Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Transition to College and Single-Sex vs. Coed High Schools

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Are sex-segregated schools and classrooms an antidote to gender inequities of do they reinforce sex-based stereotypes and make the gender gap worse?

We actually do not know and everything on the subject will suggest more longitudinal research be done, but for now, it looks like girls graduating from single-sex high schools are doing better than girls coming from coeducational high schools, at least at the point when they enter college.

A new report about Women Graduates of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools was just published by Linda J. Sax from the Sudikoff Family Institute for Education & New Media, using data from the Freshman Survey, an annual nationwide study of students entering college. This report is based on the answers to the survey from 6,552 women graduates of 225 private single-sex high schools and 14,684 women who graduated from 1,169 private coed high schools.

Here are the key findings. Women graduates of single-sex private schools:
  • are more academically engaged (measured by time spent doing homework, studying with other students, tutoring other students, and talking with teachers outside of class);
  • tend to get higher SAT composite scores (verbal + math);
  • are slightly more likely than those who attended coed private schools to say they intend to go one to graduate school;
  • tend to exhibit slightly higher levels of academic self-confidence, particularly related to writing and public speaking;
  • arrive at college with greater confidence in their mathematical and computer abilities;
  • are more likely to plan to become engineers;
  • are more likely to intend to become involved in school clubs and student groups; and
  • are more likely to discuss politics.
These results seem pretty clear to me, and are stronger because the data compares women graduates from same-sex and coed private schools, getting rid of the noise related to the background characteristics.
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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