Sex Segregated Schools to Challenge Gender and Racial Bias
- Kathryn Herr, Kathryn HerrMontclair State University, College of Education and Human Services
- Kathleen GrantKathleen GrantMonmouth University, Department of Educational Counseling and Leadership
- and Jeremy PriceJeremy PriceMontclair State University, College of Education and Human Services
Sex segregated schooling in the United States is one of the fastest-growing movements in education in the 21st century. The current movement toward single-sex schooling is embedded in a national discourse of school choice and an adoption of market principles in education. This framing espouses that when schools compete for educational consumers, the needs of those currently underserved in U.S. schools will be better served and their academic performance will improve. Scholars argue that there are three main rationales typically put forward for sex segregated schools: they will eliminate distractions and harassment from the other sex; they can address the espoused different learning styles of boys and girls, and, finally, they can remedy inequities experienced by low-income students of color. Many of the single sex schools have large proportions of low-income youth of color. In general, while the sex segregated structure of these schools seems to offer opportunities to disrupt gendered stereotypes, there is little evidence that this occurs. Instead, as society’s conceptualizations of sexuality and gender evolve, single-sex education upholds a largely heteronormative and cisgendered understanding of gender and sexuality. Much of the research documents a reinforcement of gendered stereotypes and heterosexism. The literature on single-sex schools for boys also presents a puzzling mix of academic success for some boys, and no significant difference for others. There is little attention to the accomplishments and current experiences of girls in single-sex schools at the K–12 levels. Research shows that successful schools, whether they are single-sex or coeducational, tend to have factors in common like creating strong mentoring relationships and keeping smaller class sizes. In sum, research would indicate that the rationales noted earlier to justify the development of sex segregated schools are not much realized in the research.