I ventured into the world of single sex education because I needed a change. The friends and people I knew at my public elementary school did not share my interests or outlook on the world. I was not recognized as a “gifted student” and, therefore, I spent my days sitting in a desk, staring at the clock as the seconds droned on into a space of time that felt infinite. I chose to apply to Orchard House School, an all-girls middle school, in fourth grade; and without taking that step, I would not be attending Columbia University in the fall.
With new friends in a very different atmosphere, I excelled. Boys, who had occupied a majority of my time in elementary school, flew to the wayside; and I was able to hone in on my studies. My school had only 20 girls a grade, and due to this, I was placed in classes which challenged me, unlike the classes I had previously taken. As my brain grew, so did my self-confidence. I learned who I was and how to be comfortable expressing it, no matter whom I was around. In a small reading alcove, I fell in love with books, which I had never thought were “cool” before hand. I stopped caring about what others thought about me and truly focused on myself.
Now, I’m not saying those four years were easy–that my friendships and self-confidence grew like flowers after an April shower. At first, I didn’t actually notice much difference. But now, looking back on those four years, I can inspect my growth and know that without that single-sex environment, I would have “dumbed” myself down for boys and attempted to fit in with the “in” crowd. Now, single-sex education is not for everyone. Some girls use boys to push themselves to do their best; but for me, it was perfect. Without those four years, I wouldn’t be comfortable in my own skin and I would not take my studies as seriously as I do now.
My experience is not isolated— there is much statistical support to this single-sex classrooms. It has been proven that girls tend to doubt their abilities in math in traditional classrooms, creating substantial gaps between the sexes in math scores during and after middle school. Also, in all-girls schools, girls are encouraged to break the gender stereotypes unconsciously present in coed schools and to participate in discussions, sports, and other activities. In a three year study conducted in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, results showed inbred sexism in elementary school classroom—boys were more likely encouraged to solve problems on their own, and their comments were valued more than their female classmates. Single-sex classrooms are also known to improve peer interaction and provide a greater number of opportunities in academic and extracurricular endeavors without racial and gender stereotypes found in coed schools. Girls who attend single sex schools are more likely to major in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields and become “the players, not the audience,” according to professors Myra and David, who spent ten years studying sexism in classrooms.
Just take a look at the world around you to see what an all-female learning environment has done to create our world’s leaders. Alumnae of all-girls classrooms make up a quarter of the women in congress and a third of Fortune 100 female board members. Martha Stewart is a graduate of Barnard College, the all women’s liberal arts college associated with Columbia University; Hilary Clinton graduated from Wellesley College; and Gloria Steinem, a leader of the Women’s Liberation movement, is an alumna of Smith College.
Not only could this environment be positive for girls; boys may benefit too. In all-male classrooms, teachers tend to create more active lesson plans, helping boys achieve more. Another study conducted in Florida showed that boys placed in a single sex classroom had an 86% pass rate on the state test, whereas the coed classroom had an only 37% proficiency rate. Public all-male high schools, which have sprung up around the country including New York and Chicago, have experienced an influx in graduation rates. In 2010, for example, Eagle Academy in New York had an 82% graduation rate, higher than the national average of 78.2%.
Single sex schools are terrific for the right people. They allow people to surpass previous expectations and build a solid foundation, without detractions caused by the opposite sex. These schools not only teach the curriculum, but they instill in their students self-confidence mostly unobtainable in a coed environment.
“Advantages of Single Sex Schools.” CRC Health Group. CRC Health Group, n.d. Web. 02 June 2014.
Novoteny, Amy. “Coed versus Single-sex Ed.” Http://www.apa.org. American Psychological Association, Feb. 2011. Web. 02 June 2014.
“Research Spotlight on Single-Gender Education.” National Education Association. National Education Association, n.d. Web. 03 June 2014.
“The Connecticut Context.” Single Sex Education (n.d.): n. pag. SERC. SERC. Web.
Yates, Kimberely, and Demand Media. “Same Sex Schools vs. Coed Schools Statistics.” Global Post. Global Post, n.d. Web. 01 June 2014.