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But does attending a single-sex school have any advantages?
Many teachers claim this approach is useful, as it is easier to control the discipline.
Experience gives me this information." But Lise Eliot, a Chicago Medical School researcher and a co-author of the Science article, said that gender-based teaching methodologies were unproven and might exacerbate differences. Jackson's findings on girls' coursework in single-sex schools, she said, "raise some concerns about stereotyping of girls." "There aren't many randomized studies, certainly not in the United States, and basically this demonstrated that there wasn't an advantage of single-sex schools," Ms. Schools need to have an "exceedingly persuasive" case for separating students by sex, said Galen Sherwin, a staff lawyer for the ACLU's Women's Rights Project in New York.
While the findings are based on data from one Caribbean nation, experts say they may carry implications for public schools in the United States. The Trinidad and Tobago study, which set out to fill that gap, runs counter to anecdotal evidence of single-sex programs' successes, but may bolster the cases both of opponents and of advocates who say single-sex schools should be a choice for those they do help.
"It's an opportunity," he said, for educators to use different teaching styles that he contends are more suited to boys or to girls.
When asked if those methods were backed by research, he said: "I do not have a scholarly paper that says this.
Also, since curricula in single-gender schools often differ from curricula in coed schools, any academic and social benefits directly caused by the single-sex environment can be difficult to extract. Kirabo Jackson, a labor economist at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., tried to address the troublesome issue of self-selection by situating the investigation in Trinidad and Tobago, where a national curriculum and school application process allowed him to control for students' preference and academic performance.
He analyzed data on 219,849 students from 123 schools to determine whether attending a single-sex school between 6th and 10th grades improved students' performance on 10th grade exams. But an important thing from this study is that not all girls benefited from single-sex schools." He also noted that students in Trinidad's all-girl schools were slightly less likely to take math or science courses.