Old Stereotypes Die Hard

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In June, the ACLU of Maine Foundation applauded the decision of the Sanford School Committee to abandon single-sex classrooms in the fifth and sixth grades at Willard School.  Documents released under the Freedom of Access Act demonstrated that the program was based on harmful gender stereotypes about the supposedly different learning styles of boys and girls.

Studies show that separating boys and girls does not improve academic performance; it simply increases gender stereotyping.  A 2011 article in the prestigious journal Science stated, “There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex education improves students' academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.”

Unfortunately, single sex programs in public schools are continuing to spread.  Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist at the ACLU,  explains on the ACLU Blog of Rights why single sex programs are doubly harmful to students:

Here’s the bottom line: many of our schools are in trouble and coming out of the largest recession since the 1930s, with mounting national debt, we have limited resources.  Many schools are choosing to spend those limited resources on single-sex programs despite the fact that “there is no well-designed research showing that single-sex education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.” As a result of prioritizing single-sex classes, these schools don’t have the funds to spend on techniques that have actually been proven to improve academic outcomes, like smaller class sizes and personalized learning environments with mentors, counseling, and other supports.

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