- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

Single-sex instruction benefits boys and girls, especially those with economically challenged and historically disadvantaged backgrounds, educators and researchers said yesterday.

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, researchers said.

"I will admit that separating students by sex is not an ideal way to prepare boys and girls for personal and public lives," said Rosemary C. Salomone, a St. John's University law professor and researcher.

"But this is not an ideal world. And for at least some students, a more effective way to achieve an ideal end is to offer them an education separate from the other sex for at least a portion of their schooling."

For girls, an all-female setting gives them more confidence and provides them with more leadership opportunities, research has found. For boys, an all-male setting encourages them to participate in the arts and volunteer in their communities, research indicates.

"Most people will view single-sex schools as academically tougher, more rigorous, probably more effective but perhaps less enjoyable than coed schools," said Cornelius Riordan, a Providence College sociology professor who has conducted studies on single-sex instruction.

Mr. Riordan made those comments yesterday at a single-sex instruction seminar hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. The seminar comes a week before Education Secretary Rod Paige is expected to issue new guidelines on single-sex classes and schools under President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" Act.

The new legislation includes single-sex schools and classes among the innovations that may be funded under the federal local-innovation program. Same-sex instruction has repeatedly come under fire by the National Organization for Women and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Supporters of single-sex instruction who attended the seminar said the new law gives local school districts a chance to look into different options that could help those students who cannot afford to pay private school tuition or who don't want to attend public schools.

"There is so much distraction today in public schools that students lose sight as to why they're really at school," said Susan Rollin, a single mother of four from Albany, N.Y., who recently won a lottery to send her youngest child to a same-sex school.

There are currently 11 public or charter schools that are exclusively single-sex or offer same-sex classes.

Class sizes are typically smaller in same-sex schools, making it easier for teachers to give individual attention to students who need it. Also, school days are longer by at least two hours, and children are required to wear uniforms to class.

Tynisha Smalls, a senior who attends the Young Women's Leadership Institute in Harlem, N.Y., said she chose to go to an all-girls school because the classes were smaller and offered a better opportunity to know all the students at the school.

"The experience definitely made me a better person," Miss Smalls said. "This school has made me grow and feel more confident and comfortable with myself."

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