In 2000, the left-leaning National Institute for Urban School Improvement issued a white paper (maybe rainbow paper is a more apt description) titled “Improving Education: The Promise of Inclusive Schooling.” The paper advocated on behalf of greater diversity in the classroom as a key to a richer, more beneficial learning experience. This is a theme the Obama administration has returned to repeatedly over the last six and a half years.
Yet, the city of Austin, Texas is finding that diversity, at least when it comes to sex, has the opposite effect on scholastic output. Same-gender middle schools in the city’s poorer neighborhoods are improving academic performance — and now, more all-male and all-female campuses are springing up all over the Lone Star State.
In their first year of operation, Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy and Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy met state scholastic standards. Back when the two schools were coeducational, the campuses consistently failed to meet those benchmarks.
“We thought big in envisioning new single-gender schools for two of our middle schools, and now that vision is paying off,” Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz said.
The schools are following the same-sex model set by the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. Opened in 2007, the campus is a perennial top performer, with 100% of its graduates receiving college acceptance letters last year.
Garcia principal Sterlin McGruder said his school’s all-male format helps young men focus. “They don’t have to show out for the opposite sex,” he said of his 400-plus students, who wear coats and ties to class. “There’s a culture of brotherhood.”
Attendance reflects the community’s cohesiveness. Garcia won the middle school fall attendance challenge for Central Texas last year, placing seventh nationally.
Psychologist Michael Thompson said boys are at risk in conventional, mixed classrooms. “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools,” he said. “Boys are treated like defective girls.”
Another education expert has quipped that if current scholastic trends continue, the last male will graduate from college in 2068.
McGruder has found that boys do better with classroom structure. “We zero in on what young men are interested in. They like to move around and be active. We ensure that they have reading and math in the morning and afternoon,” he told Watchdog.org in an interview.
Both Garcia and its female counterpart serve predominantly black and Hispanic populations. Accepting students on a first-come, first-served basis, enrollments are rising, and waiting lists are lengthening.
“It’s a choice for parents,” said McGruder, who previously led an all-male school in Prairie View.
While some U.S. schools have started to blur gender differences by labeling boys and girls “purple penguins” or other sex-less monikers, more Texas districts are finding that segregating by sex enhances the learning environment. Dallas and Fort Worth have opened single-gender campuses; San Antonio public schools are launching their first this year.
A study by Stetson University showed that 37% of boys and 59% of girls in coed classrooms scored “proficient” on Florida state tests, while boys and girls in a single-gendered school scored 86% and 75%, respectively.
Read more by Kenric Ward at Watchdog.com.