Let Parents Choose Single-Sex Classrooms … Who Needs Yucky Girls?

An interesting story from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette looks at an elementary school that has divided boys and girls into separate classrooms (H/T Joanne Jacobs):

In a typical classroom, the boys are asked to sit calmly in desks, complete story problems and answer questions after raising their hands. But speed, enthusiasm and competition get the pupils in Long’s all-boys class motivated to learn and to participate, she said.

Teachers at Monitor Elementary School in Springdale created classrooms segregated by sex as an experiment to allow teachers to adapt their strategies to each, Principal Maribel Childress said.

The idea of sex-segregated classrooms has been catching on more and more in different parts of the country, though it’s still a fairly rare enough practice that it makes articles like this one of general interest. Like so many other things in education, separating boys and girls into different classrooms isn’t the be-all and end-all answer to our problems. (But it’s not a bad idea. Who needs yucky girls around, anyway?)

One critic quoted in the story – New America Foundation senior research fellow Sara Mead – makes a great point:

The variation among students within each sex is greater than the average differences between boys and girls, she said.

Yes, there’s a lot of truth there. The answer to meet such a wide range of diverse needs and learning styles is empowering parents with more school choice. Krista Kafer (who happens to be a senior education fellow at the Independence Institute) makes this point in her Independent Women’s Forum paper “Taking the Boy Crisis in Education Seriously”:

“There is no one best method of teaching children.” “For some children, single sex classrooms will yield the best results, while a different environment will be most suitable for others. Parents are best positioned to know what’s best for their child and policymakers should focus on making it easier for parents to choose a school for their child,” said Kafer.

There’s a lot of room to debate the effectiveness and value of sex-segregated classrooms. But there is very little to debate about whether parents deserve more power to choose different educational options that suit the needs of their children. Okay, it’s time for me to go talk to my mom and dad about getting into a class with no yucky girls….