There have been some questions about strategy #3: "Arrange students in
cooperative groups and try single-gender groups for some situations
(especially for computers)."
We should have noted that this strategy must be used with caution in order
not to violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the U.S. law
that forbids sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive
federal financial assistance.
According to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights,
which has enforcement authority for Title IX, "with some exceptions the
Title IX regulations generally prohibit single-sex classrooms and programs
in co-educational schools. The exceptions are: contact sports offered in
physical education classes; choruses, when based on vocal requirements or
quality; and portions of classes dealing with human sexuality. Separate
classes may also be provided for pregnant students, but participation must
be voluntary. Single-sex classes are also permitted in order to overcome
conditions that have resulted in limited participation by one sex."
["Single-Sex Education: FAQs of the OCR," WEEA Digest, October, 1999, p.
7. This Digest is available on-line at <www.edc.org/WomensEquity>]
If the school does not have a compensatory reason for separating the
sexes, there is the potential that the school will be in violation of
Title IX. For example, any school districts across the country may be
able to make theargument that separate classes (or groups) are needed for
girls in areas such ascomputer technology because of "the effects of
conditions which resulted in limited participation" by that sex (Sec.
106.3 of the Title IX regulations). However, school districts should
also be aware that suchsingle-sex arrangements could also be challenged
under the U.S. Constitution or by some state equity laws which are more
extensive than Title IX. If you are thinking of establishing single-sex
programs, we urge you to contactyour state's Title IX officer andthe OCR
office in your regionfor further guidance.
From previous discussions on EDEQUITY, we understand that there are a lot
of list members who feel very strongly about single-sex education and this
is by no means an attempt to initiate a pro and con discussion on that
subject. We merely want to point out what the law allows.
In any case, even when this strategy can be used, keep in mind that it is
a temporary solution to a larger problem: making classroom collaboration
among boys and girls easier in order to faciliate better learning
opportunities for everyone.
Some tips for using cooperative learning groups effectively in a co-ed
classroom setting include:
--Be clear about the responsibilities of each member in the group, and of
the group as a whole.
--When assigning roles, make sure that both these roles, and their
corresponding responsibilities are understood and rotated among all the
students. Watch to be sure that girls do not disproportionately receive
the recorder role.
--Have students practice asking questions that elicit the knowledge they
each already have. This is especially important for students who are more
quiet, who are learning English as a new language, or who have a
disability that makes it difficult to express themselves orally.
Do you use (or have you used) cooperative learning groups in your
classroom or participated in such groups as a student? If so, what have
you noticed about the interactions among the students? What other
suggestions would you add to the list?
Susan J. Smith
WEEA Equity Resource Center
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