School Choice & Charters Opinion

Chadwell on the Science Article Debate

By Richard Whitmire — September 26, 2011 1 min read
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Given that single sex schools appear to be the only policy solution currently on the table to stabilize the academic aspiration plateau we’ve seen among boys, the debate over the science -- or lack of science -- behind separating the sexes is an important one.

David Chadwell, who oversees South Carolina’s ambitious single sex program, weighs in with some personal thoughts. Definitely worth a read.

One excerpt:

2a. Little Evidence of Academic Advantages. COMMENT First, single-gender education does not have to be better than coeducation. It shouldn't be worse though. This is why schools should conduct reviews of their programs. In South Carolina we provide the opportunity to conduct surveys of parents, students, and teachers. Second, while they claim that there isn't any hard data supporting single-gender, there isn't any hard data against it either. Further, there is some good information from surveys over the last three years that something positive is happening for parents, students, and teachers within single-gender classrooms. In news articles across the country, schools provide their own anecdotal information about the positive impact upon their own children. Third, we can NEVER say that single-gender is the actual effect for any success or failure of a child since there are many aspects within a classroom and there is ALWAYS the issue of CHOICE. This is the nature of single-gender education in public schools. To have a randomize assignment of students without the option of choice is a clear violation of federal law. Fourth, the federal government itself does not require the REPORTING of data and with budget cuts it is increasingly difficult to get reports that are not mandated by law. 2b. No Evidence from Brain Research. COMMENT This will always be argued by researchers. There are books and research reports that say that there are differences and then there are books and research that say their aren't differences. Either way, looking at international, national, and state data, there isn't equality in the performance of many subgroups - including boys and girls. As such, how we teach students is not being received in the same way by subgroups, including boys and girls. This isn't brain research, this is performance and discipline data. From this, we can look at reasons why and possibilities to affect our instructional practices to better reach all students and subgroups, including boys and girls. Understanding the potential of different tendencies for subgroups, including boys and girls, regardless of where they come from, can help inform teachers about how to best reach students. It is a way to continue to differentiate our instruction in any classroom. Single-gender education should NEVER be based upon the idea that boys and girls learn differently. And, teachers in single-gender classrooms, need to be particularly careful with the line between meeting the needs of students and stereotyping.

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