2008 Comeback Stories: Same sex schools


This post is part of our series on people, places and things that have found new life in 2008.

Single sex public schools - and classrooms - are a growing trend in the United States. It comes as a surprise to many of us and evokes some strong feelings. Are these schools better for boys? Are they better for girls? Are they discriminatory? If we can have "separate but equal" programs for boys and girls, are we on the path to re-segregation?

Here's what happened -- Revisions made in 2006 to Title IX of the federal Education Amendments allow local school districts to offer single-gender schools and programs. There has to be a rationale; the same program also must be offered in a coeducational classroom, and enrollment must be voluntary. This reverses a thirty year trend away from same sex schools.

According to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education (www.singlesexschools.org), the number of same-sex public schools has increased from about a dozen nationwide to more than 300 over the last five years. A 2002 study in England suggests that both girls and boys did significantly better in single-sex schools but the benefits were more impressive for girls than for boys. A 2000 Australia study of over 270,000 students also suggests that both boys and girls achieve more in same-sex classrooms and a study in Jamaica concurred. Most international studies concur that girls benefit most from single-sex schools.