Reasoning About Single-Sex Schooling for Girls Among Students, Parents, and Teachers

Abstract

The number of United States public schools offering single-sex education for girls has increased dramatically in the past decade. Rationales for all-girls schools are diverse and grounded in differing gender ideologies. We examined reasoning about all-girls schools among school stakeholders (i.e., individuals affected by single-sex schools, including students, parents, and teachers) in the Southwestern United States. Specifically, middle school students attending all-girls (n = 398) and coeducational (n = 191) schools, mothers of middle school students attending all-girls (n = 217) and coeducational (n = 64) schools, and teachers employed at all-girls (n = 18) and coeducational (n = 97) middle schools rated the veracity of multiple rationales for girls-only schools. Specifically, we examined rationales for single-sex schooling related to gender differences in learning, gender differences in interests, girls’ ingroup preference, and gender discrimination. Endorsement of rationales differed across participant role (student, parent, teacher) and school type (single-sex, coeducational). Overall, stakeholders affiliated with an all-girls school were more supportive of each rationale than stakeholders affiliated with coeducational schools. Teachers affiliated with the single-sex school strongly endorsed gender differences in learning as a rationale for single-sex schooling. Endorsement of rationales did not vary across participant gender. The implications of these findings for educational policy and the interpretation of research on single-sex schooling are discussed.

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Authors’ Note

The authors thank the members of the Gender and Racial Attitudes Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin who helped with data collection and the teachers, parents, and students who graciously participated in the study. A previous version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, April, 2012, Vancouver, BC.

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Pahlke, E., Bigler, R.S. & Patterson, M.M. Reasoning About Single-Sex Schooling for Girls Among Students, Parents, and Teachers. Sex Roles 71, 261–271 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-014-0410-8

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Keywords

  • Single-sex schooling
  • Coeducation
  • Segregation
  • Middle school
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • Gender discrimination
  • Gender differences