Do students really learn better when separated by gender? New research indicates that they do not.
Study results released this week by the American Psychological Association found that students do not perform better in math, science or verbal subjects when they attend single-sex schools, or single-sex classes within coeducational schools. The research, which analyzed 55 years worth of data, refutes theories that adolescent girls thrive when separated from boys, and that boys perform better when they have a curriculum specifically tailored to them.
The research looked at data collected from 1.6 million students in 21 countries. A separate analysis of data from the U.S. was consistent with the rest of the findings.
According to the study, proponents of single-sex education argue that single-sex schools empower female students, especially in the math and science arena, as classrooms without males are more “supportive of girls’ academic achievement in counterstereotypic domains.” However, researchers found that single-sex education does not impact girls’ or boys’ math achievement, ideas about stereotyping or body image.
“Proponents of single-sex schools argue that separating boys and girls increases students’ achievement and academic interest,” study author Janet Shibley Hyde, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a written statement. “Our comprehensive analysis of the data shows that these advantages are trivial and, in many cases, nonexistent.”
The researchers also attempted to measure whether or not single-sex education produces different outcomes for low-income and minority students, but they did not have enough data to reach a conclusion.
The number of single-sex classrooms in America's coed public schools has increased dramatically since 2006, when the Department of Education relaxed rules on the practice, according to The Associated Press.
The American Civil Liberties Union opposes holding single-sex classes in coed schools.
"This isn't the right step to address higher dropout rates by boys," Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, said to the AP in 2012. "They promote false stereotypes about sex-based differences that don't exist. Promoting sex stereotypes can harm both girls and boys."