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Morning Shots

Single-Sex is Best–Sometimes (Peter West)

“Should I put my child in a single-sex or coeducational school?” Every few weeks I get asked this question.

Here is a recent example:

Dear Dr West

I am the mother of three boys. I am worried about my youngest son, who is bored at school. We have a couple of choices: a boys’ only school, or a co-educational school.

I feel a co-ed school would help him socialise with girls. There are no females in the family (apart from myself and the very dead goldfish!). On the other hand, a boys-only school might be better academically. I want what is educationally best for him – academically and socially. I am writing to ask whether research has shown one form of schooling to be better than the other for boys. And are young boys better off in single sex schools?

This letter was emailed to me recently, though identifying names have been removed. It is typical of many enquiries. What this mother wants to know is the balance of the equation. There may be academic advantages in putting her son in a single-sex school. But she knows there are social advantages to be gained from spending his day with girls.

This mother has a good understanding of the literature, which states that there CAN be advantages in educating boys in a same-sex environment. As girls volunteer more, and speak up more often, boys will often let girls lead a discussion. I see this happen very often in university tutorials. Boys watch how the arguments go, then wade in with an attempt to sum up. They would learn more if girls were not there doing all the useful work which got the discussion going.

On the other hand, it is argued that girls settle down to work more effectively if there are no boys present.

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Being Clear About Where Schools are Heading (Joe Nathan)

How’s this for guts? The Cincinnati, Ohio Public Schools have just adopted a plan describing in clear, ambitious detail, their goals for the next five years. It’s a bold, important document, one that communities all over the country can learn from. Even districts with higher achievement than Cincinnati may gain from studying their easily understood, concrete goals.

Cincinnati’s strategic plan describes where the district was in the 2004-05 school year, and where it wants to be by the 2010-11 school year. For example:

  • High school graduation rate: 77 percent of 9th graders who entered four years earlier graduated in 2004-2005. That’s up just over half in the 2000-2001 school year. But the district rightly is not satisfied, and wants to achieve 95 percent by 2010-11.
  • College entrance tests: Most recent figures available show that 53 percent of CPS students take college entrance tests. The district wants to increase that to 75 percent. The district also wants to increase the average students’ score on the ACT from 20 to 23, and the average combined score on the SAT from 869 to 1000.
  • Rigorous high school courses: CPS wants to increase the percentage of students taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college level courses from 18 percent to 30 percent.
  • Kindergarten readiness: The district aims to increase the number of kindergarten students "on track" from 49 percent to 59 percent.

These are examples of 16 different indicators that the school board has adopted. This is a great example of using various assessments to measure progress. (You can see the full plan here.)

Over the last five years, our Center, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has worked with Cincinnati’s high schools, helping them increase graduation rates, test scores and attendance. But I was not involved in the creation of the district strategic

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The View from Behind the Counter (John Dewey)

Regular Edspresso readers know "John Dewey" is working towards certification as a math teacher.  Click for his first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth columns.  As always, he prefers to remain anonymous. -ed

Exalted Readers:

Greetings and thanks to my many fans and well-wishers for their undying support, encouragement, wisdom and guidance.  I am happy to say that my Math Teaching Methods, Part I is at long last over.  For those of you wondering how I’ve done, I’m getting an A in the course.  I have not kept secret from the teacher my opinions of how math should be taught and though we disagree, he has offered me this final email message: “I have very much enjoyed sharing the classroom with you.  Your insights and comments have been extremely valuable, and your willingness to communicate your point of view has served as model behavior for your classmates.  Thank you very much.”

There are some positive aspects to Mr. NCTM I’d like to mention.  He has had 30 years of experience teaching high school math, knows quite a bit of math, has a good sense of humor, and has provided my class excellent advice regarding classroom management issues, and other things such as how much material to cover in one lesson plan, and what concepts students find difficult.  Our difference in opinions has not influenced the grading of any of my work.  (Note: He does not yet know about this column, so if you wish to tell him about it, please wait until after the grade is in the transcript.)

My classmates are quite bright, and if I led you to believe they are all dyed-in-the-wool constructivists, let me set the record straight.  Only one

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