Single-Sex Education

Since the founding of NASSPE in 2002, there has been an extraordinary resurgence of interest in single-sex public education. The regulations which were published on October 25 2006, which facilitate single-sex education in American public schools, have significantly stoked this interest. Unfortunately, this exuberance has led some school districts to plunge into experimentation with this format without a thorough grounding in the complexities of gender differences in how girls and boys learn. Advocates of single-sex education do NOT believe that "all girls learn one way and all boys learn another way." On the contrary, we cherish and celebrate the diversity among girls and among boys. We understand that some boys would rather read a book than play football. We understand that some girls would rather play football rather than play with Barbies. Educators who understand these differences can inspire every child to learn to the best of her or his ability. Conversely, educators and parents are recognizing that all too often, coeducational settings actually reinforce gender stereotypes via the process that researchers call "gender intensification." Boys at coed schools will tell you "poetry is for girls." Girls at coed schools will tell you that computer science is for boys.

The good news is that the gender-separate format can boost grades and test scores for BOTH girls and boys. However, that improvement doesn't happen automatically. Just putting girls in one room and boys in another is no guarantee of success. As with anything else in education, adequate preparation in proven, evidence-based strategies is key.

We now have good evidence that single-sex classrooms CAN break down gender stereotypes, particularly when teachers have appropriate professional development. Girls in single-sex educational settings are more likely to take classes in math, science, and information technology. Boys in single-gender classrooms -- led by teachers with training in how to lead such classrooms -- are much 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 than in the coed classroom.

It's not sufficient just to put girls in one classroom and boys in another. In order to improve academic performance and broaden educational horizons, you'll need to understand the subtleties of gender differences in learning. If you're ready to start learning, you'll find plenty of resources at our Web site: useful books about single-gender education and about gender differences in learning; recent news articles about single-sex public education; information about our upcoming international conference; more information about our Association and how to contact us.

Or, you may just want to spend a few minutes looking over the evidence, pro and con, regarding single-sex education. We start with some basic, but often misunderstood, facts about girls and boys:

  • The brains of girls and boys develop along different trajectories. Some differences are genetically programmed and are present at birth; other differences are manifested later in childhood.


  • Girls and boys learn in subtly different ways, in part because of those differences in the developmental trajectory of the brain. This does NOT imply that "all girls learn one way and all boys learn another way" - that's not a true statement, and nobody associated with NASSPE believes it! We celebrate and cherish the variations AMONG girls and AMONG boys.

  • Precisely because girls are so diverse and boys are so diverse, 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.

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