Single-Sex Education

To most Americans, single-sex education seems strange and old-fashioned. Few Americans have had firsthand experience with single-gender education, and fewer still have ever been inside a single-gender public school.
Besides: Women and men work together and live together, so shouldn't girls and boys go to school together? The argument in favor of coeducation seems obvious and intuitive. But, as neuroscientist Dr. Joseph LeDoux has written,

Sometimes, intuitions are just wrong -- the world seems flat but it is not ... Things that are obvious are not necessarily true, and many things that are true are not at all obvious.
The strongest arguments for single-sex education are not obvious.

Thirty years ago, many educators believed that the best way to ensure equal educational opportunity for girls and boys would be to insist on educating girls and boys in the same classroom. However: a thoughtful review of the evidence accumulated over the past 30 years suggests that coeducation may not work as well as expected. In fact, the best evidence now suggests that coeducational settings actually reinforce gender stereotypes, whereas single-sex classrooms break down gender stereotypes. Girls in single-sex educational settings are more likely to take classes in math, science, and information technology. Boys in single-sex schools are more likely to pursue interests in art, music, drama, and foreign languages. Both girls and boys have more freedom to explore their own interests and abilities in single-gender classrooms.

In recent years, there has been significant press coverage of success stories such as the Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Seattle, Washington, where an imaginative principal reinvented his school as a gender-separate academy, and -- with no additional funding -- transformed his school, with students' grades and test scores soaring, disciplinary problems vanishing, and everybody's attitude improving. These press reports, unfortunately, have often failed to mention the careful preparation and professional development behind these stories. As a result, other educators have sometimes experimented with gender-separate education, simply putting all the girls in one classroom and all the boys in another. No professional development. No careful consideration of which teacher is right for which classroom -- because neither the principal nor the teachers understand how girls and boys learn differently, and therefore they have no clue how to determine which teacher is right for which classroom. The results of such poorly-thought-out experiments are not impressive. Sometimes they're disastrous.

We invite you to spend a few minutes to look over the evidence, pro and con, regarding single-sex education. We start with some very basic, but often overlooked, facts about girls and boys:
  • The brains of girls and boys differ in important ways. These differences are genetically programmed and are present at birth.


  • Girls and boys have different learning styles, in part because of those innate, biologically-programmed differences in the way the brain works.

  • As a result: single-sex schools offer unique educational opportunities for girls, and for boys.

Girls who attend single-sex schools are more likely to participate in competitive sports than are girls at coed schools.


Single-sex schools break down gender stereotypes. It's cool to study.


Single-sex schools break down gender stereotypes. Girls at single-sex schools are more likely to study computer science and technology than are girls at coed schools.

Our home page ( has received This counter provided for free from! visits since October 2, 2002 (this figure does not include visits to any of our 31 subsidiary Web pages). Since this site was first launched in January 2002, the site as a whole has received over 760,000 hits from over 280,000 visitors.


Send us an e-mail

Top of this page


Search the entire NASSPE Web site


designed by