April 8, 2009

All Girls School Or Coed? Which Is Better?

"Graduates of all-girls schools show stronger academic orientations than coed graduates."  What?

The study is one of the largest of its kind.  It also addresses a crucial flaw in many other studies, by comparing single sex schools to coed private schools, eliminating the "private is better" confounding variable.

6500 women from 225 single sex high schools compared to 15000 women in 1200 coed private high schools, across the country.  It also separates out the Catholic schools, and controls for race, income, etc, etc. 

  • 62 percent of s-s students spend 11 hours or more per week studying, compared to 42% of coed school's female students.
  • 81 percent of s-s women graduates rate themselves "above average" or in the "highest 10 percent" for academic ability, compared to 75% of coed women graduates.
  • 60 percent of s-s women rate themselves "above average" or in the "highest 10 percent"with regard to intellectual self-confidence, compared to 54 percent of coed women.
  • 48 percent of female graduates of s-s women rate their math ability "above average" or in the "highest 10 percent" compared to 37 percent of coeds.

Two seconds spent staring at this lead to the obvious question:  are they better students, or worse students who are also delusional?  If they spent 11 hours or more studying, was it worth it?

Higher SAT Scores. Women who attended single-sex schools tended to outscore their coeducational counter-parts on the SAT. Mean SAT composite scores (Verbal plus Math) are 43 points higher for single-sex graduates.

I'm not sure if that was meant to be a joke or not. 43 points may be a lot (which it isn't) but it's hardly reason for a group of students to have such a bloated sense of self-esteem that they consider themselves in the top 10% (I look forward to your emails.)  Or, the reverse: 43 points is hardly a reason for another group of students not to have an bloated sense of self-esteem.

Clearly, there is merit in fostering intellectually curiosity and ambition, but things like this:

Single-sex graduates also report more time talking with teachers outside of class, where 37 percent of single-sex graduates reported spending three or more hours per week meeting with teachers apart from class

Seem to me a solid reason to home school.

My point here is not to disparage single sex schools, there may be/are excellent reasons to send a kid to a single sex school.  It simply appears, based on this, one of the largest and most important studies on the question, that self-esteem goes up disproportionately to any concrete metric of achievement.  Contrasting opinions/information are welcome.  I am entirely ambivalent on the question of same-sex education; my own was vigorously no sex, with the resultant negative effects on my own self-esteem.  Now I write a blog.  Plan accordingly.




If single-sex high schools ... (Below threshold)

April 8, 2009 12:44 PM | Posted by Anonymous Chauvinist: | Reply

If single-sex high schools are anything like single-sex colleges, the poor girls are probably being constantly bombarded with "bold, beautiful $SCHOOL women" messages. (My model here is Barnard, Columbia's little sister, and notorious holder of a perpetual inferiority complex.) No wonder if they get swelled heads…

Q: How many Barnard girls does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: That's Barnard women, and it's not funny!

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this time I don't agree.<br... (Below threshold)

April 8, 2009 3:17 PM | Posted by Trei: | Reply

this time I don't agree.
unless you also have a study that proves SAT goes straight into success - in the real world. getting into a fancy school is still within fairyland of adolescence.
on the other hand, self-belief (even if it's not based on actually being great) does not mean narcissim or delusion. it may simply be drive, ambition, trying to make it by your own instead of settling. self-esteem is good. I'll give my great actual results for great self-esteem any day! self-doubt lock you in, self-esteem pushes you out, up, ahead.

of course, this doesn't apply if you're actually a moron.

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Here is something that migh... (Below threshold)

April 8, 2009 3:48 PM | Posted by Dr X: | Reply

Here is something that might make for an interesting retrospective study. Look at students educated in urban and suburban Catholic schools of the 1960s.

When I attended such a school in NY, each grade of students was divided into three classes beginning in the first grade--an all boys class, an all girls class and a coed class. This arrangement was common practice in area Catholic schools. Students were supposedly assigned randomly to classes (school officials did not know us before we were assigned to our first class) which removes the self-selection bias. With very few exceptions, we all stayed with our 1st grade classmates throughout all 8 grades. 40-50 years later, it might be interesting to look at some outcome measures for educational and occupational success.

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"Seem to me a solid reason ... (Below threshold)

April 9, 2009 4:38 AM | Posted by Dymphna: | Reply

"Seem to me a solid reason to home school."

Inadvertent homeschooler here. eg: We moved to a place only to discover that the local schools sucked ass.

Fast forward 4 years: we took Little Feynman to "freshman orientation" at the local highschool (new town). LF sat through the entire program, then turned to me and said "I thought this stuff only existed in the movies. I guess stereotypes have to come from *somewhere*."


LF is staying home for highschool. And his self-esteem and academics are just fine.

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Perhaps the SS graduates di... (Below threshold)

April 9, 2009 5:47 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Perhaps the SS graduates didn't have an inflated esteem, perhaps females from coed schools have reduced esteem? I think it is healthy narcissism to rate yourself as having high intelligence/academic success, assuming you also do things to justify this (e.g. study hard, take an interest in a subject(s), generally do things to substantiate your intellectual confidence). These students are committed to their studies it seems.
It would be pathologically narcissist to fancy yourself a super genius but do nothing besides flap your gums to justify the idea.

Being female, and knowing what it was like to be in school, I think it is more likely that the SS grads had more healthy esteem in their intelligence. Women aren't supposed to think, says the subconscious vibes of a lot of old peeps.

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I think it is heal... (Below threshold)

April 9, 2009 12:29 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Andrea Harris: | Reply

I think it is healthy narcissism to rate yourself as having high intelligence/academic success, assuming you also do things to justify this (e.g. study hard, take an interest in a subject(s), generally do things to substantiate your intellectual confidence).

Isn't "healthy narcissism" an oxymoron? Leaving that aside, is there really a correspondence between high self-regard (which is what self-esteem really is these days) and intelligence? I've known plenty of frankly stupid people who had a greatly inflated opinion of themselves. Most criminals are not suffering from low self-esteem but rather a swollen sense of entitlement coupled with lack of esteem for others, and this attitude has become almost completely accepted as right and proper by the law-abiding population.

If you look back in history you find that most of the people we now look upon as geniuses were almost inconceivably modest about their own intelligence and achievements. They would have had little patience for today's brains-in-training, who are taught to believe that having straight A's is a fine substitute for good manners. The reasoning behind the new fad for same-sex education is in part the nostalgia for the orderly days of eld where womens' colleges like Smith and Vassar (supposedly) turned out brilliant ladies by the cartload, and is a reaction against the decadent free-for-alls that seems to result in nothing but apprentice whores with multiple facial piercings, but what people don't want to acknowledge is the fact that in those old days people were expected to put others ahead of themselves, and the contemporary notion of individual freedom being the right to behave however you damn well please no matter what the old squares think was discouraged. Narcissism was on its way but it hadn't yet taken over every single facet of society.

Being female, and knowing what it was like to be in school, I think it is more likely that the SS grads had more healthy esteem in their intelligence. Women aren't supposed to think, says the subconscious vibes of a lot of old peeps.

I don't know where and when you went to school, but I'm in my mid-forties, and went to school in the 60s and 70s. I heard a lot about how girls and women were oppressed by old white men who wanted us to stay stupid and barefoot in the kitchen, but never experienced that sort of treatment directly -- on the contrary, it was assumed by my parents that I would excel in school, go on to college, and have a career, with marriage and kids barely mentioned. And it was the same for my friends and most of the other girls in my school, and certainly no teacher (I went to public school after a first year in private, and always coed) would ever dare to disparage the thinking powers of the female brain. And in any case there are hardly any "old peeps" old enough still living who think that way, at least not in the US.

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I'm not clear why we're all... (Below threshold)

April 9, 2009 4:57 PM | Posted by Jim: | Reply

I'm not clear why we're all dismissing the data on SAT scores? It seems like students in single sex school are scoring about half a standard deviation higher in composite score, and more than half a standard deviation higher in math.

Also I think we're all considering this study out-of-context. I don't think it matters so much that students have inflated egos or not. These are teenagers; they're supposed to be narcissistic.

What I think is interesting is that single-sex education seems to increase girls' desire to enter into traditionally male areas; law, engineering, etc. If you read the career goals section, this is determined to be true. While we could argue about whether girls from single sex school perform better academically (which this study shows, even if it is a modest difference), I think we should also consider that the social environment in single-sex schools may be freeing for some girls.

Furthermore, a full understanding of the academic benefits of a single-sex school should probably include a longitudinal aspect. I think that there are probably a lot of girls who are doing well in school in elementary, but then when social pressures increase in middle school and high school, they start caring less about school. We should look at the top performers in elementary and follow their performance through mixed and single-sex schools.

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The stories I'm reading the... (Below threshold)

April 9, 2009 10:32 PM | Posted by information addict: | Reply

The stories I'm reading these days relate to how boys are doing so much more poorly in school than in the past, thanks to the "feminization " of education. Boys and girls do have different brains and the education systems of Canada and the US specifically have drifted towards methods that favour a girl's way of learning. Have a look at Leonard Sax and Michael Gurian... (good quality research or not? I don't know but it resonates with me) Anyway that is beside the point of this post, just thought I'd throw that in.

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Regardless of what caused i... (Below threshold)

April 13, 2009 5:59 PM | Posted by judy: | Reply

Regardless of what caused it, the more abundant self confidence that the girls in the single sex programs have is going to do them far more good later in life than 43 points on the SAT.

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plz email me back to tell m... (Below threshold)

May 13, 2009 1:01 PM | Posted by assistant editor: | Reply

plz email me back to tell me where you got the quotes you used.

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As a girl who has gone to b... (Below threshold)

August 22, 2009 2:18 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

As a girl who has gone to both a single sex and coed school, I have to say that there is a difference. I went coed first and I loved my time there, but after going to single sex it was very different. I think that once girls don't have boys in the classroom they tend to participate more. Girls are generally self conscious and they can get scared at times to volunteer in class or go to the teacher for help because they might seem "dumb" to the boys. Girls got distracted easily by the boys in the classroom because the boys tended to try and get attention (ie. make jokes, flirt with the teacher etc...). Once I went to an all girls school and that fear was removed I noticed that girls tended to volunteer more and by answering questions correctly in class that they might have been scared to answer in front of boys they gained self confidence. That gained self confidence is probably why the girls rated themselves higher, not because they were vain. At a single sex school you never had to try to impress anyone in the classroom and so you took "chances" like volunteering in class and whenever you got the answer right and were commended for it, your self esteem grew. When you think about that it's actually a good thing. I think that going to an all girls school has made me more independent and ambitious and it definitely made me (and I'm sure other girls) realize that girls can excel just as much as guys can. I'm not saying that coed schools don't do that, but I just feel that by going to single sex it helps you to cultivate your strengths by taking away the pressure that young adults feel when surrounded by the opposite sex. That being said I also believe that going to a single sex school you miss out on some life experiences that you would gain by going to a coed school. I feel that single sex schools shelter you for a time so you can grow and explore independently, but coed schools show you better what the real world is like.

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I've studied in both s-s an... (Below threshold)

May 29, 2011 8:46 AM | Posted by Sunayan Nath: | Reply

I've studied in both s-s and co-ed school and what i personally feel and recommend is that children should get their early education in a single sex school as they gain more self-confidence and show better participation. Academic performance is greater than seeing the real world and a s-s school provide that in a better way. Studies are more important than anything else and in a co-ed school there are a lot of topics to discuss among friends other than studies. Also, sometimes, fights and quarrels are common between friends because of girls.You cannot give a proper response to teacher if a question is asked from you.So i suggest that s-s schools are better for the primary education of children.

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