single sex education

Priscilla Little (
Mon, 27 Apr 1998 18:12:12 -0500

I have enjoyed the discussion regarding our report, Separated by Sex: A
Critical Look at Single Sex Education for Girls. I would like to thank WEEA
for sponsoring the dialogue and for highlighting our AAUW Educational
Foundation publication. We are indebted to our five researchers who
wrote papers for the report, and ten other researchers who participated
in our national roundtable. There were many viewpoints represented
both at the roundtable and in the report.

I think it is important to emphasize, as Ellen Wahl already did, that we
found much more information regarding single sex schools than we did
on single sex classes in our literature review. At the roundtable we
sponsored last November in Washington, the invited researchers noted
that although girls often report they like single sex classes, there has
been very little data to back up the claim that they achieve better in that
setting. The studies that have been documented, have small numbers as
well. If we have missed some research we would like to know about it.

Leonie Rennie, Curtin University of Technology, who participated in our
roundtable, brought us important information from Australia. She
mentioned that single-sex classes can be alternately empowering
(because they are a "safe " place for learning and discussion) or
oppressing (because they may reinforce sex stereotypes).

On the other side of the issue, Neil Riordan, Providence College,
advocated single sex schools for students "who are disadvantaged by
virtue of their low-social class or their low racial or gender status." He
advocated that there should be options and choices. Valerie Lee,
University of Michigan, did not agree and advocated instead pursuing
educational reforms like small schools, more academic orientation for all
students, and authentic instruction.

Diane Pollard, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, reported on her
research on African American urban students. She noted that because
the African American school began with the assumption that traditional
schools had failed to educate poor African American urban kids,
single-sex classes - some for girls, some for boys- were vehicles to
develop "closer interactions with the African American community and
African American culture."

We hope that this publication will engage educators in some wider
discussions and be helpful for those who are contemplating
experiments in their schools or classes.

I had hoped that in this discussion some of you would mention what
needs to be researched in the future. We would be interested in your

Thanks again.


Priscilla Little, Associate Director, Research

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