As the fall independent school open house season gets underway, how will you narrow your focus on a school that will be the best fit for your child? The Baltimore region has a wide selection of outstanding schools to choose from. From a practical point of view will your child be a better fit for a single sex environment (both boys and girls schools) or a co-ed school?

A great deal of research exits that can provide context to your decision making process and help inform you as you hone in on choosing a school. Let’s begin by looking at the arguments for a girl’s school.

The National Coalition of Girls Schools sums it up best by stating, “Simply put, girls’ schools teach girls that there is enormous potential and power in being a girl.” As you take boys out of the environment, consider that every leadership position, every role in the school musical and every position on each sports team is held by a girl. The classroom dynamics change as the girls are front and center and won’t be overshadowed by boys, particularly in math and science. Thus they have a greater ability to focus on their work. The research backs this up. Girls simply perform better, learn more and graduate with a stronger skill set.

Now we move to the boys schools. The International Boys’ School Coalition argues that boys need specific educational programs that are tailored to their needs and an “environment free of cross-gender distractions.” As you look deeper into the research you come away with a strong sense of the distinct developmental differences and learning styles between boys and girls. Boys schools offer a safe place for a child to move at his own pace and ability without being compared to girls who mature more quickly.

I am a firm believer that the right school exists for your son or daughter. Every child is unique and we as parents need to find a learning environment that best suits their needs and talents. In that regard, a co-ed school has much to offer, from gender diversity to integrated learning, both boys and girls share, learn and compete with one another. Advocates of co-ed schools argue that a diverse gender environment best prepares students for both college (assuming they are not attending a women’s only school) and life after graduation. They believe that co-ed classes benefit social learning by creating the necessary life skills and allow students to adapt better once school is over.

The following national organizations can help you make your decision and provide additional research as to which type of school will be the best fit for your child.

National Coalition of Girls Schools,

International Boys’ School Coalition,

National Association of Independent Schools,

Jonathan Oleisky is president of Kalix Communications