A University of Wisconsin-Madison study challenges the benefits of all-boys or all-girls education in public schools.
Although not widely used in Wisconsin, some districts have expanded single-gender classrooms over the years. The school district of Beloit has had voluntary all-girls or all-boys classrooms since 2007, and single-gender classes are now available in two of 10 Beloit elementary schools. Sam Carter is principal at one of them, Robinson Elementary. He said the curriculum remains the same, but the teaching style is different depending on gender. Carter said girls may answer questions more when boys aren't there.
As for boys: “[In] programs such as music, they're not afraid to sing, because there's no girls in the class,” Carter said. “So we see a lot of benefits for students who feel more comfortable in that environment.”
However, a new study on single-sex schooling published in the online journal Psychological Bulletin  finds little evidence of educational or social benefits. UW-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde reviewed existing academic studies. Hyde said many claims didn't hold up: Girls don't necessarily do better in math and science without boys in the classroom, and boys don't necessarily become more verbal when the girls are gone. Furthermore, it can be costly to have separate classrooms.
“It's really quite unwieldy, particularly [for] public schools that are using taxpayer dollars,” Hyde said. “They should do this if there's a demonstrated educational benefit to these single-sex configurations, and there isn't.”
Single-sex classes were also tried in the Barron Area School District. They stopped after low participation. In recent years, the American Civil Liberties Union has asked federal education officials to investigate whether there's discrimination as a result of single-sex classrooms.