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Could Public, Single-Sex Schools Make A Comeback?

An argument has raged for a long, long time about the benefits of single-sex education. And now that argument is coming back to Massachusetts. Boston is home to some very well respected all-girls and all-boys private schools — like Roxbury Latin and Winsor. But in the Massachusetts public school system, single-sex schools are prohibited.

But Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Boston Public School Superintendent Carol Johnson have been pushing for a change, and just last week Beacon Hill lawmakers gave initial approval to legislation that would permit single-sex public schools in Massachusetts.

Proponents say single-gender schools provide a better learning environment by cutting down on distractions. Others say that schools like Roxbury Latin and Winsor are successful not because they are single-sex, but because of the resources they have as private schools.



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  • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

    I attended an all female high school. It had some good aspects, it had some bad ones. But overall I would say it was a net benefit. I got confidence in my ability, and opportunity in extra-curricular clubs and government that might not have happened in a mixed setting. And some of that matters for college applications.

    Mary (PhD in molecular biology today)

  • Tutelee

    I went to a huge Catholic High School in Phila with a boys side and a girls side .I allowed myself to excel without the distraction of editing myself to make myself more attractive to the boys. One thing that hasn’t been discussed, is that teachers’ belief in the ability of their students governs how much they challenge the student. In a same sex class, there isn’t the assumption that boys are better in math and science. I had no idea I was talented in math and science until I went to high school from my coed parish school. I went to MIT for my undergrad.

  • Tricia

    The reason I have taken my boys out of a progressive independent co-ed school in the area and any them to Fenn, an all boys school was the stereotyping of the teachers of good and bad behavior. Normal competitive behavior, practiced more often by the boys was characterized as ‘bad choices’ and ended up making them feel bad about themselves. As an example of the differences – at the co-Ed school, discussions and play acting scenes from Star Wars was banned as inappropriate at recess. But at the boys school, the head of English department told me- ‘of course boys will write short stories about blood and guts. It doesnt mean they are disturbed, we know the difference’. There was more tolerance of challenging questions and the boys felt that they could express themselves without being rebuked.

  • sylvia

    Having had a boy in single sex education for middle school (where he did extremely well academically, he decided he really wanted to return to co-ed for high school.

    I, frankly, do not believe the data that says there are no benefits….when I was in school, girls used to lag boys—society changed schools, and now girls are consistently outperforming boys.  If there is no gender difference in what makes a conducive learning environment, why the different outcomes?

    I would love to see a BLENDED option, to see if we could get the best of all worlds.  One school, with gender segregation for math (girls seem to do better without the boys in math) and english (boys seem to show their sensitive side better without girls around) and gym….and then together for History, Foreign Languages and electives (perceived as more gender neutral subjects.)  Not sure what to do with science, but you see the point.  Would love to see the boys and the girls both succeeding academically.

    I would like to point out that of course there are differences amongst boys and amongst girls, and this is not something that shoudl be ignored…however, I think the approach i suggest would , on the whole, help everyone do better…

  • Guilfoyle20

    my two kids went to co-ed middle school and then single gender high school.  Both loved it!  My son loved the idea that he could fart in class and no one (including the teacher) cared.  My daughter loved the idea that she could dress for comfort instead of making herself look good for the boys.  On a more serious note -  both had many opportunities for interaction with the opposite sex in social situations, and both excelled in an academic environment absent the distraction of raging hormones… both went on to co-ed colleges and look back very positively on their respective high school experiences.

  • http://twitter.com/NCGSMeganMurphy Megan Murphy

    The central
    value of single-sex schools is freedom from, not reinforcement of,
    gender stereotypes. When you combine strong female mentors and positive
    role models, reduced sex stereotyping in curriculum and classroom, and
    abundant learning opportunities the results are clear. Educational
    researcher Cornelius Riordan, Professor of Sociology at Providence
    College and author of Girls and Boys in School: Together or Separate? sums
    it up: “Females especially do better academically in single-sex schools
    and colleges across a variety of cultures. Having conducted research on
    single-sex and coeducational schools for the past two decades, I have
    concluded that single-sex schools help to improve student achievement.” The US Department of Education’s comprehensive summary
    of research on single-sex vis a vis coeducation concludes: “The
    preponderance of studies in areas of academic accomplishment (both
    concurrent and long term) and adaptation or socioemotional development
    both current and long term) yields results lending support to SS (single
    sex) schooling.”

    Megan K. Murphy
    Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS)

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