When you think of single-sex education as a choice or an option when you are thinking about sending your child to private school, the subject becomes a little easier to understand in the 21st century. Historically, private schools have offered single-sex education for decades. Indeed, many of our older K-12 schools were founded with the purpose of educating boys or girls separately. That's how things were done in the 18th and 19th centuries. Colleges and universities were also set up as single-sex institutions. For example, Harvard University was an all-male university until 1977, when its sister college, Radcliffe, merged with it.
Characteristics of single-sex schools
How do we define a single-sex school? By definition, a single-sex school is a school that educates boys or girls exclusively. As a general rule, classes will not be co-educational. On occasion, neighboring boys and girls schools with an established relationship will host co-educational classes.
What grades do single-sex schools offer? Typically, single-sex schools offer grades 9 through 12 and a Post Graduate year where available. A handful of single-sex schools offer the middle school grades 6 through 9. Even fewer schools offer PK-12. You will also notice that middle school grades go up to grade 9, and high school begins with grade 9 as well. Actually, grade 10 is probably the most common entry point for private high schools. That’s one reason for the overlap of the grades.
Are there different kinds of single-sex schools? Single-sex schools come in residential or boarding as well as day school versions. There are single-sex religious schools, single-sex military schools, single-sex special needs schools, and so on. That is a characteristic of private schools in general. If you need a very specific kind of school, chances are that you will be able to find that school, possibly even several, in the private school genre.
Where are single-sex schools located? Just about everywhere in the United States. When you search for schools on Private School Review, filter your search using the Show by Gender option. That will produce a list of schools within the area you are searching.
The advantages of single-sex education
The proponents and opponents of single-sex education have firmly held views. I think it is fair to say that there is a limited amount of research into the advantages and disadvantages of single-sex education. I list the primary sources for you to read in depth. That’s why I concluded long ago that single-sex education needs to be thought of as a choice. It is not better than education, in my opinion. Nor is it worse. It is simply an option for us parents to keep in mind as we go through the process of choosing the best private school for our child.
In this video, the students and staff give us an overview of Crespi Carmelite High School, Encino, California.
In my long career as a choir trainer in the Episcopal Church from 1969 to 1997, I had in-depth experience working with boys and girls choirs. Hindsight reminds me that the boys were just as good musically as the girls and vice-versa. But then I expected nothing less. Those young people were rubbing shoulders with Bach, Mozart, Handel, Faure, Allegri and many other great composers. Great music deserved their best efforts. Their best efforts are what both boys and girls delivered.
Were there differences in the way they approached singing? Yes indeed. For starters, it was not considered very masculine for a boy to sing. Period. The fix for that? I arranged for a couple of fine English choirs to give concerts. Suddenly, the persuaders (parents) showed up with sons in tow at audition time. We parents tend to want our children involved with worthwhile, character-building activities. A choir or orchestra performing at a high standard often fits that bill.
How does my experience tie in with single-sex private schools? The approach is the same. Show young men and young women how to do things well and become people they never thought they could be. Teachers have that uncanny ability to observe a child and almost instantly visualize him or her five, ten, or fifteen years later. We light the fire. We keep fanning those flames of learning and exploration until suddenly there’s that defining moment when she decides, “I want to be Secretary of State,” or he says, “I want to be like Yo-Yo Ma.” Then, we show them how to make those dreams come true.
Discover single-sex schools for yourself.
Don't take my word or somebody else's word for it. Explore single-sex school websites. Visit the schools. Listen to the admissions staff say that their school creates the right environment for a boy or girl to be all that he or she can be. That is admirable. As you explore the option of sending your child to a single-sex school, when you find a school that meets your requirements and truly is the best fit for your child, don’t give it another thought. Go for it.
The squeals of excitement in this video about Accepted Students Night at Montrose School, Medford, Massachusetts, give you an idea of the adventure your daughter will embark on when she attends a great girls' school like Montrose.
Remember: the only thing which really matters in choosing a private school is to find the school where your child will be happy. The last thing you want is a miserable child who hates her school. Single-sex or coeducational.
Most boys and girls schools have long-established relationships with other single-sex and co-educational schools in their area. That means that students from your child's single-sex school will have sports and social events in conjunction with the other schools. Not to worry about supervision. Your child and all the other children will be properly supervised on those occasions. Your child's safety is always of paramount importance for the school.
As I mentioned earlier the research and data on single-sex schools is fairly limited. (I have included some resources at the end of this article so that you can review what is available.) Do boys or girls get better test scores in a single sex setting? Some say yes. Some say no. I suggest that you look at data such as matriculation results. That’s a fancy way of saying, “Where did their graduates go?” If they went to colleges and universities which you would like your child to attend, then there’s your answer.
Observe a class or two if you can. Preferably in person, but a class video might also be helpful. A single-sex school may be right for your child. But you will never know until you explore this special private school option.
- National Association for the Advancement of Single-Sex Public Education
- The National Association for Choice in Education
- Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools: Differences in their Characteristics and the Transition to College
- Why a Boys’ School in the 21st Century?
- Understanding Boys
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