I never attended a single-sex school, but it doesn't surprise me that single-sex education works well for many types of students. I'm glad that the federal government has decided that single-sex schools aren't inherently discriminatory, and I hope that those students who would benefit from such an environment will be given the opportunity.

The government's long war against single-sex schooling ended Tuesday, when the Department of Education published rules that will make it easier for public educators to offer girls-only and boys-only schools or classes without running afoul of Title IX. That section of the 1972 Education Act barred sex discrimination in all education programs and activities that receive federal funding. While it most famously kicked doors open for female college athletes, it also compelled men-only public universities to admit women.

More recently, however, Title IX has been used to bludgeon elementary- and secondary-school educators who are trying to improve learning opportunities for girls, as well as boys. Inspired by evidence that some children learn better in sex-specific classrooms, more than 240 public and charter schools around the country have begun offering single-sex education (although not all provide it for every course). Most significantly, the typical student is from a low-income, minority family. Parents compete fiercely, often by lottery, for the chance to give their kids the kind of learning environment that wealthier parents regularly pay for at all those single-sex private schools.

Such desperate scrambling might not be necessary if Title IX hadn't banned most single-sex education as discriminatory. The Young Women's Leadership School in East Harlem, which recently sent 100% of its graduating class to college, has thrived largely due to overwhelming community support and political protection--Hillary Clinton is a champion of it--that have kept Title IX watchdogs at bay. The threat of ACLU legal action hangs over all single-sex schools and has kept some from ever opening.

As of this week, however, educators can contemplate opening single-sex schools or classes without running afoul of the law. The Education Department now officially says that Title IX does not make single-sex education discriminatory, so long as it is voluntary and takes place in an environment that also includes comparable coeducational schools and classes.

"Voluntary" for the parents I'd assume, not the students. In any event, what are your experiences with or opinions about single-sex education?



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