The Washington Post reports that there are more single sex classrooms in this country. 500+ public schools will offer some single sex classrooms this fall, compared to earlier this decade. The schools cite "No Child Left Behind" as providing some legal cover.
It's good that schools are freer to experiment with alternative formats than before. Single sex environments are definitely good for some children and/or grades. It is patently obvious that puberty complicates learning. With raging hormones and the opposite sex close by, adolescents often have difficulties focusing on the lesson plan. It is no wonder that many Americans find the middle school years a confusing and chaotic time. High school and elementary schools are often remembered fondly, but not middle school.
This is not generally the experience in countries with single sex middle schools. I went to middle school outside the United States. My middle school separated the classrooms by gender. With an all-boy classroom, there was less acting up. Boys respond better to force and harsh language as reprimands, whereas girls, by nature or nurture, may take the punishment more personally, inhibiting the behavior adjustment necessary. With the single-sex classrooms, the teachers could tailor their disciplines to the group at hand. The classrooms were generally orderly, and students worked harder at their lessons. The school ensured equal treatment by having all teachers teach both girl and boy classes in their subject specialties.
Some people may raise the point that, we live in an integrated society now, where we need to learn to deal with the opposite gender in all aspects of our lives. To that, I say, so? There is plenty of time for kids to do so in elementary and high school. Failing all that, they can find out in college and beyond. Single gender classrooms does not preclude integrated club activities. Classroom is supposed to be serious, and clubs not so. A single sex classroom makes it easier to enforce discipline.
Besides, the current laissez-faire approach to teaching inter-gender relationship in the US leaves a lot to be desired. A little bit of gender relation protoccol training will make everyone more efficient in navigating gender relationships.
PS: 17JUN08 I know that I am exhibiting a lot of heterosexual bias here. However, as heterosexual children outnumber the other orientations, I choose to focus on the majority needs.
In addition, I note that special ed will probably be co-ed due to resource constraints.