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Leonard Sax

Single-sex education can work

2013-03-05
I showed them how other teachers have used the all-boys format to make it cool for a boy to study, so the same boy who loves "Call of Duty" will love "Jane Eyre;"

Leonard Sax

Single-sex education can work

Leonard sax education expert
In the summer of 2009, I led a two-day workshop for sixth-grade teachers at Van Devender Middle School in Parkersburg's North End. I shared with them some of the strategies I have learned from visits to more than 300 schools over 12 years — strategies for using single-gender classrooms to boost academic achievement and broaden educational horizons for both girls and boys.

I showed them how other teachers have used the all-boys format to make it cool for a boy to study, so the same boy who loves "Call of Duty" will love "Jane Eyre;" and also how to use the all-girls format so the same girl who loves "Gossip Girl" will love computer programming.

The sixth-grade teachers spent the 2009-2010 school year preparing for the single-gender format, reading everything they could and discussing how they would structure the single-gender classrooms. The single-gender format doesn't magically accomplish anything by itself, but it does create the opportunity to teach differently. The single-gender program launched in the fall of 2010.

 By any rational standard the program has been a success. Mackenzie Lackey, one of the 6th-grade teachers at Van Devender, has a gift for deploying these gender-specific strategies successfully. It's become all too common for boys to regard reading a book, or trying to please the teacher, as uncool and unmasculine. But not in Lackey's sixth-grade class.

As I had recommended, she divided the boys into teams that competed against each other in "Battle of the Books." Team competition motivates boys more reliably and more consistently than individual competition. That's not true for girls unless the girl's teammates are also her friends.

Girls don't like to beat their friends if their friends are on opposing teams. But if Jason and Justin are on opposing teams, they will happily bash each other, and become better friends in the process. The seventh- and eighth-graders at Van Devender also participated in Battle of the Books, but without the single-gender teams or the training. The result: Lackey's sixth-grade boys beat the entire school, including the seventh-graders and the eighth-graders.

They read more books — and they demanded more books to read in their spare time. Imagine: boys from a low-income neighborhood who demanded more books to read. I just heard from Lackey, who is moving to Charleston. She has done it again.

This school year, too, the sixth-grade boys in her class were school champions. Two years in a row, two different classes. That can't be a fluke.

 Leonard Sax 

Is an American psychologist and family physician. He is best known as the author of three books for parents: Boys Adrift, Girls on the Edge, and Why Gender Matters. He is also founder and director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education.

Sax's views on gender differences are controversial and have received both praise and criticism. On his web site, Sax says that he wrote Boys Adrift and Girls on the Edge because he is concerned about "a growing proportion of girls who are anxious, depressed, and tired; girls who can tell you a great deal about what they do but not so much about who they are. Likewise, we find a growing proportion of boys who are disengaged not only from school but from the real world. Those boys are comfortable in the virtual world, where they play their online video games, and/or surf the net for photographs of girls"



Source: Leonard Sax
I showed them how other teachers have used the all-boys format to make it cool for a boy to study, so the same boy who loves "Call of Duty" will love "Jane Eyre;"

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