Head 2 Head: A Co-ed Quandary

Do boys need girls in the classroom? The risks and benefits of single-sex education.

By Rachel Mahan, published November 1, 2008 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

All-boys public schools? Instead of paying private-school prices for gender segregation, some parents now have the option of choosing single-sex public schools and classrooms. But some research suggests that both girls and boys benefit academically when there are girls in class. One Israeli study found that a higher female ratio meant higher student achievement and less teacher burnout in primary, middle, and high schools. So why segregate?

Are there advantages to keeping boys separate in school?

YES: [When we switched to single-sex classrooms,] the guys really came together. They worked, their guards came down, they revealed the really caring and nurturing side of themselves. Once we removed the girls from the equation, all of this "I'm this big tough guy" stuff just completely disappeared. One time we had a co-ed lunch, and it was a disaster. We had guys talking loud and girls being extra sassy. —Deland McCullough is the principal of the Harmony Community School serving grades 7-12 in Cincinnati.

NO: The more girls there are, the fewer fights there are among students in the school. The more girls, the less disruption there is during lessons. The more girls, the more relaxed the learning environment, the better relationships between students, the better relationships between students and their teachers. Having girls around leads to more cooperation. —Victor Lavy researches the economics of education at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.