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All-Girls Schools Are Becoming Popular Again

A new form of schooling is becoming increasingly popular: in between 2002 and 2012, single gender classrooms in public institutions increased from 12 to over 500.These new developments raise an age-old debate surrounding single-sex schooling. Opposers argue that it increases gender-stereotyping and takes away “real world” experiences. Single-sex education is nothing new; boys and girls have long been educated separately, if girls were educated at all and elite colleges such as Columbia and Harvard University have inspired women’s-only counterparts such as Barnard and Radcliffe College. 

Gender-specific curricula (girls in home economics, boys in woodshop) remained common until Title IX made gender discrimination illegal in 1972. In the following decade, single-sex schooling decreased dramatically until the current revival.According to educator Mary Glennon, who previously worked in several co-ed public schools, there are many potential benefits to a single sex setting. “In same-sex environments, the students are more focused on school and not on their social lives,” said Ms. Glennon. “In my public school experience… I would constantly have students bumping into me because they were looking at their phones for whatever reason. There just seemed to be less focus on why they were there.”

Many researchers and educators have observed similar academic benefits to single-sex schooling, especially for girls. Burch Ford, former head of Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut, talked about the high energy environment she encountered there. “The currency of adolescence is being cool,” she stated, “and that sort of restraint requires a phenomenal amount of energy.” She believes that all-girls options offer a respite from those social pressures.

This leads to higher self-confidence, often trumpeted as a benefit in all-girls environments.

According to the Goodman Research Group, 93% of girls’ school grads say they were offered greater leadership opportunities than peers at coed schools and 80% have held leadership positions since graduating from high school.

Studies conducted by Stanford University also exhibit heightened career aspirations.

There’s also the added factor that students in a single-gender environment have, in a sense, no place to hide. Christina Hoff Sommers, author of “The Bizarre, Misguided Campaign to Get Rid of Single-Sex Classrooms,” sums it up: “As to the claim that gender-specific schools increase stereotyping and sexism, there is ample evidence to the contrary. After all, in such schools, girls cannot leave it to boys to dissect the frog, and boys cannot leave it to girls to edit the school newspaper.”

This observation is backed by research: the Goodman Research Group has found that graduates of girls’ schools are six times more likely to consider majoring in science, technology, or math (STEM) compared to their coed counterparts.

All of this considered, Glennon, who currently teaches at an all-girls school, sees a clear benefit to single-sex options in public schools. “It would help to eliminate young girls’(and boys’) focus to look/act/appear a certain way around the opposite sex,” she says. “Girls will be able to excel because they won’t be ‘stuck’ in a class with boys who, as proven by science, are two years behind girls developmentally.”Research and real world experience combine to make single-sex schooling an option to explore further outside of private schools.

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