NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Department of Education Rules Target Single-Sex Classrooms

December 18, 2014

Some public schools use single-sex classrooms and teaching techniques based on students' genders, but the programs may not last. Lydia Wheeler reports for The Hill that the Department of Education has issued new guidance on the use of single-sex classrooms in the public school system.

In 2006, new regulations expanded the ability of public schools to offer education based on students' gender, allowing school districts to offer voluntary single-sex classes and schools. But various groups have been challenging the policies, arguing they violate federal law by not providing equal educational options. The ACLU has sued schools in four states and filed 10 complaints with the Department of Education's civil rights division:

  • One of its lawsuits was filed in 2009 against a Louisiana middle school that offered all-girl and all-boy classes and in which the girls' classes included quizzes about bracelets while the boys were given quizzes that involved bikes.
  • The school assigned the book "Where the Red Fern Grows" to boys and "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" to girls, which challengers say was based on stereotypes that boys like hunting, whereas girls prefer love stories.

But proponents of single-sex schooling say that using different teaching styles for boys and girls can be very effective for some students, and offering single-sex classes can allow teachers to engage those students. Boys, for example, tend to enjoy competing with friends, and school districts offering boy-only classes have employed competitive team activities in their classrooms. But the approach does not work as well with girls, says Leonard Sax, founder of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, who tend to enjoy competing against strangers, but not against their friends.

The new Department of Education rules will likely make single-sex education difficult to offer:

the rules require co-ed public schools to identify their objectives in offering single-sex classes and not rely on gender stereotypes. Programs must be evaluated every two years.

Source: Lydia Wheeler, "Feds target 'sex stereotypes' in US classrooms," The Hill, December 13, 2014. 

 

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