Some Prince William County schools are trying out something that may be the bane of hormonal boys everywhere — single-sex classrooms.
The most recent adopter is Fred Lynn Middle School, which will start the single-sex classes in the fall. It’s following the lead of Woodbridge Middle, which piloted a single-sex classroom program three years ago.
Fred Lynn Middle’s Principal J. Harrison-Coleman, who originally started a single-sex program at a Portsmouth area school, tried out the idea on a smaller scale at Fred Lynn earlier this year. She pulled aside 10 boys struggling in math for one period and gave them instruction as a group. The majority improved. Harrison-Coleman attributed the success to the focus possible in a single-sex classroom.
“Not having to impress girls, what a difference it has made in them,” she said.
To read more about the program at Fred Lynn, go to Inside Nova .
Single-sex classrooms are not particular to Prince William County. As educators across the country try to find ways to better teach students, single-sex education has been adopted in many jurisdictions.
The results can be good.
On its website, the National Association for Single-sex Public Education cites the example of a three year pilot project conducted by researchers at Stetson University in Florida. The study compared single-sex classrooms with coed classrooms at nearby public school Woodward Avenue Elementary. Look at what the comparison discovered in regard to scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test:
Boys in coed classes had a 37 percent proficiency rating and girls in coed classes had 59 percent. That’s shockingly low when compared with all-boy classrooms, 86 percent, and all-girl classrooms, 75 percent.
Go to the website for information about this and more.
The NASSPE is careful not to claim single-sex education as a panacea, however:
“First point to remember, when you consider evidence regarding the effectiveness of gender-separate classrooms: Simply putting girls in one room, and boys in another, is no guarantee of anything good happening. On the contrary: some public schools which have adopted single-sex classrooms, without appropriate preparation, have experienced bad outcomes,” the website states.
The website provides a link to a 2005 commentary written for Education Week by Dr. Leonard Sax, executive director of NASSPE. In the article, Sax explores single-sex education in more detail, giving examples of successes and failures, and expanding on some of the less-known portions of the topic. He begins his article with a number of interesting questions:
“Why the surge of interest in single-sex education? And should we perhaps be more cautious, and more concerned about the possibility that single-sex education might reinforce harmful gender stereotypes? Also, most of the North American research on single-sex education has been conducted in private or parochial schools, which may evoke images from “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” and “Dead Poets Society.” Can single-sex education really work in the more diverse setting of American public schools, particularly in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods where academic excellence is least often found? What happens when Mr. Chips meets Snoop Dogg?” he asks.
Of course, those words were written in 2005 and, no doubt, much has changed since then. But nevertheless, the NASSPE still points to that article as one that contains wisdom on the topic of single-sex classrooms.
You can read Dr. Sax’s article here .
Done right or wrong, single-sex classes are becoming more prevalent, as evidenced by the recent decision to go forward with the classes at Fred Lynn Middle School. So, it’s important that parents, students and educators learn as much as possible.
Before you know it, single-sex education could be coming to a classroom near you.