Despite the fact that in 1996, Supreme Court Justice Scalia called single-sex education in public schools “functionally dead,” Single-sex education has become an increasingly popular model in schools since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was passed. This federal legislation promoted innovative programs for states to implement that included single-sex classrooms and schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).
Within any educational setting there were many factors that impacted student achievement that related to boys’ and girls’ physical, social, emotional, and intellectual needs. A single-sex environment provided boys and girls with a setting that promoted specific gender related issues for each cohort (Hall, 2006). However, was the decision to divide classrooms and schools exclusively into boy and girl cohorts sufficient enough for enhanced student achievement? Did the separation of boys and girls make a less socially competitive environment?
Enthusiasts of single-sex educational environments believed that boys and girls flourished better in a classroom that aimed to reduce social awkwardness stemming from boys’ and girls’ psychosocial development. Boys and girls, when grouped together, tended to have gender-related conflicts. According to Bracey (2006), boys and girls were able to focus more on their academic and personal interests in single-sex schools and classrooms. For example, books were published that targeted to boys and was encouraged to promote boys’ learning. In urban schools, single-sex schools was a “popular option” for teaching African-American boys (McNeil, 2008). In middle school classrooms, teachers taught math to sixth grade boys under the assumption it would have a better impact on their learning (Hill, 2011).
Meanwhile, critics of single-sex education argued that students who had been part of a single-sex environment needed support working in groups. Another study discovered that in fact single-sex classrooms contribute to boys’ aggressiveness (Hudley and Graham, 1995). Teachers also reported “more comfort” in teaching single-sex classrooms in terms of classroom management strategies (In Spielhagen, 2013). Another criticism was that the single-sex set-up did not contribute substantially to student learning. One reason given is that both boys and girls needed support working in groups where the opposite sex was present and they were not predisposed to adapt to the opposite sex in other areas of their lives (Salomone, 2003).
Statement of the Problem
The United States had fallen behind other advanced countries in education. Educational policy makers and stake-holders have juggled with numerous ways to improve student achievement (Datnow, Hubbard & Woody, 2001). How to marry quality teachers with excellent resources all while staying within budget? One worry for administrators was the perceived gap between students in the United States and students from other nations whom had proven more advanced in STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects (Salmone, 1998).
Interestingly, in the United States single-sex schooling was common practice in nineteenth century American schools. However, this is because parents of young men sent their charges to school with the expectation to graduate and to obtain employment to provide for the family’s interests. Female students did not occupy seats in the nineteenth century classroom. Mothers and older siblings taught young girls in the home. Girls learned basic education at home to contribute to the family’s interest in this way (Sadker, 1994).
During the 1960s and into the early 1970s, the United States had implemented coeducational classrooms. Course subject matter predetermined the separation of the sexes. Girls traditionally took Home Economics courses while boys took agriculture-related courses (Tyack and Hansot, 1990). Boys took agriculture classes based on the assumption that boys would take on agriculture-related jobs. Girls took home economics based on the assumption that girls would take care of the home. Educators also split physical education and sex education courses based on the assumption that girls and boys have different physical abilities and a distinct psychosocial development. Educators worried about whether it was appropriate to address physical and sex education together because of the beliefs of the students’ parents or guardians (United States General Accounting Office, 1996).
However, adults thought the discussion of physical education and sex education in a coeducational setting would promote interactions between the sexes (Tyack and Hansot, 1990). Some states created single-sex classes to exclude specific sexes from specific occupations or activities. For example sewing, cooking and dance classes were relegated to all-girl classes, while auto shop, football, and woodworking, were relegated to all-boy classes. Educators based these decisions on what were socially acceptable activities for boy boys and girls, respectively. Separation by sex had the end goal effect of determining careers based on gender role specification.
In 1972, ideas about single-sex education changed again. Specifically, stereotypical roles of what future young men and women would have were under national and legal review. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Title IX legislation promoting gender equity made it illegal to create new single-sex public schools and classes, except in rare circumstances to remedy prior discrimination,” (2004). This meant national wide closures of single-sex programs in American schools (with the exception of sex education and contact sports) (American Association of University Women, 2004). Title IX was geared toward preventing sex discrimination in education and eliminating historical norms created regarding the role of women and men in society.
According to U. S. Department of Education, 2004 report, spearheaded by the American Association of University Women (AAU), Congress in the 1990s attempted to pass legislation permitting all single-sex schools in the United States. While the lobbying efforts of the AAU failed, “the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, (No Child Left Behind),” allowed the use of funds to establish single- sex schools and single sex classes within coeducational schools. The law stated, “schools must be consistent with applicable law.” However, single-sex schools operating in the private and religious sector continued to run as they always did (U.S. Department of Education, 2004).
While the changes related to Title IX concerned discrimination against females in education, the legislation to provide single-sex education concerned how boys and girls learn differently. In 2001, Hilary Clinton and Kay Hutchison, then Senators, inserted monies into a bill to support single-sex schools and education (Schemo, 2002). In 2004, the United States Department of Education established draft regulations governing the operation of single-sex classes. Many of the suggestions from public policy makers reflected the facts that had emerged about boys dropping out of school, and “boys more likely to repeat a grade than girls” (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005).
A renewed interest in single-sex education came out of these worries. These regulations stated that in the case of “Coeducational schools operating single-sex classes,” reasons for this single-sex implementation had to be offered for both sexes especially in classes that had been traditionally segregated (e.g., physics or computer science). Schools had to have “either a single-sex class for the other gender or a coeducational class in the same subject at the same schools.” Furthermore, administrators had to conduct periodic reviews to determine whether or not sing-sex classes were still necessary (U.S. Department of Education, 2004).
Research Question 1: Does the composition of the sexes in a classroom or school impact the academic growth of male and female students?
Research Question 2: Do boys learn differently from girls, and if so does single-sex education schemes have an observable effect on boys’ learning?
Research Question 3: Do girls learn differently from boys, and if so does single-sex education schemes have an observable effect on girls’ learning?
Research Question 4: Is there a sustainable model for establishing a single-sex educational system that is realistic, relevant, pragmatic, and feasible for school districts that struggle with access to resources?
Research Question 5: Is there a significant difference in test scores related to STEM-related subjects in classrooms where single-sex education is the norm?
Research Question 6: Does single-sex Education have a significant impact on schools that are historically underachieving?
Research Question 7: Do single-sex schools close the achievement gap in STEM subjects in a significant way for historically under-funded school districts?
Ostensibly, the foundation of single-sex schools in the United States has been ignored because the majority of communities do not have the funds to support separate schools for both girls and boys. However, despite a strong interest in coeducation in American public schools, lingering questions about unequivocal chose of coeducation as the standard in American education still remain. Academic research has suggested that educators seriously consider the relationship between a single-sex education model and its correlation with student achievement.
Quantitative methods that will be used in this investigation will include math and reading CRCT results of students in mixed and single gender classrooms. For investigative purposes, students were grouped based on whether they attended fourth or fifth grade in a mixed or single gender classroom, and descriptive statistics were used to explain the independent variables. Inferential statistics will be used to determine if children in the gender-specific classrooms showed similar or different levels of achievement in reading and math according to the current and previous years CRCT scores. For those variables that showed a statistically significant correlation, an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) will be conducted to show the type of relationships among the variables and the relative strength of those variables in relation to achievement. ANCOVA is appropriate because this study examined reading and math for the purpose of predicting outcomes. ANCOVA was utilized because two types of variables were coded for the study: nominal (such as the independent variables of gender or SES) and ratio (such as the dependent variables of student scores).
Definition of Terms
Gender: The APA defines gender as it refers to “sex-related behaviors and attitudes” about men and women (Gerrig, 2002).
Gender-specific: For the purpose of this study, gender-specific refers to attitudes and ideas related to a particular group based on sex. The idea is to look at how gender-related behaviors and attitudes contribute to how boys and girls are preferred based on varying educational norms pertaining to academic success.
Mixed-sex: For the purpose of this study, mixed-sex refers to a group consisting of students of both sexes.
Sex: Differences in biologically based characteristics that distinguish men and women from each other.
Single-sex: For the purpose of this study, single-sex refers to a group consisting of students of one sex.
Significance of the Study
The debate about single-sex education needs to be revitalized. The significance of this study is to revitalize this interest and argue that despite the financial costs to state and federal governments, educators need to think through the advantages of a single-sex educational model. While there is a paucity of empirical evidence to support the claims for or against single-sex classrooms, it is important to evaluate single-sex class arrangements where teachers implement multiple outcome measures to assess the impact on student achievement.
The purpose of this study was to examine the academic outcomes of single-sex education elementary school students enrolled in a mathematics course, with curriculum based upon the state standards and a district pacing guide. Through the research outcomes, educators can have a more clear understanding of the impact that the single-gender delivery model has on young adolescents. It has been argued that the single-gender model has the potential to increase achievement within a setting that utilizes differential teaching strategies that are logically and efficiently planned and definitively implemented, examined, and assessed (Shah & Conchar, 2009). To be successful, educators must create explicit details in regards to the emotional and social aspects of the educational community in addition to the academic knowledge (Hubbard & Datnow, 2005). This realization will encourage educational programs to consider single-gender classrooms as a viable option for improving academics and self-esteem during a very tumultuous period of development.
The researcher hypothesizes:
There will be statistical differences in Criterion Reference Competency Test (CRCT) mathematics growth scores of students who were placed in single-gender classrooms and received instruction utilizing gender-specific strategies as compared to students who were placed in coeducational classrooms and received a non-specific assortment of instructional strategies.
There will be statistical differences in Criterion Reference Competency Test (CRCT) mathematics growth scores of female students who were placed in single-gender classrooms and received instruction utilizing gender-specific strategies as compared to sixth grade students who were placed in coeducational classrooms and received a non-specific assortment of instructional strategies.
There will be no statistical differences in Criterion Reference Competency Test (CRCT) reading growth scores of male students who were placed in single-gender classrooms and received instruction utilizing gender-specific strategies as compared to male students who were placed in coeducational classrooms and received a non-specific assortment of instructional strategies.
There will be no statistical differences in Criterion Reference Competency Test (CRCT) reading growth scores of male students and female students who were placed in single-gender classrooms and received instruction utilizing gender-specific strategies.
In summation, single-sex education has enjoyed renewed interest with education administrators and public policy makers. Single-sex education is seen as a viable strategy for maximizing student achievement. Single-sex classes have shown to provide opportunities for all students to be leaders. Single-sex classes minimize risks of sexual harassment among boys and girls (Herr and Arms, 2002). Parents, teachers, and school administrators have reported an enhancement in student self-esteem and interest in academic achievement (Salomone, 1999). While, critics believe the lasting effects on students’ social abilities may be impacted by single-sex environments (Tyack and Hansot,1990), school systems around the world continue to implement the single-sex educational model (Herr and Arms, 2002).
Chapter II Literature Review
As was mentioned in Chapter I, single-sex education has its roots in the American education system since the nineteenth century. When teachers in American public schools were mostly male, the make-up of classrooms was relegated to mostly all-male populations. Home education was the norm for girls and for boys; the schoolhouse was their place of learning. As a primary source account from the New York Times, dated Tuesday, December 30, 1890, “all the primary schools” and “there should be more big school buildings erected” (1890). School administrators have for a century tried to create schools that accommodate the most number of students. The educational system of the 1890s was still single-sex, but the worries of that time still resonate today. Many of the challenges educators today face in planning and implementing educational change is similar to the challenges faced a hundred years ago. Studies suggest that even with No Child Left Behind, there still remains work to be done in ascertaining not only the effectiveness of single-sex education but how it maps onto other factors that educators associate with academic success (Stephens, 2009).
The literature suggests that the solution to the problem does not lie solely in “single-sex” classrooms. Single-sex divisions are not a one-stop fix to However, in the United States, since the passage of No Child Left Behind, various studies have been conducted to analyze single-sex education in the United States. What does single-sex education look like in the twenty-first century? What are the new problems and what has the research indicated? In the main, recent studies focus on race, economic status of students, and preoccupation with boys’ single-sex education over and against girls.
There are over 2,000 empirical studies that treat the issue of single-sex education (Bracey, 2006). This literature review looks at studies on public schools and public programs that have instituted single-sex education programs since 2009. In this way, studies on private schools, including religious schools that have implemented single-sex education are eliminated. The literature review is then pared down significantly, because many schools that are single-sex are in fact private and religious schools. In fact, even in research included in this literature review that focuses on public schools, there are still methodological weaknesses because in some cases the data includes data sets from private institutions. Even the 2005 DOE report was deemed insufficient to provide substantial information on single-sex education in public schools and not sufficient for a meta-analysis (Bigler & Signorella, 2011).
The problem is that it is hard to tell whether positive outcomes are related to single-sex education or other factors, including resources that private schools receive compared to the relative lack of resources in public schools. However, in single-sex public schools, the majority of students who attend these schools choose to go there by choice. Choice seems to be a factor in the quality of these schools and a possible predictive factor for academic achievement (Hayes, Pahlke & Bigler, 2011).
Longitudinal studies on single-sex education is rare. However, one such study, On the final years of high school, single-sex school appeared to have nominal effects but researchers concluded that there may be a correlation between outcomes compared to girls’ single-sex schools and boys (Nagengast, Marsh & and Hau, 2013). Longitudinal studies on single-sex education was popular in the 1980s and and early 1990s, but there has not been much focus on tracking a cohort of either boys or girls in single-sex school environments. The most pervasive and complete longitudinal study on education in general is the one conducted by researchers from the National Center for Education Statistics. However, their research is limited in what it can reveal about the impact of single-sex education on closing the achievement gap in student learning and achievement. Addressing achievement includes analyzing not only single-sex cohorts, but also other factors that contribute to success in student learning. For example, students with more access to more learning resources, advanced placement courses, and opportunities to enhance their learning will achieve more academic success. The question researchers have is how impactful does adding single-sex environments to schools increase not only the achievement ratios of high-performing schools, but also the achievement ratios of underperforming schools.
A large majority of the studies do not address achievement and when they do the analysis does not condemn single-sex education but there is not enough data yet to confirm that there is a significant effect on single-sex education and student achievement (Hayes, Pahlke & Bigler, 2011). More specifically, there are differences in the research approaches of studies that focus on single-sex education. The first are psychological in nature. These studies look at phenomena ranging from eating disorders, body image, sexuality, and other psychological factors that are exacerbated or ameliorated by the institution of single-sex education (Bigler & Signorella, 2013; Bigler & Signorella, 2011). For example, it appears that single-sex education has a positive effect on girls’ self-esteem (Cairns, 1990). The authors that look at boys’ learning, point out that boys have historically been underachieving throughout the industrialized world (Legewie, 2012). Studies that focus on how boys learn, in the past few years, bemoan the state of education for boys.
There is a trend pointing to single-sex education as a panacea to address boys’ problems in education. This has led from strategies not only directed to single-sex classroom, but also in the formulation of curricula. For example, in a single-sex boys’ Weekly Lesson plan, teachers assign boy-specific books to read. Reading the novel, Bud, Not Buddy, boys are not only grouped in single-sex education classes, but their reading materials targets their sex as well as their psychosocial development (Stephens, 2009). Similarly, for girls in a single-sex classroom, the reading assignment is Number the Stars. The novel features a girl protagonist. Single-sex classrooms also indicate single-sex teaching strategies from everything contained in what open-ended questions are asked, to how KWL charts for evaluating learning is conducted (Stephens, 2009).
Several universities such as Walden University and American universities including Columbia, Texas A&M have doctoral students writing specifically about single-sex education formats post-No Child Left Behind. Doctoral dissertations written in the past few years have studied single-sex education. In fact, studies have been conducted on the effects of single-sex education on mathematics achievement in schools (Hill, 2011). In 2014, Duane Kenneth Eliason wrote a doctoral dissertation from The University of West Florida, on single-sex classrooms. The study examined single-sex classes as a method of reducing adolescent developmental issues that may negatively impact knowledge development in social learning environments. Another doctoral student from Texas A&M University focused on mathematics achievement in the single-sex classroom.
Effect on Boys’ Learning
More research is needed on single-sex education and African American and Latino boys in urban schools. One study, that uses the term single-gender, rather than single-sex, argues and provides data for the conclusion that single-gender schools in urban areas will be a “pathway for equity, access and academic success for the black student” (Louis, Lewis, & Bonner, 2013). However, one study suggests the correlation between single-sex education and segregation of students based on race (a practice in United States education that had state and federal approval until the groundbreaking Supreme Court decision in 1954). The study suggests that single-sex education, is not the same as racial segregation and, in fact, in a counterintuitive turn, single-sex classes in an coeducational school can serve as productive platforms for reengaging students in a positive trajectory toward greater academic achievement (Terry, Flennaugh, Blackmon, & Howard, 2013).
Educators, in the main, continue to laud single-sex education even without hard and fast empirical evidence to support or dismiss it. Anecdotal evidence is strong and teacher culture has a way of influencing policy decisions. However, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that schools, such as Eagle Academy in Brooklyn and some schools in the Bronx and Harlem are experimenting with single-sex education to provide boys a safe place separate from gang violence and drug use. The goals of these schools are ambitious, to level the playing field and promote students to higher levels of achievement, including taking Regents exams, and taking Advanced Placement courses in High School (Noguera, 2012). In fact, one study tries to correlate high-stakes tests like the New York State Regents exam with statistical pairing with single-sex schools (Angrist & Lavy, 2009).
Effect on Girls’ Learning
Despite the worry over boys’ learning and achievement, girls are still underrepresented in STEM-related subjects compared to boys. To address this issues research on girls learning has been slow but underway. The impact on STEM-subjects in one study focused on women who were college-ready and how their single-sex education influenced their career choices (Rosenthal, London, Levy, & Lobel, 2011). An empirical study from the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education reports that girls in single-sex schools “were more likely to attend a four year college” than girls who attended coeducational schools (NASSPE, 2011). However, it is unclear whether or not what motivated the girls in this study. As other studies suggest, these schools, while public, are chosen by the students to attend. In other words, the claim for a causal link between college entrance exam scores, for example, and single-sex education still needs to be evaluated.
While studies’ authors address strategies, best practices, and the overall state of single-sex education, what is lacking in the literature is a fuller assessment of how schools are facing expenditure issues related to establishing single-sex classrooms and schools. Looking at the results, there is modest gains in positive social outcomes related to single-sex education. However, further research needs to address funding sources, how schools are maximizing resources, and how teachers are trained to address the needs of a single-sex education.
The underpinning research that needs to be conducted needs to address these issue with the aim to discover if these implementations will increase student achievement. For certainly, if school districts, especially in under-served communities, wish to plan and implement single-sex education programs for the long-term, research into this matter will give educators and policy makers a clearer understanding of the state of single-sex education today and its effects on learning outcomes.
Chapter III Methodology
Research Design/Project Design
This study will collect information from one elementary school in a rural district in the city of Atlanta. The district is composed of approximately 55,000 students in grades pre-kindergarten through twelve and consists of 56 elementary schools, 16 middle schools, and nine high schools. Within this district, three of the elementary schools, a pre-k-school through fifth grade building, offered three options for each child’s fourth and fifth year: a coeducational classroom, an all-boys classroom, or an all-girls classroom. Indeed, the set-up of this district’s school combines both the traditional coeducational cohort modeling as well as populations of students that receive single-sex education.
The sample for this study consisted of all 144 fourth and fifth grade students in one building. Of these students, 36 composed the all-boys classroom, 39 composed the all-girls classroom, and 39 were enrolled in the two coeducational classrooms.
Limitations and Delimitations
Although the researcher used analytical methods, limitations to the study were still present:
Single-sex classes may be in place in School B for only one year at the time the study is conducted.
The sample size of the study may be too small.
Significance of teacher effects on achievement must be considered or taken into account in this study.
Delimitations of the Study
Quantitative methodology was employed to investigate single-sex fourth and fifth grade classrooms math and reading achievement. This research will examine the change in reading comprehension, grammar, number sense and operations, geometry, data analysis, and problem solving among students in single-sex and coeducation classes. Ultimately, the research will use descriptive statistics, correlations, and an ANCOVA model. The purpose of Chapter Four will be to report the results of this study, and Chapter Five will be devoted to findings and conclusions.
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