Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

First Advisor

John Kaufhold

Abstract

The gender gap in achievement and the increasing awareness of differences between male and female cognitive development have ignited a growing interest in single-sex education. No Child Left Behind legislation and amendments to Title IX legislation have increased the number of schools in America offering single-sex education.

This 2-year quasi-experimental explanatory mixed methods study explores the impact of single-sex education on an economically disadvantaged school's fifth-grade students' academic gains in mathematics and reading achievement in comparison to their peers in demographically similar coeducational classrooms in the same school.

Quantitative data were collected from standardized state test scores in reading and mathematics for the participating students' fifth-grade year. One year's worth of growth was calculated using the students' prior year's standardized test scores as baseline data. Statistical tests, including univariate ANOVAs, repeated measures ANOVAs, t -tests, and chi-square tests, were used to determine whether there were any statistically significant differences between the various groups' growth in reading or mathematics that could be attributed to the gender composition (coeducational or single-sex) of the classes. In addition, qualitative data were collected through interviews with the participating fifth-grade teachers. The qualitative data explored the teachers' perceptions of how the gender composition of their classrooms impacted their students' growth in reading and mathematics.

Most of the statistical analyses reveal nonsignificant findings regarding the impact of single-sex education on academic gains. However, a deeper exploration of the descriptive statistics and qualitative data supports further research on single-sex education. While not always statistically significant, the single-sex classes tended to make larger gains in both mathematics and reading than the coeducational classes and subgroups. This is especially true for males in reading. Both years of the study revealed higher gains for single-sex males in this subject area. In addition, qualitative data from teacher interviews revealed teachers' support of single-sex education. These teachers believed that single-sex education had a positive impact on student gains in mathematics and reading. They noted that their students seemed more comfortable, asked more questions, and participated more often in single-sex classes.

This study adds to the limited body of research on single-sex education and provides reason to experiment with the strategy; analysis reveals no downside to single-sex education or support for coeducation. It suggests that with larger sample sizes there may be more findings revealing statistically significant differences favoring single-sex classes.