Monday, September 21, 2015

Single-sex Education for Middle School Works--In Ways Not Always Measurable

Today's article on single-sex education in the Charleston County School District focused on Morningside Middle School in North Charleston. Paul Bowers makes several points that need to be clarified.

First of all, while it is true that public school single-sex education became legal in 2001, in the nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth, practically no one blinked an eye at separating the sexes for educational purposes.

Second, if "lack of parent interest" in CCSD has caused the number of offered classes to drop, the blame lies solely with CCSD, not parents. The district simply hasn't made the effort to educate parents about its benefits.

Further, the exodus of students to other schools is not necessarily due to Morningside's being single sex. Bowers writes, "Parents can send their children elsewhere in the district if they do not want their children to attend a single-gender academy, and in the 2014-2015 school year, about one-third of parents with middle schoolers in the Morningside attendance zone did so. The largest share of those students, 122, transferred to Military Magnet Academy." That may be true, but what number does "one-third" represent? Did the majority transfer to MMA? What percentage of the one-third sent students to that magnet?

Finally, the effects of single-sex education may include higher test scores, but that goal is only one aspect of education. Anyone who has taught students at this level knows the great disparities in maturity that exist between boys and girls of this age. An older educator once suggested to me that having girls in a classrom of boys "civilized" the boys. Maybe so, but the effect on girls is not so salubrious. Are girls less likely to speak out in a coed classroom? You betcha! In fact, even in high school girls are reluctant to speak out around boys.

In other words, single-sex education greatly enhances the self-confidence in girls, and that self-confidence will carry over into the rest of their lives.

You can't measure that with a test score.

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