Pueblo Chieftain, John Jaques/AP

Gender-Specific Classrooms Grow as their Effectiveness is Questioned

June 23, 2008 06:00 AM
by Christopher Coats
As the debate continues over the effect of gender-specific classrooms in American public schools, more and more institutions are adopting the approach.

30-Second Summary

Proponents of gender-specific learning, who generally fall into two categories—those who believe there is a biological difference between how males and females learn, and those who believe that there are social factors at work—have led a push to bring the sex-specific approach to public schools.

Thanks to a clause added to the national No Child Left Behind Act making it easier for school districts to adopt the approach, and the publication of several books advocating the philosophy, gender-specific classrooms have seen a significant increase.

Since 1995, the number of public schools with gender-specific programs has risen from two to 49, with an estimated 360 separate classrooms offering the alternative.

Leading the charge has been Leonard Sax, a psychologist and physician who has argued that a biological difference between boys and girls requires that different teaching approaches be used for each, with separate classrooms being the most effective.

While Sax points to several success stories to support his claim, critics have pointed to schools that have abandoned the approach after no noticeable improvements were seen, and some have painted Sax’s approach as simply sexist.

Questions regarding the caliber of students and teachers who chose gender-specific programs has also cast doubt on improvements in testing and overall results.

Specifically, proponents have pointed to the age at which students usually enter kindergarten and puberty as the points at which students are in the most need of a gender-specific approach.

Headline Link: ‘Teaching Boys and Girls Separately'

Background: Gender separation

Reactions: The debate

Opinion & Analysis: SingleSexSchools

Key Figures: Leonard Sax, Gurian Institute

Related Topics: Gender equality in schools


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines