Schools consider single-gender – District would join growing trend of same-sex classes

Some Kershaw County elementary and middle school students could choose to attend single-gender classes by the 2009-10 school year.

District officials are starting discussions now with teachers, parents and students to gauge interest in a single-gender program, which would be tested in the first year at Blaney Elementary and Camden Middle and, possibly, expanded after that.

The school district hopes to make a decision by spring of 2009 on whether to move forward and which grades should be part of the pilot program.

“We’re big supporters in trying to find innovative ways to meet the needs of students,” said Agnes Slayman, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Adopting a single-gender program would not require additional money, she said. But school board members would have to approve it.

The district has spent the past year researching differences in the learning styles of boys and girls, and how single-gender programs could be structured to best benefit students, said Blaney Elementary principal Lisa Carter.

For instance, “girls don’t like loud voices, and if a boy is out of his seat, he’s not misbehaving. That’s how his mind is processing,” she said.

More than 100 schools statewide have single-gender offerings. Another 70 are coming on board in 2008-09, said David Chadwell, single-gender coordinator for the state Department of Education.

In the Midlands, Richland 1 and 2; Lexington 1, 2 and 4; and District 5 of Richland and Lexington Counties already have single-gender programs, which offer boy-only and girl-only classes.

Single-gender classes are good for families, Chadwell said, because parents can decide what’s best for their child.

“It really is based upon the needs of schools and kids,” he said. “Without peer pressure and distractions of the opposite gender, kids can take advantage of instructional strategies that have been around for a while that teachers are able to implement well.”

Elgin resident Robin Willoughby, who has three children in Kershaw County schools and a fourth who will attend, said she is excited about the possibility of single-gender classes.

They “would allow (children) freedom. There is a difference between boys and girls, and they learn differently,” she said. “There’s that boy-girl thing that’s like a distraction for one another.”

Parents will be a big part of the program if it is going to move forward, Blaney Elementary’s Carter said.

“We have to have the parents and students involved,” she said. “It impacts them, and we can’t do anything at school without the parents’ support.”

Reach Riddle at (803) 771-8435.

June 2, 2008  State (published as The State)  
Columbia, South Carolina
Page 5

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