Same-sex classes popular as more public schools split up boys and girls


“Stereotyping increases, so we really do have lots of data that [say] it’s just not supported,” she said.

However, proponents have put out their own studies, showing the benefits of separating students by gender. Middleton Heights Elementary cited the research when it first piloted same-sex classes in a few grades. The goal was to address the struggles boys were having in reading.

The idea proved so popular that same-sex classes have expanded throughout the school. Parents can opt out, a choice required by law, if they want their kids in a traditional coed classroom.

In the same-sex classes, teachers use microphones that allow them to electronically adjust the tone of their voice to match the level that research suggests is best for boys. When preparing for a test, the boys might go for a run, or engage in some other activity, while the girls are more likely to do calming exercises, such as yoga.

On a recent tour, Gilbert peeked into a classroom of third grade boys, who had decorated their walls with a camping theme, complete with construction paper campfires and a sign that read “fishing for books.”

Next door, the third-grade girls opted for an “under the sea” motif. When they spotted Gilbert in their classroom doorway, a few of the girls jumped from their seats and ran to give her a quick embrace.

They learn the same curriculum, they still lunch and play at recess together, but the differences in their learning environments are apparent, from the blue chalkboards in the boys’ classrooms, to the red paper hearts that decorated the wall of one of the girls’ classrooms.

These environments are driven by student interests and what they’re learning at the time, Gilbert said.

Dr. Leonard Sax, founder of the Pennsylvania-based National Association for Single Sex Public Education, contends the movement is about breaking down gender stereotypes, not promoting them.

“We want more girls engaged in robotics and computer programming and physics and engineering,” Sax said in a telephone interview. “We want more boys engaged in poetry and creative writing and Spanish language.”

For advocates like Sax, the increase in this form of learning is exciting, but it’s troubling for others.

The ACLU launched a national campaign, Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes, in May and sent cease-and-desist letters to school districts in Maine, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia. The group also asked state officials to investigate single-sex education programs in Florida, while sending public record requests to schools in another five states, including to Gilbert’s school in Idaho.

Doug Bonney is legal director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, where he successfully challenged same-sex classes in Missouri’s Adrian R-III School District. He argues there’s no proof single-sex education works, while there’s plenty of evidence it actually enhances gender stereotypes and leads to sexism.

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