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EDUCATION REPORT – May 30, 2002: Single-Sex Schools - 2002-05-29

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

There are many private schools in the United States that accept only boys or only girls. But there are only eleven single-sex public schools. A twelfth will open next fall in Houston, Texas.

The Bush administration recently announced support for separate public schools for boys and girls. The decision represents a major change in American educational policy. For thirty years, the government has generally disapproved of these single-sex public schools. It has done so because of a nineteen-seventy-two law called Title Nine. This law bans unequal treatment based on sex.

Under Title Nine, single-sex schools face possible legal action. In January, however, Congress passed an Administration measure that provides three-million dollars for single-sex schools. Congress also told the Education Department to change the way it administers Title Nine.

Education Department officials say they will reconsider the law. The goal will be to give local officials more choice in operating their schools without violating the law. More single-sex schools may be able to receive federal money as long as both boys and girls have equal chances to learn. However, some legal experts say these schools would still violate the law. They say the new policy will be tested in the courts.

Some educators believe children can learn better in single-sex schools. Others say children need to be with children of the opposite sex. Scientists have shown that boys and girls learn information in different ways. However, research about the effects of same-sex schools has shown mixed results. Most of the research has involved girls.

During the nineteen-nineties, the American Association of University Women completed major studies on education. The organization said girls who attend school with boys may not do as well as the boys. It said some teachers and schools do not treat girls equally. But it also said single-sex education generally does not appear to help girls.

The oldest single-sex public school in the United States has gained great success. Western High School in Baltimore, Maryland was established in eighteen-forty-four. More than one-thousand girls from several races, ethnic groups and religions attend Western. Almost all of the girls go on to college.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.