Tuesday, February 18, 2014

PF March 2014 - Single Gender Classrooms - Introduction

Resolved: Single-gender classrooms would improve the quality of education in American public schools.


Single-gender (with respect to education)
The following definition is taken from a Austin Independent School District white paper:

The term single-gender education, also known more broadly as single-sex education refers to elementary, secondary, or and postsecondary educational settings in which male and female students attend school exclusively with members of their own gender. Most educators and researchers extend this term to include “dual academies,” in which both male and female students attend school at a single campus, but take classes that are segregated by gender. In most instances, nonacademic activities at dual academies (e.g., meals, sports, and extracurricular programs) are also segregated. The term singlegender education typically is not used to refer to coeducational settings in which segregated classes are offered only in selected subjects.

This resolution specifies, classrooms, which of course are rooms in schools.  It is not clear, based on the wording, if the schools themselves should be single-gender as defined for this resolution.  Within the context of a classroom setting, we must examine the whether the quality of education would improve if the members of the class were members of a single sex.

classroom - Merriam Webster Dictionary
a room where classes are taught in a school, college, or university

improve - Merriam Webster Dictionary
to enhance in value or quality; to advance or make progress in what is desirable

quality of education
This is not easy to define.  We can look to international sources which provide definitions for quality education, but these tend to define quality of education as any form of education which preserves the fundamental human rights.  While the United States tends to have a great deal of disparity in schools, in terms of the socio-economic situations of students, the resolution does not seem to suggest a quality education as one that meets basic human needs while leveling socio-economic disparity.  Clearly, single-gender classrooms could not possibly contribute to improvement in quality of life issues. In the United States, it appears that quality of education is measured in the outcomes; that is, the learned skills of the students, the ability to succeed in higher-education, or the ranking of the students with respect to other students or against governmental expectations as measured in standardized tests. But even when such factors which define quality are understood and measured, the ability to accurately interpret the results is questioned.

Baker, undated:
Even when student achievement is measured validly, the way such findings are interpreted makes a difference. Interpretation involves relating findings to other similar measures of performance, comparing findings to the performance of other similar groups of students or schools, analyzing findings in the light of previous performance to see the development of trends over time, or looking at performance in terms of some predefined standard.

public school - Merriam Webster Dictionary
a free tax-supported school controlled by a local governmental authority


At its core, this debate will focus on whether or not student outcomes will improve if boys and girls are taught separately in public schools within the United States.  This was the norm in the 1800s but the practice gave way to coeducational schools which became more common in the 1900s culminating in a revision of federal laws in 1972 which outlawed sex discrimination in public schools. In 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act, once again opened the door to the expansion of single-gender public classrooms. Generally, the administration of the United States public school system falls under the legal jurisdiction of the individual states. Nevertheless, because the federal government distributes funds to supplement various programs which aid disadvantaged groups and other kinds of financial aid the federal government impose requirements of their own as a condition for receiving the funding.  Thus, programs such as No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top garner state support, even if reluctantly.

At stake in this debate is research which seems to suggest that males and females have differences in how they develop intellectually.  Separating the sexes allows curriculum designers to target the specific differences to the advantage of the students.  On the other side, the research is disputed and opponents claim the social development of students is harmed.  Indeed, the claim of opponents does raise the question of what constitutes "quality of education".  Do we measure the standard skills of reading, writing or arithmetic or must we look to broader criteria such as how students behave in social settings?

Click here for the Pro Position

Can We Fairly Measure the Quality of Education?; Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing
Eva L. Baker

Federal Rules Back Single-Sex Public Education, New York Times
DIANA JEAN SCHEMO, October 25, 2006


  1. When will you get the pro/con positions posted?

  2. Very, very soon. The Pro is ready and the Con is in development.

  3. Thank you so much! I love your blog. It is really useful in getting a basic understanding of the topic before starting case-writing.


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