Single-sex school bill a bad idea

To the Editor:

I am troubled by news about the H. 137 recently covered in the Dorchester Reporter (“Single-sex schools bill on move”). This bill would permit single-sex public schools in Massachusetts.

Although single-sex schools are currently a choice for parents of private school students, as public schools, they would violate the principles of equity and equality that are at the heart of our public education system. There are three arguments defending the state’s decades-old prohibition of single-sex public schools.

First, there have been numerous reviews of research on single-sex education, and studies of single-sex schools have been mixed at best, generally show little to no benefit in student achievement, and have shown at worst negative outcomes, especially related to the social development of the students.
Second, by creating segregated-gender schools, you create an unequal access to education. For example, we can look to the historical case of Boston Latin School that barred females from attending. This was also my experience as a former teacher at BC High, an all-boys Jesuit school here in Dorchester. I believe the BC High offered an excellent curriculum, great teachers, and a strong mission. However, only males have access to this school.

Finally, as it currently stands, public schools have created single-sex classrooms (here in Boston this includes English High School, the Higginson/Lewis K-8, and it formerly existed at the Nathan Hale Elementary). Schools are still able to create single-sex classrooms for those parents that desire them, without creating fully segregated schools. This permits continued social development between boys and girls and ensures equal access for all students to the schools and their educational programs.

I know the mayor and superintendent desire this legislation, but I am concerned they have not seriously examined the research or weighed the benefits and harms of single-sex public schools, nor do they have much experience teaching in single-sex environments.

-Christopher Martell, Ed.D. Dorchester
The author is a teacher in the Framingham Public Schools and an adjunct professor at Boston University and UMass Boston.