This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.
Many private schools in the United States teach only boys or only girls. But fewer than one-hundred public schools teach boys and girls separately. There are twenty-five single-sex public schools. Seventy-two other public schools offer some classes for only boys or only girls.
The United States government recently announced new rules concerning single-sex education in public schools. These rules were required by legislation Congress approved two years ago. That legislation represented a major change in American education policy. For thirty years, the government generally disapproved of single-sex public schools. A nineteen-seventy-two law banned unequal treatment based on sex, and single-sex schools faced possible legal action.
The new rules permit public schools that teach both boys and girls to offer single-sex classes under three conditions. The first is a good reason for offering the class. For example, if the school wants more girls to study computer science and few girls are doing so, the school could offer a computer science class for only girls. The second condition is that the school must offer a class in the same subject for both girls and boys. The third condition is that the school must examine the need for the single-sex class from time to time.
The new rules also permit single-sex schools — those that teach all boys or all girls. The only condition for operating an all-girls school, for example, is that equal classes and services are offered at other schools nearby. But those other schools do not have to be single-sex. They can have both boys and girls.
Some educators say children can learn better in single-sex schools. Others disagree. Researchers have shown that boys and girls learn information in different ways. However, research about the effects of same-sex schools has shown mixed results.
The United States Department of Education has begun a study of single-sex education. But it will not release any results until two-thousand-six. The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education says that some American educators are not waiting for these results. Officials say that ten new single-sex public schools will open in September.
This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.