Single-Sex Online Schools
Four private schools for girls are teaming up to offer their students online courses. In a year, the online school will expand enrollment to include students elsewhere who want to purchase online courses, much like the typical virtual school. There is one unusual feature of this project: The online school will be for girls only, as are the brick-and-mortar schools that launched it.
I wonder whether any state online schools will try the same approach. A few traditional public schools, and several charter schools, are experimenting with single-sex classrooms. Virtual schools could be next to separate students by sex and see whether it makes a difference.
I’m skeptical that single-sex online education will prove advantageous, although it may fill a niche in the market. Key advantages of a single-sex learning environment, including fewer distractions and a sense of camaraderie among students, are less relevant when students aren’t actually in the same room.
Some believe that boys and girls need different curricula to reflect innate differences in learning styles. But, no matter how carefully instruction is tailored to girls, there will always be exceptions — girls who would prefer the boys’ curriculum, or boys who would excel in the girls’ program.
While I don’t think public virtual schools should label courses “girls only” or “boys only,” the popularity of single-sex education does suggest that there’s demand for a variety of educational choices. Online schools might consider opening different sections of each course, with different methods of instruction for each. If one method does suit girls better than boys, there will be greater female representation in that section.