More on Single-Sex Classrooms
The Parkway School District’s foray into single-sex education is steadily gaining popularity. What began as a tentative experiment with first-graders is now an established program at Carmen Trails Elementary School, set to include third-graders next year in response to parents’ demand.
This sentence caught my eye:
And even though the school doesn’t have test data to prove its success, the program is growing.
Critics of successful initiatives in education repeatedly make that charge — there’s no “research” or “data” to prove that a program is the best. A great example is the SLPS math teacher who developed an amazing new approach to teaching math, but was told that his work couldn’t be expanded because it wasn’t backed up by research.
Everyone would love to have vast stores of high-quality data on educational practices. But in our less-than perfect world, schools need to make decisions without it. One way to do that is to follow Parkway’s lead, expanding programs that parents want. Giving parents a choice between single-sex and coed classrooms lets people vote with their feet. And it makes it less likely that any child will be assigned to the wrong room. If some children do better in a single-sex environment and others fair poorly, you don’t want them all arbitrarily forced into one of the options.
Since children are different, more research might not even help much. A study that shows the average student improves in a single-sex classroom doesn’t guarantee that individual children will thrive under that policy. And while it’s true any particular program might not succeed if applied generally, working top-down from studies to practice has drawbacks too. A general trend identified in research might not be evident in the local public school.