The single-gender classroom is making a newfound acceptance


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The single-gender classroom is making a newfound acceptance among educators looking to give their students the edge on high-stakes tests. Being an early adopter of single-gender classrooms Mr. Rich Buford looked at the current research for a way to implement this into his classroom. Being a proponent of this style of teaching Mr. Buford sees no problem with this instructional style as long as there are precautions taken to ensure that one sex is given the same advantages as the other. One study that Mr. Buford looked at came from American Secondary Education in which they point out that looking at other countries around the world could give us an insight into the outcome of a single-sex classroom. Another author stops just short of denouncing any evidence that supports the idea, and claim that it is no different than separating based on race (Rycik 2008). However there is some evidence that proper instruction and assessment can have a huge impact on student achievement; especially for male students.

Another study Mr. Buford came across stated that most teachers will favor one gender over the other based upon expectations of the gender. They will spend more time with the boys on boy subjects (math, science) and with girls on girl subjects (reading and language) (Abbeduto & Symons pg.3). It was Mr. Buford's experience that humans like to pride themselves in their accomplishments and when a teacher sees that a student is very strong in a subject it is very gratifying. However when a teacher sees a student struggling with a subject it can be difficult to go through those growing pains with the struggling student. People love to win and hate losing, and a student that is not getting it seems to make the teacher feel like they are incompetent as a teacher so the teacher may unconsciously ignore it. This is shown in one study where the teacher has a fellow teacher time them on the amount of time they spend on girls vs. boys and the results were conclusive 80% to boys and 20% to girls, during a boy subject (math) and he even knew he was being timed (Sanders & Nelson pg.11).

While Mr. Buford was doing his research he wondered if the classroom was fine to have co-ed but the instruction and assessment could be done with consulting from another teacher from the opposite sex. In the 1990's California tried a similar practice but it failed (Protheroe 2009), but this does not have to be the fate of today's reformation of the public school system. Mr. Buford believes it is a great idea that could help a large amount of children receive the proper education they need. It seems that most of the opposition comes from females that remember the educational inequality of the past. However the same inequalities are found in today's schools it is just not talked about because it is the boys who are getting the short end of the stick. 80%, yes 80% of school dropouts are boys (Tyre 2005). In this modern day schooling is greatly geared towards girls and their learning styles, as young men are shown the door to leave school. This is not the fault of the girls it is just that the majority of schools are taught by women in 1986 it was at 69% female teachers, in 2005 it was 82% and still growing (Feistritzer, & Haar, 2005). A young boy does learn differently than a girl, that is a given, but with over 70% of LD students being male it is no wonder they have a hard time learning the way a female would.

Teachers teach the way they learn (Tyre 2005), so if the teacher is female it should be a given that she would be best suited to teach females. This is not to say that females cannot teach males, and the contrast of opinion is greatly needed in all subjects. However it would be very difficult to learn Chinese from someone who only speaks Chinese. It does not make the teacher a bad teacher or the student a bad student, however students would be best suited if a teacher who also spoke English was going to teach them Chinese. This language barrier could be fixed by having a male teacher in the classroom teaching the boys and a female teacher teaching the girls. But with budgets being patched together it is not feasible to suggest that every classroom have two teachers.

Mr. Buford wanted to know more if this could even work and if so how could it be done in the confines of the school system rules where he was teaching. This looked like an opportunity to get to know other teachers better. He wanted to get a point of view from a fellow teacher who happened to be female. He asked Mrs. Nash the 9th grade Psychology teacher to help him on something, she said yes. They met during his planning hour and went over her assessment and he asked if she would make any changes to it. That next week Mrs. Nash came back to Mr. Buford with the same assessment but asked different questions. Mr. Buford passed his assessment out to the boys and Mrs. Nash's assessment out to the girls. None of the students knew that there were different test, and when he graded them he was very pleased with the results. The girls did better than ever before in his History class usually well known as a female strong subject.

With the passage of Title IX in 1972 women have seen huge increases in educational achievement; while men have seen their gains not only fall, but they have been significantly lower than that of women. (Spencer, Porche, Tolman 2003).The question that keeps coming up in hiss research is why? Why are young men self destructing in this new and "equal" educational age, while women are gaining by leaps and bounds? This goes back farther than this research has time to permit, but it starts in the elementary school and carries itself on to higher education. The foundation of a great student starts at home, but also those first few years of schooling have such a great impact on students that it forms a lasting impression for the rest of the student's lives. In elementary school the chances of having a male teacher are about 15% if you're lucky (Robinson, Gillibrand 2004). This poses no threat to females but for young men it can be a very difficult process thinking, and acting like a girl.

There are clear and distinct differences between male and female. Not good or bad, just different. If you are told eighty-five percent of the time that the way you were acting was inappropriate then you would probably believe that there was something wrong with you for having these ideas as being desirable. You are told to be quit when you want to talk. You are told to sit when you want to stand. You are told to study by yourself when you want to know what your friend thinks about problem #3. This is what most young men go through every day in the public school system that was built by females and for females. The boys do not fit in and they know it (Frawley 2005).

Their way of being is not wanted in the school and they know it. They are loud, full of energy, and question everything; it is most teachers' worst nightmare. The majority of teachers are female and so the educational culture is quite different than from that of a school that would have been founded by males (Kirschenbaum 2007). Look at the differences between the public school system and that of a military academy and that is the difference between what a male centered school would look like and the modern school system that promotes femininity and devalues masculinity.

Since the passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) the United States public school system has been the target of reform from all sides of the political aisle. The American public has been told that our school system is in shambles, and that America is losing its prestige around the world as an educational powerhouse. What NCLB does will not help the public school system, but rather it will damage it beyond repair, it punishes schools with low test scores by taking away funding to that school (Schroeder 2001). The logic to this act is foolish at the least. To say to the public that if your school is testing poorly we will cut funding to your school and give it to a school that is performing well and this will leave no child behind.

Most adults can tell you that boys and girls are different, and the differences don't stop when you leave school. Men and women think, act, hear, see, and smell differently (Tyre 2005). The standard classroom is very girl friendly which is not a bad thing if you're a girl. However the primary reason for this study and its significance of it is the huge disparity between boys and girls when it comes to education, more specific is primary education (Wills 2007). When you first get introduced to education you have little else to compare it to and the first few years have an impact that can determine whether you will be a success or a failure (Campbell 1997).

The education system rewards discipline, conformity, and attentiveness qualities that most parents and teacher know are much more familiar with girls than boys. Boys fiddle, play, and fight. (Poe 2004). This notion that boy's behavior is wrong or looked down upon as where the girl's traits are what are thought to be wanted by the teacher in the classroom creates an atmosphere of hostility and resentment. In general most teachers would like a student that raises their hands, work quietly, and refrains from disruption you would be talking about the traits of a female (Flannery 2006). This is not to say that boys are incapable of meeting these expectations for a teacher, but how it is perceived by the teacher will totally depend upon their sex (Myhill and Jones 2006).


As Mr. Buford looked through the different articles in existence in the library at UCM he noticed some reoccurring themes that are seemed to be the basis for his argument that the structure of the modern school puts masculinity on trial while making feminist traits deemed desirable and conventional. He looked at the unintended consequence of the feminist movement the school system and its gender bias towards female personality traits. Then there is NCLB which because of the landmark legislation there is such a new interest in single gender classrooms as a way of advancing all test scores for a school district.

If boys think and process differently than girls, how can there be a set standard in schools that are at odds with the way boys do it? Mr. Buford also looked at the biological differences and the new technology and its impact on the changing perception that there is more of a genetic makeup of social and learning traits of male and females than what was earlier perceived as being an engineered trait. So why now? After all these years of making schools gender neutral and striving for equality among students why are we looking at turning back the clock and moving to a single-gender classroom? It is because of the failure of boys in the modern classroom. With only 70% of boys graduating high school and only 40% going on to college there is a huge problem that if not corrected early could be disastrous for our nation (Poe 2004).

Considering that this has been an issue for many years it is in our history that gender equality was not always that equal, so females have a right to be suspicious of a change that could have an impact on them. Mr. Buford asks if the backlash of feminism to make a mockery of our young men so that they are not equipped for the future? The best solution to all problems is to find the win-win scenario that all students are able to achieve to their potential. From the 1940's until the 1970's the feminization of the public school system has put males at a disproportionate disadvantage (De Haan 2010).

With numerous empirical studies that have looked at the impact on gender in the classroom it was no easy task to sift through the rubbish to find something worthwhile. With the passage of NCLB in 2001 schools started looking at ways to improve test scores, and one idea that took root was the single gender classroom (Gillis 2005). There have been many single gender classroom pilot programs since 2001's passage of NCLB. Most seem to come from areas so desperate for better test scores that they try anything to help their school. In Mississippi the pilot program had little significance in changes to test scores when compared to their counterparts that were in coed classrooms. However there was a huge difference in the amount of discipline referrals given to boys in the single gender classroom (Gillis 2005).

It is known by most male teachers that young boys will act a bit differently when in the presences of young ladies. As we (male teachers) were once young boys and can attest to this type of behavior modification in front of females. Another pilot program in Florida showed that boys in coed classrooms tested for state written exams only 37% passed, but the boys who were in single gender classrooms had a whopping 86% pass the same exam (Flannery 2006).

Since there was never a suffrage movement for males, nor a civil rights movement for white males the majority of educational reform has looked at the impact on females and minorities in the last 50 years (Warrington and Younger 2000). This has made finding research a one sided task that is difficult to separate from historical generalizations that there is no need to look at the impact on males because they have historically done well in standardized tests. However when you look at the graduation rates and college entrance statistics you see a different picture and it looks bleak for young men (Martino, Mills, and Lingard 2005).

These differences are only getting worse as the years pass on, is it any surprise that boys have been having a difficult time in school when it is taught in a feministic fashion. Being that primary schools are typically taught by female educators the ideals that are identified as masculinity are usually deemed unwanted (Martino, Meyenn 2002). When young men are made to feel as they, or their ideas about what is good or just does not fit with the modern school culture; how can you expect much else? Men are daring and courageous and in the world of boys these are traits that are more than a phase of who we are it is a badge of honor to be courageous. In the eyes of females this is just macho nonsense that needs to be eradicated like a cancer that is unwanted. As boys mature and start to feel like a real outsider in their school they go one of two ways. Either they conform to the school, or they venture off and never to return. There is little that needs to be said as these young men know that they are not wanted in school, this is not an excuse for the high dropout rate but rather a real explanation of the alienation that young men feel when they enter school (Tyre 2005).

Biological Differences of Males and Females

So are there biological differences between the way males and females learn, or are these differences institutionalized into young people at a time when they are most acceptable. The feminist movement had a much larger wave than what was first seen. The constant degradation of the male role model as an egomaniac that needs to be fixed is bombarded to all of us through the T.V. (Rycik 2008).

Young boys are different than girls, but is there something else at play when you have almost 75% of all children that are labeled as learning disabled are boys (Poe 2004). This would probably not be a significant statistic, but most of those that are labeled end up in special education classes. From this initial label there is a slippery slope that students go down and usually ends with long-term damage. The overuse of psychiatric drugs on young men is creating zombies out of these boys and has done little to help solve the problem of bad behavior (Rycik 2008).

The problem is not the young men, but the notion that there is something wrong with them because they don't sit still, work quietly, or behave like…well like girls (Poe 2004). There is more to being a guy than most females might know; men (and boys) have a learned behavior to keep emotions to themselves. This is at odds with females as they are prone to opening up about their feelings (Flannery 2006). There could be a lot of problems in the students' life and it gets exacerbated by a teacher or parents who want this kid fixed. They have good intentions but their proactive solution actually makes matters worse. As a teacher Mr. Buford gained an understanding that most problems will work themselves out this is nature at its finest. When we mess around with Mother Nature we get students that are stoned out of their mind, because they were told that they have a problem and it is not their fault they just need drugs (Sadker 1999).

The problem that was being investigated was whether boy and girls would learn better in a single gender classroom environment vs. the now standard co-ed classroom, or something of a hybrid that Mr. Buford is proposing for his classroom. The author looks at a half-dozen or so different research from various organizations that have findings that are in support of single-sex classrooms and opposed to the idea. The subjects from one study were 5,000 eighth-grade students from New Zealand; another was two high-schools in Australia one all girls one all boys (Haag 2000).

In the New Zealand study they used a longitudinal study that had controlled for individual characteristics of socioeconomic status, and the type of school the students went to. The Australian research was a 10 year study in which the students transition from single-sex classrooms to co-ed classrooms (Haag 2000).

The New Zealand study after applying the controls back into account found there was no difference in achievement from a single gender classroom or a co-ed classroom. When controls were in place they found a big gain in achievement particularly in girls. The Australian study says that the student's self-identity at first declined but after 5 years went back to normal levels (Haag 2000).

The conclusions to these two studies were that co-educational schools are just as effective as single gender schools. The article goes on and points to other research that is more positive in its findings on single gender schools, but it is summed up in the summary when she says "Finally, the research, while inconsistent in its assessments of whether single-sex education is "better" than coeducation for girls, does reveal areas of consensus on specific indicators, which may serve as starting points for further research into how single-sex schools affect educational outcomes."(Haag pg 2). Very little figures are shown as in statistical data that they present in the article in which they give an overview of the research that was already done. They do little in looking at the impact on boys which would be a weakness in the research. One key strength is the study in Australia in which they follow a group of boys and girls for 10 years and look at their outcomes from the transition between these two different options for how we teach our students.

Looking at all of the research on this subject you get a sense that this has been tried before and looking at landmark studies gives us insight into the possible effects that a single gender classroom would have on students. This subject is not a new idea it has been practiced for centuries and known that separating students on the lines of gender was seen as a real game changer (Parker, Rennie 2002). Looking at the different ways science is learned by boys and girls the study in Australia has found its way across the pond and given the United States a hard look at why they are so different.

The study done by Parker and Rennie looked at students between the years of 8 and 12 across 10 different schools. They spent two years collecting data and looking at particularly the difference between boys and girls test scores in math and science. They stop short of saying that there was a substantial difference in the grades but the importance of the study was that it showed a direct correlation in the confidence that the students had in the subjects when the opposite's sex was not in the classroom (Parker, Rennie 2002).


This research gives us insight into the thoughts and ideas of how best to address the educational gap that exists between boys and girls. Feminism brought way to major reforms in how schools would be taught; no longer would women have to take a back seat to men and their aspirations. The overuse of feministic ideals in the public school system has made education favor the behavior traits of females while deeming everything that is masculine as unwanted. Research by many scholars questions why boys are falling behind especially with consideration to college attainment. There have been brain scans done on boys and girls and scientifically proven that boys think, act, listen, and see differently than girls.

Single gender classrooms are nothing new in regards to education, but the onset of feminism brought with it the notion that boys and girls are the same. Newly discovered fMRI make it possible to tell that biologically they are very different, and perceive life in a different way. Boys have always been seen as the rebels, the outlaws that thread that fine line between criminal and vigilante. So the self-image that young men have about themselves is going to be very different from that of what a female thinks. For instance most young men feel that it is their duty to defend their mother from any and all threats. That is why young males will fight one another for calling each other's mom a bad name. This is probably illogical to most females and drives administrators and teachers alike up a wall, however if you were to ask most young males in privacy they would understand that those are grounds for a fight.

Boys are taught that fighting is a very barbarian form of problem solving, yet to those same boys it is deemed worthy and shows a natural line of leadership. The masculine nature of boys is self evident from early on; they think and act in a fashion that can only be understood by other males. So then I ask why are most signs of masculinity removed from school and deemed unwanted. Whether right or wrong is not the question. There is nothing wrong with being male and our traits should be accepted or even channeled into something that can still have the young man feeling like…well a MAN.

Maybe they don't think like a female, or act feministic and that should not be grounds for a diagnosis for ADD or to be put on medication. We are all unique, learning and behavior is no different in that each child has a set of battles that they must overcome and it is the job of the teacher to help them climb their mountain. We cannot logically know what tools they will need to climb that mountain unless we take inventory of what they have and what they need. This requires a considerable amount of time that frankly most teachers do not have. A male teacher has a better understanding of male students needs than that of a female teacher, only because he once was a young boy and thinks and acts similarly. This is not a slam on female teachers at all it is more showing that the lack of masculinity in the school system is the biggest problem that is facing boys and their educational goals.

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