More research needed to prove same-sex schools are beneficial, educator says

Thursday, November 2, 2006

It's one of the biggest changes to coed classrooms in more than 30 years. The Bush administration is giving public schools wider latitude to teach boys and girls separately under new guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education. But the dean of the College of Education at the University of North Texas says the research in the field is inconclusive.

Dr. Jean Keller says findings show that schools that serving girls "allow them to hold roles and have experiences that are often afforded to males in coed schools."

"Likewise, similar findings have been found for males in schools serving boys," she says.

Education officials initially proposed the rules more than two years ago, citing research suggesting both higher student achievement and fewer discipline problems in single-sex classes including math and foreign languages. Keller says high standards should be set and assessed to see if they are met before single-sex classes can be proved to be effective.

"A key to quality education for all students, in my opinion, is to set high academic standards and performance measures, provide quality academic experiences and teachers, and evaluate and assess teaching and learning outcomes," she says. "Possibly, offering various educational experiences to students and parents is a sound practice. Establishing guidelines and benchmarks to assure quality in schools and student performance, regardless of the type of educational environment, is essential."

The director of UNT's Women's Studies Program, however, is skeptical of the benefits of single-sex classes, pointing to the conflicting research.

"Title IX (the federal regulations prohibiting education discrimination based on gender) already allows for same-sex education when there are legitimate reasons for it," says Dr. Sandra Spencer. "‘Separate but equal' schooling fell by the legal wayside in 1954. Same-sex education could easily slip back into that category. As I understand it, the program offers limited goals and proposes no regulations. Can we afford lack of accountability in something as important as education for children?"

Spencer adds the world is not same sex, so children should be prepared accordingly.

"Title IX has attempted to level the playing field for the sexes in education," she says. "Disregarding this important legislation seems ill-conceived and short-sighted. I am very skeptical that this same-sex education proposal will address any of the real problems in education today."

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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