The Never-Ending Controversy Over Same-Sex Education

    04 June, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

    Should girls go to school only with other girls? Is it better for boys to attend all boys schools? Educators at school for girls in Washington D.C. believe children in classes of the same sex do better, but other experts say there is no real evidence to support that idea. They believe there are other more important things that make a school effective.

    Excel Academy is the first all-girl school in Washington, D.C. that is independently operated and supported by taxpayers. It was established in 2007 and opened its doors in 2008.

    The Never-Ending Controversy Over Same-Sex Education
    Students at the all-girl Excel Academy in Washington, D.C. (J. Taboh/VOA)

    One of its students is Anyreah Clavijo who is 10 years old. Anyreah attended kindergarten in a classroom with boys. She says boys have different interests than girls. She has now been at Excel for the last five years and praises it.

    "They would like support me and tell me that I can do it. They make me feel like I'm loved and that I'm the smartest person in the world," Anyreah said.

    The Excel Academy provides free education to children from families without much money. It serves more than 600 girls from preschool, the youngest children to grade five. Three meals are served each day.

    Kaye Savage established the school and leads it as its chief executive officer. She says that when boys and girls are taught together, the teachers teach for the boys. She says boys are a little louder and much more active than the girls. In her opinion that makes girls second-class citizens in their own classrooms and schools.

    But Galen Sherwin at the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU, disagrees. She says the ACLU thinks that the evidence, in her words, is not really there to support claims that same sex classrooms produce better results.

    "Similarities between boys and girls are much greater and more relevant than any differences. Certainly any differences that exist are not relevant from an educational standpoint," Sherwin said.

    Elaine Weiss is an education expert at the Economic Policy Institute. She believes other considerations besides same sex classes have a bigger effect on children success in school.

    Ms. Weiss says everything that happens in children's early development is important. This includes how their mother's age and felt during pregnancy, and she asks did the child attend a pre-kindergarten program to help get ready for school.

    "They start for example in pre-school, so they're addressing some of that early gap before kids get to kindergarten. They keep their classes relatively small, so that teachers can have a one-on-one conversation and interaction with students. They have enriching after-school opportunities," Weiss said.

    And Anyreah Clavijo is not sure if she will always attend an all-girl program, but she is happy where she is.

    And that's the VOA Learning English Education Report. I'm Bob Doughty.