- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Education groups nationwide are split over the reintroduction of single-sex public schools or classrooms proposed by the Bush administration.
For the Center for Education Reform, the change can't come too soon, especially for poor minority students who tend to perform better academically in same-sex programs.
"This shows that one size fits all schools doesn't work," said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform. "This is win-win situation all around. It's really sort of incomprehensible that this concept has been so controversial. Single-sex education is one of the best options."
Others like the National Education Association argue such programs can deny equal educational opportunities and reinforce harmful stereotypes.
"We want equality in classrooms for boys and girls, with particular attention paid to making sure that the curriculum does not dumb down," said Melinda Anderson, an NEA spokeswoman. "We also want any school to comply with any federal or civil rights laws."
Supporters say elementary and secondary students who learn in same-sex classrooms score higher on tests, stay out of trouble and are more willing to explore a broader range of subjects. So far, there are 11 public schools in the country that offer single-sex instruction.
The American Association of University Women has argued that the programs' benefits have been exaggerated.
"While single-sex education experiments do produce some positive results for some students in some cases, much of the research indicates that the properties of a good education, not a sex-segregated environment, make the difference," the group said in a statement.
The Education Department has proposed providing more flexibility to public school districts to allow for more single-sex classes and school a significant change in the government's 30-year policy prohibiting sex discrimination in public schools.
"This is a complex and sensitive issue that requires a considerable amount of consultations," said Education Secretary Rod Paige of the proposal that is undergoing the 60-day comment period. "We believe it is important to receive input from parents, community leaders and interested educational organizations."
The department's proposal stems from a provision under the "No Child Left Behind" education bill, approved last year by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in January, that allows the government to provide $3 million in grants to local schools districts to establish same-sex programs.
Since 1972, Title IX outlawed federal funding for education programs that discriminate on the basis of sex. The revisions, which were included in the education bill, endorses same-sex schools so long as there are equal-funding opportunities for both sexes.
"Private academies across the country have had great success with separate schooling for boys and girls, and it is very important that this innovative option be available in public school settings, especially for low-income urban families," said Tom Carroll, founder and chairman of the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls and Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys in Albany, N.Y.
"If the Bush administration cleans up Title IX, there is no doubt that dozens of new single-sex schools and hundreds of single-sex classes will flourish around the nation," Mr. Carroll said.
Civil rights advocates plan to challenge the proposal, claiming that separate public schools for boys and girls raises questions about education equality.


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