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Single-Sex Education: Does it Really Work?

April 11, 2010

2010 graduating class at Urban Prep Academy.

In recent years, statistics have shown improvement in employment and educational levels among minority communities within the United States. This is however, with the exception of African American males. Studies indicate that the unemployment rate for African American males is twice that of white males. Education has a strong part to play in these statistics. Research has shown that African American males tend to fall behind their peers and are often placed in special education classes because of this.

A possible solution to this issue is to segregate African American males by placing them in all boys’ schools. In fact, this has become a popular phenomenon and has been gaining increasing popularity amongst parents who want to see their sons succeed.  This endeavor was supported by new regulations from the US Department of Education in 2006, which enable more single-sex charter schools to open up by not requiring that they offer similar options for the opposite gender as well.

Single-sex education has become so popular that, there are now over 542 public schools which offer single-sex classes.  Around 95 of these schools are exclusively single-sex.

Eagle Academy, New York City’s first all-male public school has a high school graduation rate of about 82%. This is significantly higher than the average for other high schools in and around New York City.  The notion behind setting up these schools is that, boys have fewer distractions when they are away from girls. More importantly however, is the belief that boys have different educational needs than girls and therefore learn in different ways. In some cases boys may need even more attention than girls, since they are not likely to adjust as quickly as girls.

The effectiveness of these programs is not yet proven. Even though it sounds like a great idea, no methods have been devised to purely study the effect of teaching young black males exclusively. More importantly, many believe that by segregating African American males, we are distancing them even more from the general population which will only make them worse off.

However, there are special cases where segregation has made a significant positive impact.  Urban Prep Academy in Englewood has reported a 100% university acceptance for its first senior class comprising only African American males. This is an especially great achievement for the academy, since it is housed in one of the most troubled neighborhoods. Many of the students come from poverty-stricken families and are surrounded by crime and drugs. The fact that all of these children have withstood the odds to make it to college indicates that there might just be something to this notion of single-sex education.

What do you think?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Brittney permalink
    April 11, 2010 7:19 am

    I’m pretty confused about this single-sex education idea. How is making an all-boys school helping to improve black males’ education and, subsequently, unemployment rates? To say that the reason is there aren’t any girls as distractions doesn’t explain why white males do almost twice as well as black males. If the learning progress of boys is so easily impeded by the distraction of girls, why don’t white males have similar unemployment rates? Also, if boys have different educational needs than girls, why isn’t unemployment a problem among white males in co-ed schools? Maybe there is some better reasoning behind this single-education idea that I’m not aware of or am not understanding clearly, but nevertheless, the academic struggles of black boys are imbedded in issues much deeper than puberty and gender differences.

  2. Ayeska permalink
    April 11, 2010 7:50 am

    Above is a link to an article regarding Black boys in the education system. It is by NYU Steinhardt professor Pedro Noguera, who’s also written many books and has conducted extensive research on this issue.

    In this article he suggests that educators take on a different approach in the way they teach students, unlike this notion of single-sex education. He states:

    “There is no doubt that if schools were to become more nurturing and supportive students would be more likely to perceive schools as a source of help and opportunity, rather than an inhospitable place that one should seek to escape and actively avoid. Changing the culture and structure of schools such that African American male students come to regard them as sources of support for their aspirations and identities will undoubtedly be the most important step that can be taken to make high levels of academic achievement the norm, rather than the exception.”

    Professor Noguera will also be speaking about this at a lecture this coming Tuesday night, April 13th at Vanderbilt Hall (NYU Law School) at 7 PM.
    It’s open to the public so I urge anyone interested in how race and education are related to attend .

  3. Shipra permalink
    April 11, 2010 7:20 pm

    Brittney, I think you raise an important point that there are issues other than just puberty and gender differences which effect African American males. However, I think you may have been confused by the idea of what single-sex education really is. Firstly, I would like to point out that the majority of single-sex schools are not exclusively African American. Many of the schools have been established, recognizing that boys have different learning curves as compared to girls. This is also the reason why many coed schools have started single-sex classes. I do however agree with you that claiming boys are less distracted in the absence of girls is a baseless argument and any segregation made purely on this basis is meaningless.

    The struggles of African American males extend beyond just classroom issues. However, it is known that unemployment rates are correlated to educational levels. I think that educators are beginning to feel that maybe single-sex education can be especially beneficial to African American males and help them overcome some of their struggles in the classroom by employing techniques specifically targeted towards teaching boys. While I have mentioned previously that in theory educators feel that this may help boys learn better, the fact is that there is no substantial evidence to support this.In fact, even the success of Urban Prep Academy is very likely attributed to many other factors such as high quality of teachers, more effective teaching practices etc.

  4. Megan Fountain permalink
    April 22, 2011 2:44 pm

    I think the statistics given here as well as other cases that have been studied speak for themselves. If we can take African American males from “one of the most troubled neighborhoods” and give them a 100% acceptance rate into college, that is absolutely a good thing.

    It has been shown that both genders of all races benefit from single-sex education, but as Brittney points out, African American males often have more and deeper struggles than their white counterparts. What is unique about the Urban Prep Academy, it seems, is that it is not just all male, but all black male. Brown v. Board of Education was an important moment in American history and a great step toward racial equality, but it’s fair to say that we are not yet at a moment of full integration. There’s an extremely difficult paradox here because we want racial diversity in the school system to forward racial diversity and the end of de facto segregation in everyday life. But doesn’t it seem like a disservice to African American children to put them into a school that doesn’t offer them the education they need? Is it even more of a disservice if there is a school, like the Urban Prep Academy composed only of black students, that can remedy this situation? I don’t know how to form an opinion this issue because it is such a difficult situation, not without heavy consequences for our rising generations.

  5. Sereetta A. permalink
    April 28, 2011 1:23 pm

    I think this article leaves out some important information in order to make an informed decision on single sex education. First and foremost there have been other schools that have made the same achievements as Urban Prep Academy when faced with the same obstacles but the classes are not single sex. I think it far more important to look at the teacher student ratio, the amount of black male teachers that are employed by the academy, the amount of instructional time students receive per day, the amount of homework students are expected to complete, the expectation of the school, parental involvement, standards based instruction, and etc. Single sex classes might be a factor in the success but I am skeptical that it is the determining factor in these students success.
    I believe boys in general whether they be African American, European, or Indian should be educated differently than girls at different stages of development and many educational systems make children conform instead of nurture the differences that naturally exist.

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