducational schools were set up to in order to educate mass numbers of
students. Most teenagers would not like the sound of single-sex schools, this is because
our society today is so used to the idea of mixed genders in high school. A major event
that affected single-sex schooling in the United States was when the Title IX amendments
were added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title IX basically states that no person
should be excluded from participation or denied benefits under any educational facility
that is receiving federal funds. Its main goal is to promote equal access and opportunity to
an education regardless of gender (NASSPE, n.d.).
In 2006, the United States Department of Education published new regulations
that governed single-sex schooling is public schools. These new regulations were
required after the No Child Left Behind Act was passed, which contained revisions to
promote single-sex schooling in public schools. With the No Child Left Behind Act in
place, coeducational public schools were allowed to offer single-sex classrooms,
provided they followed a certain procedure. The rules set in place to have a single-gender
classroom were that the schools provide evidence showing the subject had a significantly
big enough gender gap, provide a coeducational class in the subject at the same school,
and conduct a review every two years to determine if the single-sex classes were a
necessary change. These revisions cleared all confusion surrounding the legal status of
single-sex classrooms (NASSPE, n.d.).
Today teenagers do not see high school as a place of learning, but a place to meet
friends, go to parties, and play sports. Learning is no longer seen as the number one
reason to go to school. Single-gender classrooms provide a better work environment for
students with fewer distractions; it also helps teachers use specific teaching styles that are
geared toward one gender. Single-gender classrooms would be better for students because
they have a better chance of learning, since there are differences in the best practice for
teaching girls compared to teaching boys. In a number of recent studies, the comparisons
between single-sex education and coeducational system have received a lot of attention.
In 2001 the Australian Council for Educational Research did a six-year study of more
than 270,000 students that showed boys and girls from single-sex classrooms scored on
average 15 to 22 percent higher than those in a coeducational setting (Cresswell, Rowe,
and Withers, 2002). In another study done by researchers at Stetson University (2003),
they completed a three-year evaluation comparing single-sex classrooms with coed
classrooms at Woodward Avenue Elementary School. Students in the 4th grade at
Woodward were assigned to either single-sex or coed classes. All parameters were the
same such as class sizes, demographics, and training given to the teachers. When it was
time for the students to take the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test), boys
who were in single-sex classrooms scored 39% higher on it than boys who were in coed
classrooms and girls in single-sex classrooms scored 16% higher than those who weren’t
(Stetson, 2013). In the United States, most schools report an improvement in test scores
and grades after they adopt single gender schools. According to research done by the
Department of Education, the results found that students enrolled in single-sex schools
verses coed schools were more likely to be enrolled in higher levels of math and science
classes by the end of high school (Department of Education, pg. 71).
There are significant differences in the way girls and boys learn, some say these
differences are more substantial than age differences. For example, on average an 8-yearold girl and an 8-year-old boy would have more differences in terms of thinking and
learning styles than an 8-year-old girl and a 10-year-old girl (Leonard, 2012). A benefit
of single-sex schooling is customized learning, so teachers can specialize in teaching
strategies to meet the students’ gender-specific need. For example, most girls have a
longer attention span than boys, and might not need to take a break as frequently as them.
On the other hand, most boys can set up equipment and visualize academic concepts
faster than girls. Brain scans show there is a neurological reason boys and girls learn
differently. In general, more areas of a girl’s brain, including the cerebral cortex, are
dedicated to verbal functions. The hippocampus is a region of the brain that focus’ on
memory storage, and develops earlier for girls and is larger in women than men. These
reasons are why more girls on average excel in vocabulary and writing. The greater part
of the cerebral cortex in a boys brain is dedicated to spatial and mechanical functioning,
which is why boys tend to learn better with movement and pictures rather than words
(Zamosky, 2011). Educational researchers also found fundamental differences in the
factors motivating girls vs. factors that motivate boys. They have consistently found that
“girls are more concerned than boys are with pleasing authority figures such as parents
and teachers”(Pomerantz & Saxon, 2002, pg. 397). The study concluded that girls learn
better when they are instructed by a single authority figure, while boys learn better in
group type instances where they have to help themselves. There are also biochemical
differences for each sex that have affects in the classroom setting. Boys have less
serotonin and oxytocin in their brains, which promote a sense of calm. This explains why
boys are more fidgety and impulsive in class as well as why girls have a better attention
span than boys (Zamosky, 2011). The evidence provided should clearly convey that boys
and girls have definite learning differences, which is why more single-sex classrooms
should be implemented.
The benefits of single-sex schooling are not only academic, but have
shown to broaden students’ horizons, allowing them to explore their own interests. With
single-sex classes, students will also be more inclined to learn and excel in subjects that
are usually stereotypically dominant for the opposite sex. For example, a study was done
in the British journal on educational psychology in which researchers enrolled a number
of eighth graders in a physics class that was either single gender or coeducational.
Towards the end of the year, the girls who were assigned to all girl classrooms were
found to be more “engaged” in physics than those in coed classrooms (Hannover, 2008,
p. 5). With single-sex classrooms, males and females can explore educational
opportunities without being constrained by expectations, stereotypes, or prejudices. They
can pursue their personal interests without trying to fit into stereotypes; like a boy
wanting to do poetry or a girl wanting to pursue computer science. A British researcher
compared the attitudes of students at coed schools and single-sex schools toward different
subjects. The students at coed schools were more likely to have gender stereotypical
subject preferences, such as boy’s liking math and science and not theatre, whereas the
boys at single-sex schools were more interested in subjects like theatre and foreign
languages (Stables, 1990, pg. 228). In the United States more than 80% of students that
take the AP Spanish exam are girls, while more than 75% of students taking the AP
Physics exam are boys (Stables, 1990, pg. 222). This shows that the gender gap is a very
real deal and actions must be implemented in order to help close it. A study published in
2003 by the University of Virginia found that boys who were taught in a single-sex
setting were more than twice as likely to pursue interests in subjects like art, music, and
drama (James & Richards, 2003, pg. 145). This proves that single-sex teaching ultimately
breaks down gender stereotypes.
Part of the idea of going to school is to prepare your child for “real life”.
However, with single gender classrooms, boys and girls lose the social skills needed to be
able to interact with each other. It is no doubt that there will be a time where you need to
work with the opposite sex in a professional environment, and without coed classrooms,
learning to cooperate with the opposite sex becomes a lacking skill. Learning to interact
with members of the opposite sex is a very important and needed skill in this world, and
can leave you at a disadvantage if you lack practice in it. By experimenting with
relationships when things are less serious helps adolescents manage themselves better as
well as get a better understanding of who they are. Single-sex schooling can also create
problems for students who don’t have defined gender-specific personalities. For example,
a sensitive artistic boy might struggle in an all boys classroom, or an assertive girl might
have trouble getting along with her highly feminine peers.
Although the myth of students lacking social skills in single-sex classrooms is
widely thought to be true, it is nothing more than a myth. There is very little research
done on the long-term social consequences of single-sex and coed schooling. According
to research done by Professor Diana Leonard at the Institute of Education, single-sex
schooling appeared to have no impact on the likelihood of getting married, quality of
partnerships, or ability to work with the opposite gender (Leonard, 2012). Although the
problem of lacking social skills is not proven in any way, it would be more apparent in
single-sex schools. However, having single-sex classrooms instead of the whole school
makes interacting with the opposite sex much easier. It’s not like all your classes are
going to be single-gender, so you still get interaction with the opposite sex in some
classes, as well as in between classes and during lunch. Experimenting with relationships
is not a place to do in school, and can impede your academic success. School is a place to
come to learn, and not to start a relationship. Think about if you just ended a relationship
with someone who was in the same class as you, it would make that class very awkward
and hard to concentrate in. When it comes to experimenting with relationships and
acquiring real world skills, college is what prepares you for that. The way it forces you to
interact with people and work with them in groups is what really prepares you for life.
Having single-sex classes promotes the notion that Tile IX tried to outlaw, the
educational discrimination of students based on sex. It would be the same as when
schools and classes were separated by race. In the Supreme Court case of Brown vs.
board of education, it was stated that separate does not constitute as equal. If classes were
to be separated by gender, one would be getting better treatment than the other. That is
why single-sex schooling should not be allowed, it’s showing that separate but equal still
ok to go by.
Historically, educational discrimination has resulted in one group being deprived
of equal educational opportunities. However, this is not the case with single-sex
classrooms. Race and sex are different, as the Supreme Court has emphasized in the No
Child Left Behind Act. There are many differences in the process of having a single-sex
class than it was to have a specific race only class back then. For instance, the programs
established that separate by gender must be voluntarily chosen to be taken instead of the
coed option. If a school wants to have a gender-separated class, it must be in the same
location as the other one, as well as be made available to both genders (NASSPE, n.d.).
This shows that with the new regulations on single-sex classrooms, gender discrimination
will not be a prevalent issue.
In Conclusion, single-gender classrooms should be implemented in all public
schools in order to aid students in their academic career. Single-sex schooling is not for
everyone, and it can have its down sides, however it can help students to become more
focused and well rounded. With the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act, more and
more single-gender schooling opportunities are opening up. The research showing that
girls and boys learn differently as well as the numerous study’s showing increased
academic performance of students in single-gender classes should be proof of the
effectiveness of teaching by the separation of genders. By promoting single-gender
classrooms, student’s will be educated the way that best fits them while also getting to
interact with the opposite gender, making it the optimal way to learn.
Work Cited
Cresswell, J., Rowe, K. & Withers, G. (2002). Boys in school and society.
Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research. Retrieved from
Hannover, B., & Kessels, U. (2008). When being a girl matters less: accessibility
of gender related self knowledge in single sex and co educational classes and its impact
on physics related self concept of ability. National Center for Biotechnology Information,
78, 273-289
James, A. & Richards, Herbert, C. (2003). Escaping Stereotypes: Educational
Attitudes of Male Alumni of Single-Sex and Coed Schools. Psychology of Men &
Masculinity, 4, 2, 136-148.
Leonard, D. (2007, January). Single-sex and co-educational secondary schooling:
life course consequences? Retrieved from
NASSPE: Legal status of single-sex education. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Pomerantz, E. & Saxon, J. (2002). Making the Grade but Feeling Distressed:
Gender Differences in Academic and Internal Distress. The Journal of Educational
Psychology, 94, No. 2, 396-404.
Stables, A. (1990). Differences between pupils from mixed and single-sex schools
in their enjoyment of school subjects and in their attitudes to science and to school. The
Educational Review, 42, 3, 221-230
Stetson University. (2013). Woodward Avenue Elementary-Single Gender FCAT
Data: 2009-2012 [Data set]. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy
Development. (2005). Single-Sex Versus Coeducational Schooling: A Systematic Review
(Report No. ED-01-CO-0055/0010). Retrieved from
Zamosky, L. (2011, March). Why Boys and Girls Learn Differently. WebMD.
Retrieved from