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Forty years ago, the common belief about same-sex education was that it endorsed general stereotypes about gender, such that females should study nursing and home economics while the males should study mathematics and science. Experts at that time alleged that co-education dispelled those gender myths, and hence the nation began to look more and more towards this alternative as a way to abolish these generalized notions. One highly noted positive aspect of co-educational schooling is that it gives students the opportunity to have an educational foundation where they are in classrooms that are more representative of the communities that they need to interact effectively in society. Proponents for single-sex education state that male and female students have varying needs, interest, abilities, biological makeup which affects their modes of learning, therefore a classroom that can be focused on their specific needs is more beneficial to the students in the long run. Regardless of the sex composition of the classroom, schools with a focus on life skills that teach students how to work respectively with one another, as well as teachers main goals being to ensure they themselves are having a positive impact on all students' learning is a remedy for a positive educational effect on students.
There has been a decline in experimentation with same-sex education since the 1970's, when same-sex education became illegal for most situations by the federal government with the implementation of Title IX. Throughout the years with biomedical technological advancement we now have evidence that suggests that there are innate differences between the ways that boys and girls hear, learn, absorb and process information. For example through digital mapping of brain tissues we now know that functions are more "compartmentalized in male brains and more 'globally distributed' in female brains." (Sax, 2005, p. 12)
It is beneficial to take this and other new found biological differences into consideration when investigating the learning styles of each sex. A great difference between the brains of boys and girls is that boys need to go into what is called rest state more often and for longer than girls. During rest state the brain is renewing, recharging, and reorienting what it has learned. This is one reason you find boys staring off into space and "zoning out" as we call it more often than girls. Other biological differences in the brain also attribute to the necessary dynamic of a classroom which would be ideal for boys on one hand and another for girls on the other hand.
Once there is a deeper understanding regarding the effects of the biological make up on the learning styles of each sex, social implications and classroom dynamic can me reviewed more efficiently and a teaching pedagogy can be comprised to effectively maximize learning. The review of this information can assist in the understanding if the difference in sex is fervent enough for accommodation, or if as opponents say there is a much bigger difference within a sex than the difference between sexes to be taken seriously, and that funds would be better spent on resources in training teachers, working on curriculum, or other such methods that we know work
Chapter Two: Current Trends
There is a number of recent studies and research claiming that there is a profound biological difference between boys' and girls' cognitive, social and emotional development, styles of learning, and educational needs. These discoveries, assisted by the advancement in biomedical technologies, have fueled the debate concerning the benefits of single-sex education.
Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens set out to investigate these biological differences in their book With Girls and Boys In Mind (2005). Their findings on the distinctions between the genetic make up of males and females sheds light on how these differences can be translated into different learning styles with effect and are affected by the classroom dynamic. They found that a female's corpus callosum is most often 25% larger than male's by puberty. These are the connecting bundles of tissue between the two hemispheres of the brain. Communication between the two hemispheres is more efficient and fluent with the assistance of these tissues. The strong neural connectors in female allows for better memory storage, listening skills, and discrimination among voice tones. Furthermore in a study done by Jane Cassidy, a professor at Louisiana State University found that girls' hearing was drastically more sensitive than the boys' especially in the 1,000-4,000 Hz range. Leonard Sax suggests that based on this research of hearing disparity between boys and girls, girls learned better in a classroom that is quieter and free of "extraneous noise" (Sax, 2005). These attributes assist writing in detail to a great extent.
The reviewed literature shows that boys tend to dominate the classroom more frequently than girls because girls have a tendency to me more passive (Orenstein, 2000).
Men use less than half the brain space that females use for verbal-emotive functioning. This is because boys' brains have more cortical areas devoted to spatial-mechanical functioning. This difference is one explanation as to why boys desire to throw objects through space more than girls. Not only do boys have less serotonin that girls, which controls matters of impulsivity, but they also have less oxytocin which gives them the desire to be more physical and impulsive and less likely to settle a disagreement with words and compromise. Sax asserts that the problem with boys which by and large ends in the evaluation for attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), is actually "the school's failure to recognize the difference in the auditory acuity of boys and girls, and the school's failure to recognize the difference in the developmental timetables of boys and girls" (Sax, 2002).
Some of these differences become relevant early on while some are evident later in adolescence and into young adulthood. It's important to note that Sax maintains the notion that a female's brain remains more mature than a male's brain until about the age of 30. There are some major points of interest in his finding which he believes affect educational outcomes in males and females. For instance as previously noted, the brains differential development is an important point to consider. He sites that researchers at Virginia Tech used electrophysiological imaging of the brain to observe brain development in 508 children, 224 girls and 284 boys. The subjects ranged in age from two months to 16 years old. What they found is that the areas in the brain associated with language and fine motor skills developed four years earlier in girls than in boys, and areas in the brain involved in geometry and spatial reasoning mature four years earlier in boys than in girls.
Besides the different developmental rates of the brain in each sex, the wiring differs as well. Emotion and language are processed in the same area of the brain for girls. This makes it easier for girls in general to talk about their emotions, but for boys emotion and language are processed in separate areas of the brain, making it more difficult to connect or associate the two together. It is complicated for boys to respond to a statement such as "Tell me how you feel." In relation to the matter of auditory response girls have a more sensitive sense of hearing than boys do. The typical 12-year-old girl has a sense of hearing seven times more acute than that of a boy her same age. Girls get distracted by noises that are 10 sound levels lower than boys, a point that was also confirmed by Professor Cassidy in her study mentioned earlier. Furthermore females and males have different ways of responding to stress. This is a difference that is not only in our species, but according to Sax this is in nearly every mammal scientist have studied (2002). Stress impairs learning in girls but the same amount of stress enhances learning in males.
At Stetson University there was recently a research conducted comparing the test results of two fourth grade classes at Woodward Avenue Elementary School in Florida. One class was separated by sex and the other remained co-educational. The classes had an analogous student demographic, the same number of students in each class, and the teachers had comparable training. After three years of the pilot program, the results were compared based on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) and their finds are as follows:
37 percent of boys in coed classes scored proficient;
86 percent of boys in single-sex classes scored proficient;
59 percent of girls in coed classes scored proficient;
75 percent of girls in single-sex classes scored proficient;
Sax argues that when schools fall short of success in raising scores after the implementation of a single-sex educational program, it is mainly because their teachers have not been adequately trained for this type of specific teaching. The whole purpose of separation is that each set of students receive instructional education that is conducive to their particular learning style. Merely separating the sexes is not the answer; sufficient training and teacher education must be accompanied.
The majority of what we know about single-sex schools is drawn from quantitative, comparative studies of student performance in private-sector schools or those conducted abroad in other countries. Most of the qualitative studies are believed to provide a widespread ethnographic data specifically focus on low-income and minority students in public schools, which are more likely to yield a deeper and more complete understanding of these schools. To be able to really understand the effects of the differences we have discussed, external variables needs to be accounted for if not eliminated. It is argued by those who oppose single-sex education that any type of segregation sends a message of inferiority, which I can be dispelled with the right pedagogy and teacher training. Others purport that funds would be more advantageously spent investigating resources in training teachers, improving curriculum, or other methods that have been proven to work thus far. Both sides should agree that any time and effort that is placed into improving education for students is time and effort well spent.
Chapter 3: Idealizing a School Model
Lea Hubbard, from the University of San Diego, teamed up with Amanda Datnow, from the University of Southern California, to conduct an investigation of California's public single-sex schools and its effects on low-income and minority students. They believed that qualitative studies on this matter, predominantly those that provide comprehensive ethnographic data focused on low socioeconomic standing and minority students in public school, are likely to present a more complete understanding of these schools. In other words they suggest replacing cause-and-effect analyses with ones that focus on the multiple, interrelated processes that shape a student's academic outcomes to clarify the limits and possibilities of single-sex education for this group, which has been noted as the most benefiting from this type of single-sex education.
One focus of their observation goes to the fact that research on single-sex education has paid little attention to teacher-student interface, the school context, or the circumstances of students' lives. Diamond et al (2004) have called attention to to the fact that the educational outcomes of minority students must be studied in a broader organizational level to understand "how students composition (school context) conditions how teachers evaluate and behave towards students." Because studies of single-sex schools generally haven not investigated the larger social, socioeconomic, and cultural context of students' lives, we know little about the correlation between school context, family background, and academic achievement in these situations.
The point of interest that really attracted me to Hubbard and Datnow's study is that is uses an ethnographic approach to examine the lived circumstances of low-income and minority boys and girls who attended three male specific and three female specific schools within California's public school system. By focusing on the day-to-day operations and interactions between teachers and students in the context of the single-sex environment and in the context of student's lives, they produced a less ambiguous picture of the mediation factors that can impact the education of adolescents.
Both Hubbard and Datnow share a research background in educational reform, more particularly in educational inequalities as they exist across race, social class, and gender lines. The focus of their research is to investigate the success and limitations of single-sex public education in a public setting for each boys and girls of low-income and minority backgrounds, and to what extent such a setting might empower each gender. Over a two year period thy conducted a longitudinal case study of all six single-sex public academies in California. They report their finding for three schools, two middle schools and one high school. They use the pseudonyms of Pine and Evergreen for the two middle schools studied, and Palm High School.
Despite the risk that the philosophical and structural differences between the schools may confound their results, Hubbard and Datnow focused on these schools because each explicitly identified serving "at-risk" students as its mission. They reported as to finding no evidence that any of the schools' known differences affected their analysis. Each member of their research team collected their data during their visits to the each of the three single-sex school, which were conducted five times for two to three days at a time. They made a conscious effort to be explicit in their conversations with all of the partakers that they approached, and like them they were curious to understand the impact of such an implementation.
To gain an understanding of the background and social and political context of the single-sex school interviews with officials at the California Department of Education and the governor's office were conducted. Using the semi structured interview protocols with open end questions; they interviewed teachers, principals, parents, students, and district officials at each of the school sites. Samples of their questions are as follows:
Please elaborate on the origin of the academies and why educators and students chose to participate.
Students were asked to compare their previous school experience with this one from both an academic and a social perspective.
Inquires about the professional background of the teachers were made and notes on their plans for staff development, teacher collaboration, and curriculum development were recorded.
Principals and directors were asked about their perceptions regarding the benefits and weaknesses of the single-sex academies.
Interviews lasted on average from 45 to 60 minutes, and some were longer. For the most part the students were interviewed individually of in a same-sex focal group of two to four students. Students were chosen for the interviews on a random basis as well as on a volunteer basis or based on the recommendation by a teacher. Approximately 300 interviews were helped and documented for this study. Evergreen's student population was 60 students, Palm had 90 students, and Pine had about 140 students registered. A total of 88 interviews were conducted with the males and 83 interviews with the females, which represented more than half of all of the students who were enrolled in the single-sex academies. In some cases they interviewed the same individual more than one. In addition to the interviews, focus group interviews were help with girls and boys at Pine. These groups included fifth to eighth grade students, separated by sex, twice a year.
Due to the short lived nature of mostly all experiments done in California on the subject of public single-sex schools, meaningful data on the students' academic outcomes is not available. The ethnographic nature of this research was one of the main reasons I selected it be further explored. In a day and age where feeling are weighed heavily on these factors make a remarkable difference in student's academic achievement. Even thought not much quantitative or qualitative studies have been done in California, there are those that have been done in the United States. Those done in other countries are plentiful, but given the difference in the cultural implications they are not the best to rely on in this situation. The researchers found that a key benefit of the arrangement of these schools was the academies' capacity to create an academic environment that eliminated "distractions" from the opposite sex which allowed students to become more academically focused. To make the research more valuable, had the team has more time and resources, additional quantitative investigation would have made the picture much more complete. Had I the opportunity to intervene and participate that is the portion I would have first and foremost added. Numbers speak louder than words to some people in positions in power, and even though it is obvious that the students benefited socially and personally from this experience, recording of academic success and benefits would maybe appeal more to those in the power to offer more funding for such products.
Chapter Four: Data
In some schools great efforts has been made to make schools more girl-friendly-introducing new math and science curricula and teaching methods, for example-which seemed to succeed only in creating a "boys crisis." "[B]oys rather than girls are now on the short end of the gender gap in many secondary school outcomes," said Cornelius Riordan in 2000. "Currently, boys are less likely than girls to be in an academic (college preparatory) curriculum. They have lower educational and occupational expectations, have lower reading and writing test scores, and expect to complete their schooling at an earlier age" (see Figure 1).
Boys and girls have also been studied as differing significantly on two after-school activities: doing homework and playing video games. These differences outside of the classroom give some insight on what each gender best responds to, and more so what their interest is captivated by. These differences in afterschool interest need to be taken into consideration to optimize learning in the classroom.