Research Reveals Little Proof that Single-Sex Education Works 


Contact:  Teri Battaglieri (517)203-2940 (e-mail)
                Gerald Bracey (703)317-1716 (e-mail) 

EAST LANSING, Mich., Nov. 13, 2006—Policymakers’ recently rekindled romance with single-sex education is a superficial attraction based more on feelings and preferences than evidence the programs actually work to remedy a variety of educational problems according to a review of the research on single-sex schooling released today by The Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice. 

In the report, Separate but Superior? A Review of Issues and Data Bearing on Single-Sex Education, author Gerald Bracey reveals that much of the research on single-sex schooling is flawed and rife with conflicts and contradictions. A federal government effort to review existing research found 2,221 studies initially, but when federal criteria for scientifically based research were applied to them, all but 40 studies were eliminated. Of these, Bracey writes that, “the largest numbers of studies by far find no differences between single-sex education and co-education.” 

Bracey goes on to recommend that prior to undertaking any experiments in single-sex education, policy makers should ask a series of specific questions that seek to impose more structure and rigor to such efforts. 

“Because there is no compelling evidence that single-sex education will improve student learning or test scores,” said Teri Battaglieri, executive director of The Great Lakes Center, “we should put our energy and resources into the reforms that research tells us will impact  achievement for all students, such as lower class sizes, hiring and retaining quality teachers and early childhood education.”

Single-sex education has long been a part of private, particularly Catholic, schooling. It was rekindled as a possible public school reform in 2001 when funding for single-gender schools and classes was embedded in the No Child Left Behind law. Last month, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings issued new Title IX regulations, which clear the way for implementing such programs.

NCLB requires that anyone considering offering a single-sex option must provide a rationale, such as a historic failure of girls to enroll in certain classes offered for both genders and that  periodic reviews be conducted to justify an ongoing need for the option. It also mandates that the same course be offered to the other gender or provided to the rest of the students on a coed basis. 

Summing up the challenges ahead, Bracey quoted researcher Rosemary Salomone, who said, “The paradox of single-sex and co-education is that the beliefs are so strong and the evidence is so weak.”

The full policy brief is available at

The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to identify, develop, support, publish and widely disseminate empirically sound research on education policy and practices designed to improve the quality of public education for all students within the Great Lakes Region. 

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