Keep the Option of Single-Sex Ed

By Kasic, Allison | The Christian Science Monitor, August 21, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Keep the Option of Single-Sex Ed


Kasic, Allison, The Christian Science Monitor


As the school year approaches and students debate whether to get Jonas Brothers or Hannah Montana folders and pencils, parents have more substantive decisions to make involving the educational prospects of their children.

Sadly, if the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) gets its way, parents in Breckinridge, Ky., will have one less choice since they will no longer be able to voluntarily enroll their children in single-sex education programs.

In May, the ACLU of Kentucky filed suit in federal court, arguing that Breckinridge County Middle School's practice of offering single- sex classrooms is illegal and discriminatory.

Even though no child is required to attend a single-sex class, the suit contends that the practice still violates a slew of state and federal laws, including Title IX and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act.

The Breckinridge County School District began offering single- sex classrooms in 2003, after the Department of Education announced plans to loosen federal restrictions on single-sex education.

In 2006, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings followed through on the Department's promise and eased Title IX regulations, allowing schools to offer single-sex classrooms, schools, and extracurricular activities, as long as such programs are completely voluntary options.

Many parents were thrilled by the newly relaxed rules, which opened up more opportunities for single-sex education. Single-sex options have, of course, always been available at private schools, but the 2006 ruling opened up more options for all parents, not just those who could afford to opt out of the public education system.

Proponents of single-sex education point to a growing body of research that indicates that boys and girls tend to have different learning styles. Different teaching techniques and activities, they say, should be used to get the best out of boys and girls in the classroom. Boys, for example, on average, prefer hands-on classroom activities, while girls often thrive in small group exercises.

Some parents are also concerned that members of the opposite sex distract their children, inhibiting educational performance.

Far from reinforcing gender stereotypes, single-sex education in many ways enables students to more easily break away from gender stereotypes.

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