Single-gender education, more commonly known as single-sex education, is the practice of teaching boys and girls in separate classes or schools. In many countries single-gender education is the norm due to religious or cultural beliefs. The practice has only become popular in the United States public schools within the last decade. However, single-sex education has been continually in practice in many private schools across the nation.
History of Single-Gender Education in U.S. Public Schools
At the time that the nation was founded, only boys received public schooling while the girls were educated at home, if at all. A cultural shift occurred in the early 1800s, allowing girls to attend school in all-girl classes; however, they only received instruction either before or after the standard school day for the boys. The practice of educating boys and girls together began in several communities in the early 1900s for economic reasons. They also noticed that the girls exerted a moderating influence on boy’s behavior (Bracey, 2006), which is now an argument in favor of creating single-gender classes.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, only private schools in the United States had been exclusively all boy and all girl schools, even though there was not a law forbidding the practice in the public schools until the 1972 passage of Title IX legislation. Title IX made gender segregation illegal in almost every aspect of school, including athletics, medical services, admission practices, career counseling, and the treatment of students. Federal funds would be withheld from schools that violated Title IX (Brake, 2001). Title IX pushed the trend of co-education for almost 30 years and is believed to have had a significant national impact on girls’ education, including higher education, career education, employment, math and science, standardized testing, and technology (Winslow, 2009).
Title IX was contested for many years beginning in the early 1900s by legislators to allow single-sex classes in the public schools. It was not until 2001 when they were successful with the reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind (NCBL). NCBL allowed both single-sex schools and single-sex classes within coeducational schools. New regulations governing single-gender education were established by the United States Department of Education in 2006. Together, these two legislative acts represented “a drastic change in American public policy by allowing for sex segregation in public schools – as long as it is voluntary, students are provided a substantially equal co-educational option and the segregation substantially furthers an important governmental objective” (Brown, 2011).
Issues Influencing Single-Gender Classrooms
The debate over equal opportunity in the classroom has shifted considerably over the past two decades. Twenty years ago, researchers began to question their concerns regarding opportunities for...