The Role of Single-Sex Education in the Academic Engagement of College-Bound Women: A Multilevel Analysis

Jan. 01, 2013

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 115, No. 1 (January, 2013), p. 1-27.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current study contributes new data to the debate over single-sex education with a focus exclusively on the academic engagement of female students from single-sex and coeducational high schools.

This study compares levels of self-reported academic engagement between female graduates of single-sex and coeducational private high schools using nationwide data on these students at the point of college entry.

Research Questions
This study addresses to three research questions:
(1) How do female graduates of private single-sex and coeducational high schools compare in terms of academic engagement experienced during high school?
(2) To what extent do differences in academic engagement persist after controlling for students’ demographic background and other high school characteristics?
(3) Does school gender mitigate or enhance the association between academic engagement and a student’s race or socioeconomic status?

Data and Sample
This study draws its sample from the 2005 Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey.
The final sample used for this study consists of 6,552 women who graduated from 225 private all-girls high schools and 14,684 women who graduated from 1,169 private coeducational high schools.


This study demonstrates that school gender remains a significant predictor of self-reported academic engagement when controlling for other school characteristics.

The results reveal that women attending all-girls high schools report higher levels of academic engagement across numerous fronts: studying individually or in groups, interacting with teachers, tutoring other students, and getting involved in student organizations.

Such results certainly support the claims of single-sex education advocates who contend that all-female environments provide a unique opportunity for young women to thrive.
However, the results also show that the higher levels of academic engagement observed at single-sex schools are at least partially attributable to other features that differentiate single-sex from coeducational schools.

Because of the limitations of the study, it is difficult to make definitive inferences about the relationship between single- sex education and academic engagement.
Hence, the authors cannot assert with confidence that school gender alone is responsible for higher reported academic engagement.

Updated: Mar. 06, 2013