Single-sex Education Task Force

In recent years, there has been a growing trend of separating students on the basis of sex. This trend raises serious equality and policy concerns, and may violate numerous provisions of state and federal law. In public schools, the circumstances under which students can be separated by sex are limited by the Constitution and Title IX. Although the U.S. Department of Education loosened restrictions on single-sex education in 2006, schools must still meet a host of legal requirements before separating students by sex.

Few schools meet these requirements. Many single-sex programs alleging a basis in research are in fact based on claims that amount to little more than repackaged sex stereotypes—for instance, that boys need authority and excel at abstract thinking, while girls need quiet environments that focus on cooperation and following directions. In the classroom, separating boys and girls can reinforce such stereotypes in ways that are stigmatizing and damaging to both groups. Moreover, single-sex programs can discriminate against one group in allocating resources or educational opportunities.

Despite assertions to the contrary, separating students by sex has not been proven to improve educational outcomes. Evaluations generally fail to compare single-sex programs with comparable coed programs or to control for other factors that affect outcomes, such as class size and student ability. Given the flaws in the justification for single-sex education and the documented inequities that spring from separating boys and girls, stricter regulation and compliance monitoring are essential. The Department of Education should rescind the looser 2006 regulations and clarify what is and is not permissible to help put an end to inequitable programs.

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