Single-Sex Classes a Success at Memphis Public High School

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Students at a Memphis public high school are performing better in boys-only and girls-only classes, the principal says.

Booker T. Washington High School set up single-sex classes a decade ago and has no plans to reverse course.

“What we know from research is that girls will take more chances when boys are not around,” Principal Alisha Kiner told WREG News Channel 3 in an interview that aired this week.

As for boys, their behavior has improved, Kiner said.

The school’s graduation rate has gone up from 53 percent to 90.5 percent.

While single-sex classes and single-sex schools are championed by some, they continue to be controversial in public school systems. The ACLU is committed to stopping them, saying they promote gender stereotypes.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, disputes the ACLU’s position. In a 2013 article in The Atlantic, Sommers asks, “What sensible person would call these programs and others like them morally and legally suspect?” Sommers writes:

Wealthy families have always had the option of sending their children to all-male or all-female schools, but parents of modest means have rarely had that choice. That changed in 2001, when four female senators sponsored legislation that sanctioned single-sex classes and academies in public schools. Today, there are more than 500 public schools that offer single-sex classes and 116 public all-girl or all-boy academies. Many are in struggling urban neighborhoods and many have proven to be hugely successful…

As for the claim that gender-specific schools increase stereotyping and sexism, there is ample evidence to the contrary. After all, in such schools girls cannot leave it to boys to dissect the frog, and boys cannot leave it to girls to edit the school newspaper. In 2007, a large-scale, well-designed British study found that “Gender stereotypes are exacerbated” in co-ed schools and “moderated” in single-sex schools. Girls in the single sex-schools were more likely to focus their studies on math and science; boys were more likely to study language and literature. And there was also this attention-grabbing finding: “For girls … single-sex schooling was linked to higher wages.”

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