Principal Sherrod Willaford reported that the first couple of months of a single gender classroom pilot program at C.J. Hicks Elementary was "off to a flying start."
"When we speak of gender, we're not speaking of promoting stereotypes," said Willaford, who spoke at the Nov. 19 Board of Education meeting. "We're speaking of brain-based and differentiated learning."
"In a single gender classroom, boys and girls learn the same standards, but the delivery of the lesson may be different as the teachers may use different activities to relate the lesson," explained Willaford.
The school has about 80 girls and 80 boys participating in two single gender classrooms per grade in grades 2 through 5. C.J. Hicks instituted the program after receiving a warm reception to the idea from surveys of parents and teachers.
Willaford said since the program began, there has been a downward trend in the number of disciplinary actions and an upward rise in the number of students meeting standards in math and reading, although the boys still have three times as many infractions as the girls and the girls continue to outperform the boys academically.
In a video clip played at the meeting, student Simona Barcus said single-gender classrooms worked for her because, "I don't have to be afraid that if I say something the boys will laugh at me."
A male student, Dashawn Gilliam, said that not having girls in the classroom asking all the questions allowed boys to ask questions.
The school is looking at instituting single gender classrooms at the pre-k and kindergarten level next year and bringing gender brain-based professional development to the co-ed teachers as well.
"It was a no brainer for us, no pun intended, to do whatever it takes to help our students get every advantage that they can," said Willaford.
He said that under No Child Left Behind, single-gender classrooms are legal as long as the there is a rational for them, that the program is voluntary, equal for boys and girls, a co-ed option is available and that the program would be evaluated every two years.
Nancie Greene contributed to reporting this article.