Boys and Girls in Separate Classes: Is This a Solution for the Achievement Gap?

Many classroom reform advocates are under the assumption that classrooms are better off separated by gender.  They have even conducted studies. They, along with many teachers and administrators, believe that a classroom consisting of only boys or girls will produce more educated students than would a coed classroom.

However, in my twenty some years as a classroom teacher, I haven’t found such assumption to be accurate. There may be some exceptions, but overall, the idea of separate gender classrooms as a solution to the education crisis in American is just another failed experiment.

Challenge of Same-Gender Classrooms

Instead, I have discovered that same gender Classroom Drama: Redirecting the Dominator’s classroom are sometimes more challenging than coed classroom environments.  Often classroom filled with only young men are filled with boys who challenge one another for alpha privileges.

The high amounts of testosterone keep young boys jostling for classroom dominance. Many times the atmosphere can become extremely wild and crazy.   I embarked upon this experience when teaching in an all boy academy in the city of Minneapolis.  In all grade levels, there was a competitive desire for dominance and control among the male students.

Likewise, in the girl academy in the next building wasn’t all that effective as well when it came to focus and learning. The girls often had strong attitudes and operated in clicks, which created constant conflict and distraction from learning.

The Bottomline

The bottom line is that same gender classroom are not the solution to the achievement gap.  Superior learning depends on the nature of the student, as well as the conditions surrounding the student.  For example, if you take really educated girls and boys and place them in opposite classrooms, their performance and productivity will probably stay the same.

On the other hand, if you take a group of low-income students living in oppressive environments and separate the boys from the girls by placing each in different classrooms,  the rate of academic performance will most likely stay the same and  you will still have to deal with the same discipline challenges: talking, lack of focus, attitudes, and conflict.

The Senselessness of Same Gender Classrooms

Therefore, it makes little sense to have separate gender classroom.  I have found that having a coed classroom helps each student interact and learn about the opposite gender.  This idea of relating to the opposite gender is important when it comes to growing into adult-hood.

In addition, in a coed classroom, the girls seem to produce a more calming effect upon the boys because they are less likely to challenge one another due to the threat of embarrassment.  The female energy, which consists of supportiveness, understanding and nurturing, appear to calm the aggressiveness and wildness of male energy.

Until there is a solution that takes a significant dent out of the achievement gap, academic experiments involving the same gender will only be just that: an experiment.  Significant increase in student learning depends on a number of factors, including the mental, physical and environmental conditions of students.