Single-gender classes are rising in popularity in the United States, having increased throughout the last decade.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina is one such district, and the program is so successful the school is considering opening a single-gender school as a magnet program. The district told the school board earlier that many parents have been asking for the option, especially those who are looking to improve upon the academic performance of African-American male students.
Teachers at Rama Road Elementary in the district have reported “excellent” behavior from their single-gender fourth and fifth-grade classrooms, in addition to their improved participation.
Parents in the district need to opt-in for their students to participate in single-gender classrooms. Parent Beth Cotton said both of children have improved since entering the rooms, especially her seventh-grade daughter, who felt more comfortable participating in classroom discussions in a room only of girls. “She’s not going to compete for attention in the classroom,” Cotton said.
However, not everyone approves of the single-gender approach. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union are regularly at odds with the movement, arguing that the classes instill gender stereotypes and do not work to include transgender students. They continue to say that biological differences do not require different teaching methods. The federal government has mostly sided with the critics, making it harder for single-gender classrooms to exist in traditional public schools.
Little evidence exists to suggest that the programs are actually beneficial to students. Principal Lisa Bailes of CMS schools said she has yet to be able to differentiate between the test scores of students in the two types of classrooms, reports Andrew Dunn for The Charlotte Observer.
Despite that, students who participate in the single-gender classrooms say they can tell the difference. Both boys and girls report the single-sex rooms being “less awkward,” and feeling more comfortable speaking up without the opposite gender present. “It’s easier to work,” said Grace Kuhlman, who is 12. “I feel more comfortable.”
The movement is reaching the UK, with Eton headmaster Tony Little saying the single-sex classrooms allow children to retain their “innocence” for a longer period of time, writes Tom McTague for The Daily Mail.
Little went on to say that children as young as nine years old needed “pretty graphic” sex education in order to endure the pressures they come across on a day-to-day basis. However, keeping children apart in school enables them to “be themselves” until well into their teens.
Speaking at an education summit in Dubai, Mr Little said: “What does strike me is that in a single-sex environment, particularly at the age of 13, 14, 15, there is an opportunity for both boys and girls to be themselves for longer. To be ‘boyish’ for longer, to be young girls. One of the real challenges we face as parents and particularly in schools, and this has accelerated in the last few years, is the growing apparent sophistication of children at a younger age. The need even at the age of nine now, pretty graphic sex education because of the pressures that are being put on girls particularly, from the age 11 and upwards.”