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Links of the Day:

– An acquaintance who teaches at a Rochester City School District elementary school has a principal who wanted to see if single-sex classrooms improve learning. (I am not sharing the school, grade, or the teacher’s gender to protect teacher’s identity.) The teacher was assigned an all-boys classroom. The class is small, fewer than 20 students. The teacher was excited at the beginning of the school year.

The experiment is not working.

The classroom is akin to a grade-school frat house. The boys are aggressive. They “play fight.” They tell “boy jokes” to each other all day. They are filled with energy. The rambunctious class doesn’t get recess and has gym only once a week, down from three times a week last school year.

The teacher, who is no rookie, is able to maintain control and teach the day’s lessons. But the teacher says the classroom dynamic is much worse with all boys and the teacher spends far more time on classroom management.

This teacher’s experience brought to mind a recent study showing single-sex education is ineffective. The New York Times wrote up the research:

It asserts that “sex-segregated education is deeply misguided and often justified by weak, cherry-picked or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence.”

But the strongest argument against single-sex education, the article said, is that it reduces boys’ and girls’ opportunities to work together, and reinforces sex stereotypes. “Boys who spend more time with other boys become increasingly aggressive,” the article said. “Similarly, girls who spend more time with other girls become more sex-typed.”

The RCSD recently opened an all-boys high school at Charlotte. There is also an all-boys charter school, where the test results closely mirror those in the RCSD.

There is a mentality in poor-performing urban school districts that “we have to do something” to help failing children. But often, that “something” is not rooted in any research. In some cases, that “something” has actually been proven to not work, such as teacher bonuses.

This teacher’s story shows experimenting with kids is “something” that may not be right.

– Kudos to the Democrat and Chronicle for following up on the story of Alonzo Williams, a young man who has been missing. There has been growing frustration the news media ignores missing black people.

– The Pittsford Food Cupboard needs help. The shelves at the pantry in our area’s wealthiest community are nearly bare.

– Bobcats are making a comeback in New York State.

15 Responses to Single-Sex Snafu

  1. January 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm Christopher Smith responds:

    I wonder if your friend’s experience is similar to what every teacher encounters at McQuaid, or whether it’s hard to draw conclusions from a single single-sex classroom in a school of co-ed classrooms?

    • You can’t possibly compare privileged kids attending McQuaid with single sex education being used as a solution for poor urban kids.

      • January 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm Christopher Smith responds:

        You never stated what school or grade these kids were, so I didn’t draw any conclusion about whether or not the boys were “poor urban kids.”

        I was thinking about the behavioral problems your friend described. Are you suggesting that we should expect the sorts of behavioral problems your friend experienced from “poor urban kids” but not from “privileged kids?”

        • It’s a high needs school, as close to 90 percent of RCSD kids are low-income.

          We are talking about using single-sex classrooms as a way to improve performance in an urban district. There is absolutely no comparison to a single-sex school for high income kids. None.

          The concentration of poverty has a real impact on education. Look at the test scores. The only proven method to raise test scores of poor children is to economically integrate schools, but no one ever brings that up.

          • January 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm Christopher Smith responds:

            You state that single-sex classrooms of “poor children” and “high income kids” cannot be compared. Since you’re only talking about classroom management and student behavior in your blog post, and never once mentioning the academic performance of the kids in your friend’s classroom, it sounds like you’re saying that “high income kids” can be expected to behave whilst “poor children” cannot. I find that indefensible.

          • That’s absolutely not what I wrote. I related that this teacher found grouping boys together led to increased behavior problems, not that poor kids don’t behave.

  2. January 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm Michael Rogala responds:

    I teach in the city & we started an “all boys” class at grades 3-6 and based on the year so far it is FANTASTIC! Now we didn’t just segregate the kids…we are doing a whole Boys Academy where we teach the boys how to be stand up young men, We not only teach academics but also cooperation, community service, discipline, etc…The boys have really responded well to the program & the parents seem to really like it. I do the physical education component where I teach teamwork, dealing with disagreements, how to win/lose, etc…all using physical activity.

  3. January 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm Michael Rogala responds:

    Rachel if you want to come observe our Boys Academy in action I am sure our principal wouldn’t mind. If you email me I can send you all of our contact information. The D&C has been there a few times already. It is our first year of it so we are still learning…most of these boys had poor behavior before becoming a part of the Boys Academy. Most of them have gotten so much better ever since joining. Once behavior is in check then the learning can begin.

  4. Wow, Michael – very best wishes for your efforts!

  5. It clearly works at McQuaid, worked for many decades at Aquinas and many many others school across the country. I think a blanket statement from anyone that it doesn’t/can’t work is mistaken.

    It’s also unclear to me how being poor or living within the city limits proper would affect this.

  6. The research for segregated sex schools and classes are indeed lacking. It doesn’t matter whether it is impoverished school or exclusive and wealthy. Segregating by sex doesn’t increase learning. Private schools have a choice in doing this, public schools and charter schools who take public money should not. Another suggestion for improving TEST SCORES is teacher bonuses which you mention. Another is a longer school day which some schools have actually done and the RCSD has promoted. Sitting in a chair doing more worksheets and listening to a teacher talk, etc. doesn’t have any bearing on learning either. Access to books, libraries and time to find things out and actually think are best motivators for learning. When are people going to learn that the failing school mantra is a lie and that standardized tests are not a valid measure of learning? Even test scores and tests are more of a measure of the number of people in poverty than anything else. The winners will always be those in low poverty areas and the losers will be in high poverty ones. Alleviate poverty and educational attainment will rise. Not the other way around.

  7. Pingback: Single-Sex Backlash? » The Rochesterian

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