Gender gaps in educational outcomes are a matter of real and growing concern. We’ve known for a long time, since the 1970s, that girls outscore boys in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading tests, while boys tend to outperform girls in math and science.
Boys are increasingly less likely than girls to attend college and to receive a bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile, female college students continue to be underrepresented in such technical fields as engineering and computer science.
One popular, if controversial, response to these patterns has been a renewed push for single-sex education - an effort that has drawn support from across political divides. An amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act authorizing the creation of single-sex public schools was sponsored by Republican senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, but the measure passed in large part due to the support of Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, a Wellesley College graduate grateful for her opportunity to attend one of the country’s premier women’s colleges. (“Wellesley nurtured, challenged, and guided me,”she declared in her 1992 Commencement Day speech.) The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education reports that, as of April 2006, at least 223 public schools in the United States were offering gender-separate educational opportunities, up from just 4 in 1998. Although most were coeducational schools with single-sex classrooms, 44 were wholly single-sex.