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Is a Single Sex School Appropriate for Your Learning Different Child?

By Judith Greenberg, Ph.D.
President, School Finders, LLC

Parents don't often think of single sex schools (all male or female populations) as alternatives to help students who are not succeeding in traditional schools. The reality is that single sex schools have never gone out style, but they are making a big splash as a choice that both parents and students are opting for as they enroll in private schools.

The benefits for learning different students are numerous. The most obvious are those of not being embarrassed in front of the opposite sex when trying to come up with an answer or write at the board or speak in front of a group. There is a less social pressure when a student learns in a group of the same gender. Less stress is always a help for a learning different student.

Many learning issues are gender based or gender prone. For example, more boys tend to have small motor skill coordination issues. Since students are grouped by age, these scissors, coloring-in-the-lines and keeping numbers in straight columns; problems no longer seem to be so important and parents receive fewer notes about these types of skills issues. The school can work on them as the boys mature and grow into a readiness for them. On the flip slide, girls can zoom into all sort of activities without making anyone look or feel clumsy.

This concept applies to many areas of education and gives students a sense of empowerment that does not typically exist in coed classes. Students who were feeling "stupid" in a mixed-sex classroom often begin to feel that they are capable, and then become more motivated with each success.

Opponents of single sex schools feel we are tending to create a separate but equal situation that is scary. But in reality, anytime a student is in school, nothing is equal! Not on test day, report card day, in PE class, in the lunch room, at recess, in socialization, or if you are called on when you canít find the answer. Certainly, it isnít equal if you canít memorize 10 words each week (but you can memorize 7), and the teacher refuses to follow your Individual Education Plan and accommodate you. So I think we can lay to rest the issue of separate is not equal.

Some scientists, educators, and medical experts will tell parents that boysí and Girlsí brains are different and develop at different times. As a parent of a boy and a girl, Iíd agree. As an educator with thirty-eight years of experience, Iíd agree.

However, I donít think that it is a theory to justify single sex schools. I do think girls and boys bond differently and can benefit from the deep friendship, special attention, and lessons designed to appeal to their interests that are found in single sex schools.

Is this the best answer for every child? Absolutely not! It is however, one that people are beginning to consider anew. I am seeing students who are attending such schools improving in their skills, their motivation, and their self confidence.

Look into single sex schools as part of your school search, ask the same questions you would ask at any interview and go with your gut reaction. The biggest question of all: Will my child be happy and do well at this school? The answers you find may surprise you.

Judith Greenberg is a special education consultant and school placement expert based in Maryland. You can reach her at schoolfind@aol.com or (301) 230-9010

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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