Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Single gender education in Greenville County public schools -pt 2

Left: From my living room wall.


The conservatives in South Carolina never rest. On and on it goes.

However, in fairness, my liberal cousin believes this is a positive thing. We have agreed to disagree:

Single-gender classes growing here

By Lark Reynolds • STAFF WRITER • May 27, 2008

Taylors Elementary School has joined the ranks of Greenville County schools that will offer single-gender classrooms in the next school year.

Taylors is one of a growing number of schools across the state and nation to test the waters of single-gender education.

Critics say the move toward single-gender classrooms will erase the progress that has been made in gender equity in education since the Title IX act was passed in 1972 barring discrimination based on sex in any activity that receives federal money.

Supporters say the initiative takes advantage of natural differences between the ways boys and girls often learn best.
I wrote about this previously, and received emails telling me this was discriminatory and successfully halted in various other localities.

For the most part, no one knows how to proceed, or if this is actually legal.

More than 60 schools in Greenville County have expressed an interest in learning more about single-gender classrooms, according to the state Department of Education. Statewide, 96 schools in 46 districts are offering single-gender classrooms.

One school interested in the change is Blue Ridge Middle School, where parents and teachers attended an informational meeting April 21. Pattie Kellams was one of many parents who had questions.

"I'm a little concerned about the transition of children who are in single-gender classes going into high school, and suddenly, boys and girls are in there together," Kellems said.

South Carolina is considered a pioneer in single-gender public education. Leonard Sax, founder of the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education, said South Carolina is the only state with a full-time state Department of Education position dedicated to single-gender initiatives.

The man who holds that position, David Chadwell, stays busy traveling around the state presenting information to parents and teachers about single-gender classrooms and training educators in how material is best presented in single-gender classrooms.

Sax said providing comprehensive training and support for teachers who will be in single-gender classrooms is crucial to the success of the initiative.

"Simply putting girls in one classroom and boys in another doesn't accomplish very much," Sax said.

Chadwell said the large number of teachers in the state who are already teaching in single-gender classrooms is a valuable asset and a support network for those teachers just beginning to teach in such a classroom.

Calvin Auman, a second-grade teacher at Taylors Elementary who will lead an all-boys class next year, was one of 20 teachers and staff at the school who participated in a training conference earlier this spring in Columbia. He said he learned that boys often respond better in seating arrangements that don't have them face to face, which they can view as confrontational, and that they tend to do well on timed activities because they like the added pressure. Girls tend to prefer the opposite, he said.

Auman said he could identify in himself many of the tendencies boys have in the classroom.

"I remembered myself back in elementary school and thought, 'Man, I wish they would have had this when I was there,' " he said.

Chadwell said one of the most important points to understand about single-gender education is that the tendencies for boys and girls to learn better in differing environments are in no way absolute.

"These are generalized differences," Chadwell said. "This does not mean that all boys learn one way and all girls learn another way." That's why it's important that participation in single-gender classrooms be voluntary, he said.

Chadwell also emphasized that the curriculum for all-girls and all-boys classes is exactly the same. Only the method of teaching it differs.
Where are they getting this "research" from?

I don't like the website, which sounds decidedly conservative and riddled with that Venus and Mars nonsense.

The American Civil Liberties Union has voiced opposition to single-gender classrooms. The organization contends that the brain research upon which such initiatives are based is inconclusive and that "single-sex education fosters sex discrimination" and undermines the achievements of Title IX, according to official comments made to the U.S. Department of Education.

The ACLU said the 2006 amendments to Title IX that have allowed school districts to introduce single-gender classrooms weaken the original intent of the law, which was to ensure gender equality in education. In addition, the organization contended, single-gender education violates the equal protection guarantees of the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

The National Organization for Women also opposes single-gender education on the basis of a lack of available studies that prove single-gender classrooms increase learning. Under such circumstances, NOW President Kim Gandy said, there's no reason to open the door to potential gender discrimination in schools.

"In our decades of experience with gender discrimination, separate is unequal," Gandy said in the statement.

Dan Willingham, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia, cautions against basing differing curricula for boys and girls on brain research.

Willingham said the anatomical differences that can be observed between male and female brains might or might not justify conclusions about how each sex learns. The real justification for trying new things in the classroom needs to be data from the classroom itself.

"You believe or don't believe that an intervention works in a classroom based on data that come from the classroom, not because there is brain research that kind of seems to fit," Willingham said. "

Here in South Carolina, surveys of single-gender participants have yielded positive impressions. Among fifth-graders, 82 percent said learning in a single-gender environment increased their desire to succeed in school, and an identical percentage said it increased their self-confidence.

Wendy Roach said her daughter, who will be in sixth grade at Blue Ridge next year, is excited about the opportunity to be in an all-girls class. Roach said her experience as a teacher has convinced her single-gender classrooms would increase participation for both groups, especially at the middle school age, with hormones starting to kick in.

"When girls a lot of times want to speak up and say something, they're not going to with those males around," Roach said.
Well, I suppose it will be more viscerally pleasant for the gay kids. That's the only good thing I can say about it.

Listening to: Against Me! - Reinventing Axl Rose
via FoxyTunes


JoJo said...

They made noises up here a couple of years ago about trying the single-sex classroom idea but it died a quick death. Our big educational controversy is the "WASL" test, which all kids must pass in order to graduate. So as a result, the teachers spend most of the year teaching to the WASL to ensure everyone passes, instead of following a normal high school curriculum.

La Lubu said...

GAAHHH! I hate that single-sex education (and its ensuing essentialism) is making a comeback! There's one middle school that does that shit here, and it will not be the one my daughter attends.

The rationale here is that boys will have fewer behaviorial problems without the presence of girls. I have a painfully hard time believing that boys educated in an all-male environment are likely to view girls as equals. I have a seriously hard time thinking that they will be open to fully including women in their work environment or social environment. IMO, sex-segregated schools will pave the way towards a reversal of women's gains.

Screw that. And screw using my tax dollars to do it.

Bryce said...

what la lubu said.

but they *are* using my money for it!

ZenDenizen said...

I didn't even realize this was still an issue until I read The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby. Boys get to run around because they dislike structure and girls get more time to communicate and finish multiple choice tests. WTF?

Naomi said...

Co-Ed schools (as we call them in England) - mixed gender are much better Daisy. I definitely agree with you. It's all about equality of the sexes both in schools and then in the workplace!

Revista said...

See I went to an all girl high school and I loved it. That being said, it had nothing to do with girls and boys learning different, just in my school, the female students got opportunities to learn that we might not have gotten otherwise. Several of our girls competed well (and confidentally) in math and science competitions across our school board, our teachers made efforts to find plays featuring a strong cast of women as well as female artists were featured in my art and drama classes, and a variety of personalities traversing different types of 'femininity' (and even masculinity) was allowed to thrive.

Maybe it was just my class. I graduated eight years ago.

I do remember reading Michael Kimmel talking about single gendered classrooms. He thought that they could be good for girls if they offered a resistence to oppression, but bad for boys if the boys' schools just ended up replicating patriachal norms.

Patti Binder said...

I attended an all girls public high school and had a fantastic experience, much for the reasons Revista said. Class President-- a girl, Top Science Student-- a girl, and so on. I think having girl role models as a girl can be really helpful.

Also-- I've heard research quoted that women who attended all women's colleges make more money than their counterparts.

All that said though, it was a choice, I didn't have to go there. I had co-ed alternatives.