Single-Sex Schooling Lacks Scientific Support and May Exaggerate Sexism and Gender Stereotyping, Says Article in Science

Claremont McKenna College Psychology Professor Diane Halpern is lead author of "Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling"

Sep 22, 2011, 14:00 ET from Claremont McKenna College

CLAREMONT, Calif., Sept. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Placing children in single-sex schools is a misguided trend in school reform, says an article to be published in the September 23 issue of the journal Science. The article's authors argue that advocates of single-sex education misconstrue or cherry-pick from scientific studies, but that there is no well-designed research showing that single-sex education improves students' academic performance. The article concludes that there is evidence that segregating boys and girls increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.

"We know that segregating children by race promotes racial prejudice and inequality, and segregating according to gender yields similar effects – promoting sexism and gender stereotypes," said the article's lead author, Diane Halpern, Professor of Psychology, Claremont McKenna College. "Single-sex education also gives boys and girls fewer opportunities to work together, which leaves them less prepared for mixed-sex workplaces and society."

Although the passage of Title IX in 1972 outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs, the U.S. Department of Education loosened regulations in 2006 to permit single-sex classes within coeducational schools. The article's authors argue that the Department of Education should return to its previous interpretation of Title IX, due to the lack of scientific evidence that single-sex education increases academic performance.

The authors discount claims that boys' and girls' brains operate differently, stating that biological differences between girls' and boys' brains have not been shown to relate to learning and that experience is one of the greatest architects of the brain. The article states that our brains change in response to our experiences, so differences may result from sex-differentiated experiences rather than "hard-wiring."

The authors acknowledge that there are excellent single-sex schools, but say their success is due to the usual factors associated with successful schools—a demanding curriculum and students who are academically-oriented and not the single-sex composition of the schools. In addition, many of the claims about the benefits of single-sex schooling are inflated because students entering single-sex schools are often more academically advanced, and children who don't perform well transfer out early.

Diane Halpern, professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College, is the study's lead author. Other authors include Arizona State University social scientists Richard A. Fabes, Carol Lynn Martin and Laura Hanish, Lise Eliot of the Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University, Rebecca S. Bigler of the University of Texas at Austin, Janet Hyde of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Lynn S. Liben of Pennsylvania State University.

SOURCE Claremont McKenna College