“Room for Debate” Adds Voices to the Single Gender School Question

Room for Debate Adds Voices to the Single Gender School QuestionFor the second time in a little over a week, we find a topic resonating, among the boarding/private school community as the topic of discussion in The New York Times “Room for Debate” series.

Recently “Room for Debate” covered ADHD; last week the experts with perspectives examine single gender schools.

We penned a post on the publication of the American Council for Coeducational Schooling and their paper, “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling.” Last week the NYT convenes a panel expert on the single gender school topic.

The Times provides a nice, quiet platform for all to make their points around the single gender schools question. Richard Fabes, lead author of the American Council for Coeducational Schooling’s paper sticks to his research and I admire that.

Lawyers Galen Sherwin and Verna Williams come off as too shrill and lacking nuance:

“There is little to no data showing that sex separation alone leads to better outcomes. These schools work when class sizes are reasonable, academics are paramount and parents are involved. Gender neutral factors, all….

So, while the law may permit single-sex schooling in some circumstances, it’s not the magic bullet proponents proclaim,” Verna Williams writes.(NYT)

Galen Sherwin writes in her contribution, “Coeducation is not the problem with our schools, and sex segregation is not the cure.”(NYT)

Yes, to both, but each paints with too broad a brush- a common ailment when one focuses on policy rather than what’s happening on the ground.

I’ll gladly concede that single gender education is neither a magic bullet, nor a cure. It is, merely, an option that works for some students and families- an option that should probably be available to families regardless of race, gender, or class.

If the research of Fabes, and colleagues, pans out over time, I’ll gladly rethink my support of single gender education as option. But, I’m not there yet.

Is the single gender elementary, secondary, and/or collegiate experience best for all students?

Heck, no. However, there’s no reason not to offer an honest choice for single gender eduction if it doesn’t break the bank and it’s not touted as a magic bullet that will carry every student to high achievement. Some students may simply be more comfortable and, or, like, or, perform better in a single gender setting.

I’m still with Leonard Sax on the issue:

“Not every child should be in a single-sex classroom. But parents should have the right to choose among single-sex and coed formats, even if they can’t afford to pay private school fees.”(NYT)

It all comes back to “school fit.” Know your child and work to find the school that best fits who he/she is and where he/she stands their educational processes. What’s the best school fit? The school that meets the student where he/she stands and can grow him/her the furthest, and the fastest. If it’s a single gender gender school, then, so be it.

Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

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