When Michelle King recently became the new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, she immediately drew criticism for proposing single-sex education (“What’s wrong with single-sex schools? A lot.” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 25). The basis was a 2014 meta-analysis of existing studies of single-sex instruction that showed no significant benefit, for boys or girls, over coeducation.
I respect empirical evidence, but I doubt that most parents will pay any attention to the cited study. That’s because they alone know what is best for their own children. For whatever reasons, parents have largely made up their minds about the education their children need. It’s why I continue to support parental choice. Yes, there will always be some parents who are on the fence and are open to hard evidence. But they are in the minority.
According to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, there are about 241 public schools offering at least some single-sex classes. If the LAUSD and other large districts ever expect to stem plummeting enrollment, they need to offer parents more options. The real issue will be complying with the 2006 amended Title IX requirement that single-sex classes must be “substantially equal” to co-ed classes.
In today’s litigious society, I can foresee a constitutional challenge that boys and girls can’t be offered an equal education when they are separated. In other words, separation of the sexes, even when it is voluntary, is inherently unequal. I hope I’m wrong because what works so well for one student is a disaster for another.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.