American Morning

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December 9th, 2009
09:22 AM ET

Virginia school separates students by gender

Editor's Note: In part three of American Morning's special series, "Inside the Child's Mind," Kiran Chetry reports on how gender affects children when it comes to learning.

By Kiran Chetry, CNN

We know boys and girls develop at different stages as they grow, but there is growing research showing how boys and girls are wired differently when it comes to learning.

I visited one school where teachers are putting that to the test with single gender classrooms. It has its critics, but the school says test scores have shown improvement.

Faced with a gender gap in test scores, Woodbridge Middle School in Virginia formed single gender classrooms – testing the growing school of thought that boys and girls are hard wired to learn differently.

Dr. Leonard Sax, author of "Why Gender Matters," says the solution is to split them up.

“The best way for the boys is not the best way for the girls. The best way for the girls is not the best way for the boys,” says Sax. “The brain research is showing us quite clearly that the brains of girls and boys develop along different trajectories.”

Sax says math skills develop earlier in boys and language skills faster in girls.

“The surprising finding is that the coed classroom ends up disadvantaging both girls and boys, ends up reinforcing gender stereotypes. The girls end up thinking that abstract number theory is for boys, the boys end up thinking creative writing is for girls.”

Related: Would you choose your child's gender?

On national 8th grade reading tests, boys fall short – with ten percent fewer boys than girls achieving a basic reading level. Proponents of single sex education say boys learn best with competition and movement.

“The boys in general, if they're in their desks and seated and expected to sit and do their work there, they're more apt to become unfocused, be disturbed by others, start the tapping, start making the noise,” says teacher Meagan Kennedy.

Kennedy says since the program began three years ago, reading scores in the all-boy classrooms are up and discipline problems are down.

In Kristen Williams' all-girl math class, warm lamp light and desks grouped together reflect the thinking that girls learn best working in a cooperative environment. Williams says she's seen dramatic improvements, particularly among girls that struggled in coed math classes.

“Give them a lot of social time, a lot of time and opportunity to be verbal, to work in partners, to work in groups. … I think they have a better understanding of the subject matter because of the way that they've been instructed."

Even with some signs of success, single sex education has its critics. Professor David Sadker, who's written extensively about gender bias in schools, says rather than separating students by gender, schools should work to make coed classrooms better.

“If you assume that boys behave one way and you teach to that stereotype, and you assume that girls learn another way, and you teach to that stereotype, what you're doing is limiting the option of kids. You're reinforcing stereotypes. … Creating single sex schools to improve test grades is a cheap solution to a much deeper problem,” he says.

But for Darah Rawls, the all-boy class was the answer to his problems. After getting Cs and Ds through grade school – and struggling emotionally – Darah's mom Ashanti DeVaughn moved the family to Woodbridge just so Darah could attend the single gender program there.

Ashanti says she noticed changes not only in Darah’s grades, but in his personality.

“Just even the way that he dresses, his behavior, he just walks with a different stature. He's mature because he's around other boys. … I think that's pushing him to be the best, to be better.”

Darah now gets As and Bs, and dreams of becoming an Air Force pilot.

“It makes me feel really good about myself and everything,” he says.

soundoff (195 Responses)
  1. miles

    that kid wants to become an air force pilot so he can be with more men. that is not good. or is it??

    February 18, 2010 at 12:06 am |
  2. Annie

    I think it could be a great idea because sometimes girls do worse in math and boys do worse in English. I'm kind of speaking from personal experience because I think it would be a lot easier for me to concentrate in my classes if the boys who throw paper and hornets weren't around. And I'm very good at English but the boys in there are a little restless too. I'm not trying to blame everything on the boys, but the fact that they are restless and loud might be helped if they can be in a situation where they can move around in a classroom. On the other hand there is emotional development like, when we finally get into high school or college and we've never had to be in a class with boys (unless you go to an all women's/men's college) and we can't function properly and totally fail our classes. So maybe we should only separate out math and language arts classes because those seem to be the classes where the most 'sex problems' occur.

    December 24, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  3. Anonymous

    this doesn't seem like a good idea. It should be separated by the individual, not by gender. I'm a girl, and I do find myself doing much better in English than math, but I absolutely hate group math work, and find myself to perform worse if there are discussions, groups etc. I prefer working by myself and having competition. Also, the top of my science class is a girl, and the top math student is a boy who actually prefers group studying methods.

    December 14, 2009 at 6:22 pm |
  4. OT

    It's a step in the right direction. Everyone has a different learning curve so eventually we must develop a way to teach to an individual not a group. Nevertheless, we must not forget the importance of the learning environment within a team. Future school systems must find a way to effectively combine both.

    December 13, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  5. Schooner

    This is long. Read at your own risk, unless it never shows up due to 'moderation.'

    Things I love: science fiction, video games, dinosaurs, space ships, cool art, Parkour, exploring, jamming to music, and watching South Park.

    I'm a girl. Big surprise, hm?

    Allow me to say one thing: this educational system would be the murder of my self. I attended a school where they separated girls and boys in eighth grade. In seventh grade, they showed us what the next year would be like.

    Turns out, the girls are – and I'm not even kidding; even though this is an extreme example, it's a true example nonetheless – required, in order to graduate the school, to wear dresses and perfume, sit in a big group with their hair done and makeup on, and drink expensive tea and eat fancy little pastries, and talk about how to make clothes and please your future husband.

    Uh.. yeah, I got out of that school. And now? I'm in a fantastic art college, majoring in Game Art and Design, drawing space ships and playing video games for homework and doing Parkour with my mixed-gendered friends, and I am living life to the fullest. I'm here because I looked at the artwork guys have done in video games, and I think to myself: "THAT IS SO COOL! I could actually -do- that one day! SWEET!"

    If I had stayed in that aforementioned school, my brain would be mush. I'd be a lady, yes. But I'd be a hollow, sheep-shaped shell, who smiles stupidly and asks no questions and does what she's told without higher critical thinking. Sick.

    All in all... I think this system is great for improving grades. But... that's it. Grades, behavior, yes. But will this school create individuals, or will it only succeed in creating "boys" and "girls?"

    I'd love to see a school that separates kids by hair color. Studies have shown that blondes and brunettes learn differently.

    Good day to you all.

    December 10, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  6. cathy

    One thing most posters (not all) and the original scientist seemed to have missed is that the gender is used as a proxy for the learning style differences. If the point is to separate one learning style from another rather than to separate out the sexes, then students should be tested to see what camp they fall into and then be put into that kind of classroom rather than simply using gender. Using gender would only make sense if it explained close to 100% of the variance (which was not shown).

    Almost all of the gender learning studies show relatively small differences (though they can be statistically significant) Class, home environment and other variables have been shown to have a much larger effect on learning.

    December 10, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  7. Donald Neal Thurber

    For over 30 years I have advocated some separation for males and females in schools. Entire NEW strategies are needed for how boys and girls are taugt. in early development stages. Girls grow and mature faster than boys. Boys can not keep up with girls, yet we continue to teach both sexes in the same way , expecting both to achieve at the same rate and quality of performance. Males will catch up with females as they mature however many males become discipline problems. Not keeping up with the female, they often become the class clown or get into trouble because they can't sit still.
    As an ex- kindergarten and 1st grade teacher, an elementary principal, 4 earned degrees, and author of D'Nealian Handwriting, I consider myself to be well versed with GENDER GAP.

    December 10, 2009 at 9:56 am |
  8. Patrick G Hayes

    Excellent piece on education rates and gender. I've been against drugging our boys from 'disrupting' the class when they can't sit still.

    Congratulations on airing such an important issue of our nation.

    December 10, 2009 at 7:42 am |
  9. Christopher

    I'm not sure I understand this. I thought we got past segregation years ago. I've always been under the belief that really, kid or not, folks either possess an equilibrium of right and left brain, or they are more right-brained or left-brained. Frankly, gender plays a small role. Everyone learns differently and tends to lean one way or the other. It depends on the individual brain, home environment, parents, HH economics, just to name a few. It's to dynamic to narrow it down to just gender through "studies."

    I recall studies that said African-Americans learn differently than Caucasians. That one sort of got beat down (to a degree). Some of our best scientists are women. Some of our best writers are men. This is throughout history. I do wonder how they would have turned out if they were forced into a same-sex environment. Yet again, it's a choice without introducing it into public schools. There are plenty of independent schools that are gender-specific out there.

    It's really a fact that there has been a disproportionate amount of research done promoting gender-specific educational environments given larger endowments, alum donations, etc.. Where is all the research on co-education and the long-term impacts on both groups?

    Education shouldn't be decided on whether you have a penis or vagina. It should be decided on how the individual learns.

    Maybe if we took the money spent on these studies and paid it into the educational system, our teachers would be rewarded for their efforts, we could reduce classroom sizes in the public school system, and, perhaps, teach our kids rather than figuring out ways to expand the expense of our educational system by diluting the pool of teachers into segments. Solve the big problem first. Then again, what do I know? I'm a guy who always excelled in liberal arts and writing, was great at algebra (problem solving), was terrible at Geometry, and went into advertising after attending co-ed schools all my adolescent life. Maybe I defy the stereotype. I have a feeling, there are a lot of kids that do. Ask your kid who their favorite teacher is and you'll know where their interest is subject-wise. Beyond that, someone in this thread said that teaching in elementary, middle and high school is just about informing and not about dealing with the social aspect of things, I can only say that I hope you are not a teacher. Perhaps, we should be segregating that kind of thinking rather than boys and girls.

    December 9, 2009 at 11:03 pm |
  10. Rachel

    For those who have raised the question... I teach at an all-girls' school and have indeed found a wide range of learning styles. There are plenty of girls who might be described as learning "like a boy" (generally enjoy tinkering, risk-taking, and independence in their learning environment). The question is, though, are they as inclined to exhibit these tendencies in an all-female environment as they would be in a co-ed environment? A difficult concept to test, but I would hypothesize that some of these qualities might be stifled in a co-ed environment and nurtured in an all-female environment because it truly *doesn't matter* how they act among their own gender in a learning environment. Anecdotally, I find that they tend to flourish in a natural way when they are sans boys because there are no accidentally or intentionally reinforced stereotypes. They come into their own as learners, and I think that the genuine self-efficacy that emerges is well worth any downsides to gender segregation.... at least for girls! So, "boy-like" learning preferences for some girls may not be a disadvantage but instead an individual characteristic that is nurtured in an all-girl environment.

    December 9, 2009 at 8:59 pm |
  11. Casey

    I'm a girl, and was a straight-A student when I was in school – but I was TERRIBLE at group work. I need competition. If I'd been forced to learn in one of those single-sex classes, it would have ruined me.

    December 9, 2009 at 8:08 pm |
  12. maggieo

    What if there's a girl who thinks "like a boy"? Or vice versa? Why not get kids into classes that suit the way they think, regardless of gender?

    Individual kids are far more different than the minor differences of gender.

    December 9, 2009 at 7:47 pm |
  13. karen Osborne

    the school that my daughter attends in Burlington Ontario is looking at this very topic.

    December 9, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  14. Dr. Janet Rose Wojtalik

    I agree with Dr. David Sadker. By separating girls and boys we are fostering the same stereotypes that we are now trying so hard to overcome. I fear that the push to involve more girls in science and math fields will suffer if girls don't have the opportunity to develop self-efficacy in a well-rounded environment. They need to see that they are talented and can compete equally with boys. Separating them will give them confidence in an all-girl environment. Will they then feel confident entering into primarily male dominated fields. I think not?

    Ugh! All this talk if giving me separation anxiety!

    Check out my blog for more comments and connections:

    December 9, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  15. saad

    Kiran, this is a great report, I would like to bring your attention that this separation between gender at the class rooms, is what ISLAM recommend. Since girls and boys have different way to learn . You can see this experiment for teaching in Islamic countries. Boys and Girls face a lot of pressure in mix schools creating an environment where they can be with their own gender give the more stability to learn with out any pressure from other gender.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  16. bachir

    It seems we have to reinvent the wheel again. It has been proven through the centuries that separating boys and girls produces better results. The Coran (Islam's holy book) has said it and requires that we separate the 2 genders. This is one more secret revealed 1400 years ago. God is Great!

    December 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  17. Janice

    I taught with all girls classes and all boys classes, and I liked it and felt it was efficient with 7th and 8th graders, but it was a disaster 1ith 9th graders, well, with 9th grade boys. With girls in with boys in 9th grade, the boys are more settled, for with just boys, it tends to be a chance to see who is the toughest boy and "king of the hill." They see themselves differently when there are females to impress.

    This is just my opinion, you understand–I did not do a study or read the research. It was just the way the junior high school did things, so I lived with it.

    That said, I think it is certainly worth trying and researching.


    December 9, 2009 at 2:29 pm |
  18. Mel

    There is no "assumption" that boys and girls learn differently, it's a scientific fact that male and female brains are wired differently from each other. 1) Schools should improve the menu, do away with junk food/soda/etc. 2) Separate by gender. Kids will be able to focus better, be healthier and have more confidence. Forget the "stereotype bias" crap and stick to the FACTS.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  19. Andrea

    it isn't 'teaching to the stereotype' if it is a real difference that can be accomodated by different teaching methods!!! Very closed minded.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  20. Leona Avey

    I attended Woodbridge Middle School in the fall of 1979 before moving across town to attend Godwin Middle School. At that time, the controversy was the year-round school schedule, which involved four color codes and different holiday vacations.

    I currently reside in Savannah, Georgia, which implemented gender-seperation for middle schools last year. As a parent of an 8th grade boy, I understand the how beneficial gender-separate education can be for girls. However, I am concerned this system hinders children when they progress to the high school, collegiate, and professional worlds, where understanding and working with the other gender is important.

    Also, this policy does not address transgendered youths. What classroom would a transgendered child be assigned?

    December 9, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  21. Not just another girl

    I am glad that no-one had this idea when I was in school. I grew up with a mom who believed there is not such a thing as 'abstract numbers are for boys' and 'creative writing is for girls' – I needed to be as good or better in math than boys in addition to creative writing that I also enjoyed. Just think how boring classes would have been without competing and hearing the male teacher saying to the boys at the end of the semester: "You allowed a girl to get better grades than you!" 🙂 This approach also helped me to reject the notion of a glass ceiling in my later career. I do not believe in it, because I have not seen it nor touched it. These theories may limit our own thinking and potential, bringing us back to the question of how much is nature and how much is nurture?

    December 9, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  22. Pat

    Having 3 boys and 3 girls of my own I have been saying this for years. Classrooms are so much harder than home. Too many hormones and goofing around. It is easier to not have the girls against the boys in the same classroom. I think they just act better with their own gender, I am not sure if it is always trying to impress the other gender or what but it just works. I have taught 1/2 classroom boys and 1/2 girls. They got along much better in just moving the seating arrangements and the teams being one gender in projects.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  23. camberly lillich

    Finally, separate classes for the sexes! The public school system in my district has been trying to emasculate boys since kindergarten. We have a 'no touch' policy which is very difficult for boys to like to 'dog pile' on one another. The english classes have been directed towards heroines and not heros. No wonder many boys don't like to read. I have been toying with sending my son to an all boys school for many years. My nephew attends a public school which does separate boys from girls and his marks have greatly improved. It if works, do it.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  24. Rachael

    wasnt this already researched ages ago and really did not prove any substantial evidence.

    what are they gonna do now, girls that are the same age of boys are going to be put in higher graded classes as they supposedly apted to be progressing quicker?

    i dont quite buy all this...

    December 9, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  25. Jesse

    Hawthorne Effect

    December 9, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  26. Teresa Torsiello

    I would like the option of a all boy's class. My daughters are "brainiacs" and excell in all while my son struggles. I would love the opportunity to see if this would assist him in his studies. Whatever works best for the student should always be offered.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  27. Samir

    This is the best way to teach young children. India's ancient education system (I am talking thousands of years before/(vaidic period)) was based on this fundamental. i.e. boys and girls has different frequency to grasp informations. Of course, time has changed and people thinks why do we differentiate between gender... It's not about differentiation between gender, but helping a child grow to it's best potential. I like that we are trying this concepts and seeing good improvements.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  28. Geri

    I've never doubted that boys and girls not only act differently in classrooms, but also learn in different ways. I taught for 8 years at a Community College, where different styles of learning based on gender became apparent to me. This study doesn't imply that one group is "smarter" than the other, only that they learn better using varied methods.
    One study years ago favored separating girls from boys since the study's videotaping of the classrooms proved that teachers, without meaning too, often called on boys more than on girls. This eventually taught the girl students to just be quiet and not even try to participate in classroom discussion, since they had been inadvertently discouraged from joining in.
    My math skills are still not as good as they should be. In my school, a highly-touted high school, speed was a big factor. Although I was intelligent and certainly capable of learning math, I was not someone who learned math skills quickly. Men tend to do better in math, possibly based on how quickly their brains assimilate math concepts. Consequently, I was often intimidated by the "speed drills" held in the classroom, and eventually, in some cases, just stopped trying to keep up.
    Also, there is the obvious factor of separating the sexes to avoid the sexual tension, showing off, etc. that is bound to be part of coed classrooms at all age levels. Do you want to have combined classes at certain times and for certain subjects. Absolutely–boys and girls can teach each other alot. But I applaud separation while basic three "Rs" are being taught.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  29. Anne Marie

    I can see that it could work for some children. However not all girls and not all boys think or behave the same. I think that maybe it could be an option, if schools have the funding to do this, but it wouldn't work for someone like me. I never really got along with girls when I was younger and I was good at math. Would this make someone like me wrong? Should I be forced to have to be more like some of the other girls? I would hope that this isn't actually being tried to make life more difficult for GLBT children. Or even women. I don't feel that single sex schools shouldn't exist, it should definitely be an option. Some people really do feel more relaxed around the same sex. But many more do not have a problem with co-ed schools.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  30. Chickie Shanley

    I am a grandmother to a student in your school system. I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I attended a Catholic School, St Edwards. We had 3 classrooms of each grade. 1 All girls 1 all boys 1 mixed. I always remember what the Nuns said. The one gender classrooms always did better. I went thru all 14 years of education without a boy in my class. Rasing two daughters I notice the difference in students to commit

    December 9, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  31. Marge Hibbing, Mn

    Back in the 1940's when I went to school, the girls were the smart ones and the boys sat in the back of the class and said nothing. Not one got above a B. I don't understand how all of a sudden in the 1960's they were started to be accepted as the brains. Did values and education change that much in 20 years. Explain please.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:15 pm |
  32. Mark

    As an effeminate male, this would have been my worst nightmare. Children benefit from diversity and challenging each other. We learn from working together with all different styles.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:15 pm |
  33. Keith

    The thing about separating boys from girls goes way back from a learning standpoint in educational systems. The problem with separation is lack of inter-action. Boys have nothing on their brains from about 3rd or 4th grade but girls (and it never leaves us by the way). Girls have the same thing kick in at around 6th grade or so. Boys, boys boys. It screws them up for a few years until all the boys and girls hormones figure out what to do with their changing bodies and minds. The lack of communiction is very apparent in society today and my personal take is that separating boys from girls only spreads the skills of life to interact further apart. Let them learn to learn, love and be in touch with their own feelings as well as those of others.

    Keith Hooker – Carrollton, TX

    December 9, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  34. Brent

    Professor David Sadker is wrong. All parents know that the sexes are totally different and need to be raised and educated accordingly. I hope we see more gender schools and classrooms.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  35. Ugh

    As a girl who always did very well in math, I Hated it when we were forced to work with partners or groups, as they always either slowed me down or I just ended up doing all of the work. I am so glad that I didn't have to go to this school as it would have driven me bananas, and I'm pretty sure my grades would have suffered because of it.

    Also, this sure opens up a can of worms: As studies have shown that lesbians have brains more similar to males and gay men more similar to females, what do you do about that in this situation? Also what about females who, like myself, would just prefer being on the "guy (competitive) side" rather than the "girl (cooperative) side" and vice versa?

    So I guess I'm just saying that this seems to be a cop-out rather than a solution. (Especially since people should continue to learn throughout their entire lifetime and you can't keep the genders separated forever...)

    December 9, 2009 at 2:09 pm |
  36. David

    "After getting Cs and Ds through grade school – and struggling emotionally – Darah's mom Ashanti DeVaughn moved the family to Woodbridge just so Darah could attend the single gender program there."

    I think it's absolutely preposterous to assume that the only change here was gender. The family up and moved so he could attend a new school. There's plenty of research suggesting that people preform tasks better when there is tangible evidence someone wants them to succeed. (IE – miners extracting more materials on the day when new safety gear shows up.)

    Did they move Darah from a public, mixed gender school to a private all boys school? Hmm... I wonder if THAT might have anything to do with it.

    Is no one taking into consideration that it might be easier to focus when you don't have a crush on the girl sitting next to you? Perhaps this has nothing at all to do with how their brain's are wired – but instead is that boys are going to stare at pretty girls... but now I'm just talking like a crazy person!

    December 9, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  37. NeedToKnow

    This made me wonder about gays. How would a gay boy feel in with mostly macho hetero boys? And lesbian girls in with straight girls? They need to make other allowances, not just male-female. Ideally.

    I'd love to see a study of how this male-female division affects the gay kids. It seems to me it might make their lives worse.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm |
  38. E

    There is no emperical evidence showing that girls/boys learn differently

    December 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm |
  39. Ellie

    Virginia is just now trying this? This is nothing new. Boys and girls learn differently – that is an established fact. Single gender classes have been used for at least 5 or so years in South Carolina. (Please no comments about our education ranking). I have had a class of each single gender and I taught each differently. Guys are less reserved and need more movement. Girls are intimidated by boys (especially math) – being in an all girls class allows them to feel more powerful and confident.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  40. Kevin Monroe

    Girls/women are pandered to in every sense in our society. Overprotected, and pushed to the front. It's almost as if women can do no wrong. What a tragedy: China, India, and Japan will soon succeed us in science and many other areas.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  41. dougiedoug

    this is really not true

    such a poorly supported theory

    December 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  42. Kevin Monroe

    Girls/women are pandered to in every sense in our society. Overprotected, and pushed to the front. It's almost as if women can do no wrong. What a tradgedy: China, India, and Japan will soon succeed us in science and many other areas.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:03 pm |
  43. Jon

    In the article, the single gender classroom proponents are saying girls are verbal, can sit still, and aren't good at math. Tell that to my shy, math wiz daughter who can't sit still! All they are doing is reinforcing old stereotypes, to the detriment of the children.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  44. Catherine Newton

    I find this an interesting experiment, and you certainly can't fault the scores that have improved.... but my concern is what happens when they go out into the work force and are expected to compete with men and women alike ?

    There is no division of gender in an office where the competitive environment is fired up – survival of the fittest, strongest and smartest is the key, so shouldn't our kids be learning how to work outside their gender group as well ? The work environment does not adjust to you, you must adapt to it, so perhaps we need to focus on teaching those life skills as well.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  45. Laura

    For me, even though I was a girl, my math skills developed MUCH earlier than my reading/writing. (I eventually became a mechanical engineer.)

    Despite this, I was not placed in advanced math courses until one year later than my male counterparts. I was bitter when I found out that boys with lower math scores than mine got placed in advanced math courses. Girls were held to a higher standard in order to get advance placement.

    By the way, it was a female who made this decision – this was rural Texas in the 80's.

    In the end, it all leveled out. I tested out of many courses in high school and college, while many of the boys who had been (unfairly) advanced eventually got held back in high school or funked out of college.

    Sometimes I get upset at the fact that I was held to a different standard, but it's made me stronger.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  46. Cher

    Thank goodness we're understanding this. Boys are much more physical and when they are asked to sit in their seats they're made to learn in ways that don't suit them at all. I especially see this becoming a problem as they age. Watch who succeeds in high school and I'm afraid it's often weighted to the girls. I used to practice spelling with my son. He was literally leaping around the kitchen while he was doing it .... but he was doing it. Having him sit at a table simply didn't work.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  47. Bryce

    I think it's funny that Professor David Sadker feels that a change that has resulted in obvious improvement is the "cheap solution." Hey Professor David Sadker, send us the piece CNN did on you because your new method of improving co-ed classes has had the same effects on the student’s grades and personalities. Oh, what do you mean there isn't one?

    December 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  48. Ilex

    All I can see is problems with this type of methodology. In the real world, men and women work alongside one another and are expected to perform equally. Jobs do not divide tasks by gender, nor are work environments designed to be conducive to one gender or another.

    These sort of teaching environments reinforce gender sterotyping and will severely impact adults in the workplace. If females only learn to "feel" and "communicate" and enter a male dominated workplace where men have been taught to be "competitive" and aggressive (or vice versa) there can only be problems. Additionally, not all women fit the stereotype of the emotional communicator (I myself do not) and would find such a classroom condition stifling at best. Thank goodness no one told me that women must communicate and cooperate, leaving competitiveness at the door, or I never would have survive to make it in a career in the sciences among competitive (and at times uncooperative) male peers!

    Cooperative learning and teaching INDIVIDUALS to adapt to one anothers strengths (rather than assuming one's physical anatomy determine your strengths and weaknesses) will help students succeed in higher education and in the job market.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm |
  49. Bill

    Now, there's sure to be a great deal of criticism about the 'stereotyping'. That's BS.

    In the name of fairness, we push kids into learning situations that's naturally (I do mean naturally) not apt for them. If it delivers results, great. Refrain from labelling it a "cheap solution".

    December 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm |
  50. Mike Mundt

    Professor David Sadker is ignoring the facts. And wants an ideal that ignores the nature of our biology and physiology. The public high school I taught at started at 7:30 am. Even though research shows that teenagers should not be getting up as early as these students had to in order to attend school at that time. In this country we have to start working with the way our physiology works not against it.
    Square pegs, round holes....

    December 9, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  51. H W S

    As the kids head toward teenage years, single sex classrooms can have the advantage of being less distracting. The teaching method that works best should be used for each classroom.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  52. thies

    This is funny, similar claims have been made about the difference in learning for children of different races, but if someone were to go ahead and attempt to verify that in a similar field test through segregation the s**tstorm due to political correctness would be immense.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  53. Sociologist

    This research is assuming that roles are not learned early on in childhood. However, as sociologists point out, we all learn roles early in life as children. Therefore girls would be better at cooperative groups if they are encouraged and taught from a young age to be that way. Seperating the gender only increases that division of roles further.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  54. Dawn

    GIVE ME A BREAK! Really I see this as a good thing. Boys and girls do learn differently and we need to be more open to this kind of teaching because what we've been doing has been failing for decades now. I wish I had this kind of program while I was in school.......

    I applaud this school for thinking outside the box, Just remember numbers don't lye and if it's not bothering the students or the parents than why not try something new and innovative.

    "“If you assume that boys behave one way and you teach to that stereotype, and you assume that girls learn another way, and you teach to that stereotype, what you're doing is limiting the option of kids".

    I don't believe the quote above I hated being in classes with crazy boys who disrupted the whole class because they were board.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  55. Susan

    Sadker states that "assumptions" are being made....but this contradicts fact that it is exactly research and NOT assumptions that are driving this experiment. The experiment is the result of brain research which shows differences in the way the genders learn. "Differences" in learning styles and brain development are real and do not necessarily imply "hierarchies." As a teachers, I say if the research supports it and the results are good for both boys and girls...go for it!

    December 9, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  56. Sam Spade

    The program is a good idea, and I don't doubt it works–but not for the reasons given. Separating the sexes works because it reduces the distractions from young teens whose bodies are exploding with hormones, not because the girls are taught under softer lights.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  57. Sanescience

    What! Everybody isn't the same! Boys and girls are different? I'm glad somebody is paying attention and the trend to treat all kids like cattle through public schools might get changed.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  58. Chris Charlwood

    Similar to differences between men and women, boys really are from Mars and girls from Venus. Age and gender appropriate learning is definitely becoming more common in schools here in BC, Canada. Multi-age classrooms help older kids learn to nurture younger ones. Boys engage in active physical learning exercises while girls engage in stories and role play. Neuroscience is definitely key to understanding how child brains function. Gordon Neufeld from Vancouver BC Canada is a leading child development specialist who has been touting this for years. Attachment parenting, Montessori and Waldorf school systems also supports this concept. Our Root parenting blog article on boy and girl gender differences also explores physical differences, where boys don't hear as well as girls, but have more developed motor skills etc..

    December 9, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  59. Chase LaFerney

    i think this is a brilliant idea!

    I went to a single sex private school and it had it's drawbacks, but the learning experience was far superior. I was able to focus much better than if I was around girls. I had some coed classes with a sister school and I performed appreciably worse in those classes.

    The key point that is not made in this article is that the classes are separated but the school is not. This takes care of the problem of single sex private schools where boys or girls do not benefit from daily social interactions from the opposite sex.

    With this concept, it seems that students get the best of both worlds. I think that this should be implemented everywhere!

    December 9, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  60. Mrs. Halcomb

    Dear Sir:

    It seems to me that you would be more interested in the child and his improvement in the subject matter. After all, this "experiment" is for the betterment of the child and not some "social experiment". If this truly works well for the child...DO IT!!!!

    December 9, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  61. Tara

    There is a school in Algonac, MI that also has separated boys and girls in the classroom, I believe starting this year.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  62. Emily

    Wow, this is actually infuriating. If I'd been taught in such a way, I'd never have developed my love for science–just an irritation with the humanities. Every person's brain is wired differently, it is not exclusive to gender bias. Sure, teaching methods all have their own advantages and disadvantages, and some students certainly need different learning protocols, but how awful to revert to these awful "math and science for boys, writing for girls" stereotypes. I thought we'd moved past this long, long ago by way of thousands of intelligent female scientists and mathematicians. Some of my best teachers and professors in the maths and sciences have been female. Is it still a male-dominated world? Absolutely. We need to encourage more women to enter the sciences, not step backwards from what great academic progress we've gained in recent decades.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  63. Karen

    This is the wrong thing to do. Generalizations that are true about groups don't tell us anything meaningful about individuals. The variation within each group (boys, girls) is greater than the difference between the groups.

    Segregating classrooms by sex assumes that there's a boy-way to learn and a girl-way, that they're distinctly different and non-overlapping, and that all boys learn the boy way, and all girls learn the girl way. There's plenty of evidence to show that this is wrong. Segregating like this ignores the uniqueness of each individual.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  64. Abby

    It seems to me that this would be a disadvantage to the kids. The girls would get "easy" and "dumbed down" math.

    I'm a female, and I excel stereotypical "boy subjects" like math and science. (And I also have a decent amount of talent in the arts, such as painting, scultping, music, and dance.)
    Such a classroom as mentioned in the article would have likely have bored me and reinforced "girls are bad at math" stereotype.

    What schools should be reinforcing is that intelligence and creativity is good regardless of gender. Work beyond the sterotypes, don't ingrain them into kids even more!

    December 9, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  65. Wellillbedarned

    This is an interesting concept but this separation of sexes can only affect the children's social learning skills.

    In my school it seemed that the girls were the ones that got math faster than boys and creative writing was a toss up because face it, on top of learning to master the written language, some people are more creative than others.

    The article mention the warm and social environment the girls were in but it failed to acknowledge the successful school programs in California where classrooms were arraigned for a warm social environment for mixed sex classes.

    So what were the boys classes like, stark and prison like? "You will learn when I tell you to learn and you learn what the school wants you to learn. Is that clear you maggots?"

    December 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  66. Interesting....

    Interesting concept. There will definitely be less distractions in the classroom if you don't have to worry about impressing the other sex.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  67. walt

    The catholic schools learned this years's time for major changes in our education system starting with respect,trust and parental involvement

    December 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  68. Mary B

    Didn't we used to separate people based on race? Wasn't this called segregation? Wasn't a certain group of people negatively affected by this policy in that they received a poorer education than the other group? By separating children based on gender we are opening up another can of worms in which a certain group of children could receive a poorer education based on gender. This sounds like segregation all over gain except now we would be separating individuals based on gender instead of race.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  69. Michael Arnaud

    Wow! Boys and girls learn and develop COMPLETELY differently! Anymore astute observations, like water is wet. Fire is hot. Mr. Sadker is missing the point. RECOGNIZING and ALLOWING each boy and girl to work and thrive in the classroom that best brings out their abilitiies is what's NEEDED. Not the age old STEREOTYPE of MAKE them learn together and forget who and what they are. Congrats to Woodbridge Middle for giving their students the best chance at succeeding.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:47 pm |
  70. reana

    We had this same format in the school I attended in upstate NY,,,you definitely will see a difference in attitude, and grades.

    Back then there wasn't a feeling of being left out but also it depended on the teachers' lesson plan.

    I doesn't hurt to try anything once.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  71. Ann Pennywitt

    As long as this does not result in girls being led away from certain subjects, it has merit. In the 8th grade, my math teacher refused to allow me to go into 9th grade algebra as she said girls could not handle the kind of thought process to master it. My mom, a CPA, (teacher never would explain that away), had to threaten to go to the school board to get me in.

    In education, and in many industries and the military, girls and women have been held back by those, mostly men and you guys know it, that didn't want them there so they tried desperately to make them think they could not handle it. Time has proven those theories wrong Big Time.

    After living in Southeast Asia for 17 months, I can tell you first hand that we need to develop all the potential we can in all students. Every student there is raised to believe and expected to master all subjects. We need that well educated of a society in the future. Let's not sell any student short.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  72. Keith

    Not only do males and females develop at different rates, they also learn differently. Even among gender groups. I have two boys. They learn differently. one by hands on and one by book study. they are both in the gifted category. classes should not be segregated by sexes but by methods of learning. You can teach about the roman empire using a total book method or a hands on, simulation method that teaches the same information and get across the board increases in scores. Unfortunately, school systems don't use lessons learned by studies. they might "discriminate" against somebody. just my thought.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  73. Amy

    I would love to see more of this happening. I have a boy and a girl and they learn very differently and at very different speeds. I think both would really benefit from having classes seperated by gender!

    December 9, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  74. Jamie

    I'm female. If i had to sit in that "girl classroom," I'd go bonkers. I aboslutely HATE group learning. I had to do that in college. There ends up being to much chit chat amongst the women and I get too distracted to focus on anything. No thanks! Yes, in general, men and women are wired differently. However, not all women learn best in groups.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  75. George

    So, which approach is problematic?

    Being willing to recognize/accept that perhaps girls and boys are wired differently, and would be better off in environments optimized for them?

    Or being so focused on "equality" and "gender bias" that you refuse to accept evidence that differences exist, and instead force students to learn in less than optimal environments.

    And if you can't recognize the difference, you've already answered the question.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  76. Patrick

    First off, grade schools should not give out letter grades. Grades do not affect the quality of education only the student's conception of self worth.

    Second, there is a boost in grades but at what cost? By separating the students by gender it may affect not only their conceptions and stereotypes of the opposite sex but could adversely affect their social development.
    Honestly, i would rather put in extra time teaching my own child and have them develop as a normal social being than risk stunting the growth of their interpersonal skills.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  77. Catherine

    The biggest enemy of student achievement in the USA today is the persistent, pervasive atmosphere of "learning isn't cool" that is perpetrated and enforced by other students. It is a psychological warfare that begins with names (nerd, geek, four-eyes, sometimes "why you bein' so white?"), body language, pushing books over and few lunch partners. Kids want to fit in and they learn quickly to dumb down to do so. Kids can't explain this to their parents because parents immediately dismiss this powerful social pressure. What can a teacher do? Make all bullying not tolerated and offer support to kids who want to learn. Primary and middle school were a waste for me and I went from Cs to As in 9th grade just by getting out of regular classes and into honors classes. It was a social phenomenon, not an intellectual one. An all-female class would have deepend my hell as my worst bullies were girls. Girls tend to behave better when boys are around.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  78. amanda

    I think it is a great idea.
    I came from a school system where the top scoring high schools were either all boys or all girls...
    It works if done right

    December 9, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  79. fearlessdoc

    There is most likely a small percentage of difference in the potential of different sexes in the developmental stage, but there is little doubt the vast majority of difference come from social que's and expectation's.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  80. Mercedes

    We all know that there is a difference between how girls learn and how boys learn. I am also a mother of a daughter and a son. Why do we think that by adapting coed class to fit both styles is going to work. Folks it hasnt worked for the last 20 years why do we think its going to work this time around!!! At least separate them for their core classes and bring them together for art, music, PE., etc.,

    December 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  81. marcia

    Boys and girls ARE wired differently.
    This certainly isn't old news.
    Just one more needless article to
    take up space.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  82. Katherine Shelton

    As a teacher of 35 years, without all the research, I and fellow teachers knew this many years ago. Finally, it has happened. Too many distractions with raging hormones, students intimidated by the opposite sex. Hurray for Woodbridge and Dr. Sax' confirmation of learning styles.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  83. James

    What is wrong with cheap solutions ? Since when is money the issue ?
    While we're at it, lets take this to another level. That Ron Clark teacher guy from Atlanta has a good point. All black schools do better also !

    December 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  84. NHPatriot

    Seperating gender, hmm what's next. This is so wrong.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  85. DAKODA

    Oh, please. The education system was ORIGINALLY developed for boys for only boys were allowed to attend school. We girls have learned under this system for at least 100 years.

    It has always been thought that males were the superior gender (because girls weren't allowed to compete with them). But educating girls has proved that misogynistic theory wrong. can't be the fault of boys that they are less smart than girls. IT HAS TO BE SYSTEM...the very system created for them. WRONG.

    MALES ARE THE FLAWED GENDER (look at our prison populations, look at what men are doing in Darfur) and they need to accept this and get over it.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  86. Linda

    I've taught in single gender classrooms, teaching the same kids who had been in mixed classrooms, and I saw a dramatic increase in grades for many of my students, both boys and girls.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  87. Bill D.

    Wow, somebody actually noticed there are differences between boys and girls?
    If the liberal "everybody is the same" people would go back to their yoga classes and let boys be young males and girls be young females, what a relief it would be. Just watch kids at play. The boys wrestle, play tackle football, fall out of trees... the girls play with their dolls and chat and watch the boys. This is NORMAL, not a plot to diminish the girls lives. Making the boys behave like girls, now THAT dimishes the boys. Maybe girls don't really WANT to be like boys. Has anybody asked them? Because empirical evidence says they don't.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  88. Jerad

    As an educator I think this would be a great idea. Many problems I see in my classroom and my school would be solved by segregating the sexes in schools. What I find interesting also, is that the proponents of segregation back thier views up with raw data, whereas, the opponents back thier view up with "I believe we are limiting opportunity". This is pretty cut and dry to me.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  89. Chris

    How does this separation influence the way kids react in adult life with mixed gender jobs and situations??? I feel Prof. David Sadker had valid points. Life is full of differences... let them learn young to adapt.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  90. Neil

    Oh, the irony. Education (public or private) was gender segregated for hundreds of years before the gender wars, when we were forcibly told that men and women are equal on every level, and that same sex education was discriminatory. Now, low and behold, people are again finding hat it works. It worked before, and it still works now. Prof. Sadker is too wedded to his social theory to realize that generations before us understood observationally what scientific studies will be guaranteed to show, that boys and girls are different, and that educating them differently will work better for everyone, just like it did in the good old days, when educated people were actually a lot more erudite than they are today.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
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