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Published: Tuesday, 7/4/2006

Single-gender schools

TOLEDO's single-gender schools are generating interest around Ohio and elsewhere. Now Michigan is considering all-girls and all-boys' schools. That's pretty solid evidence that it was an excellent idea in the first place.

Stewart Academy for Girls and Lincoln Academy for Boys suggest that innovation in education works. While school officials from throughout Ohio and even Japan have visited the academies, Michigan legislators have amended their civil rights law to allow for single-gender schools. Gov. Jennifer Granholm also supports the idea. The Michigan House approved the legislation.

Both Toledo schools have progressed since they opened three years ago. Female students' performance improved significantly in the second year: almost 90 percent of the girls achieved a proficient or better rating in reading, at least 80 percent were proficient in writing, and nearly 60 percent were proficient in math.

The male students began to show academic improvement this last school year. That, however, is not totally the students' fault. Administrators know, and research confirms, that consistent leadership and staffing have a direct bearing on student performance, and that consistency was lacking at Lincoln.

The single-gender debate has its naysayers, and critics may be right that most studies on the subject focus on private, not public, schools. But improvements among students at Stewart and Lincoln allay the notion that public school students, especially in urban areas, can't benefit.

Stewart Academy Principal William Keaton wants Michigan educators to know what important elements work. Some of the 97 factors that he says are keys to success are also prevalent in private schools.

That's the whole point in school innovation: to challenge public school leaders and public officials to do what it takes to make public schools effective.

Michigan deserves credit for taking steps to copy what seems to be working at Stewart and Lincoln.

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