As of the 2017-18 school year, parents of sixth graders at Parkway Northeast Middle School were given the option to place their child into new single-gender classes, which were being introduced in the math and science departments.
Northeast e-mailed information to parents about the opportunity, stating “Research has shown that during adolescence, girls and boys can benefit from being in single gender settings.”
The debate over whether or not single-gender classrooms actually work has gone on for years. In fact, the National Association for Single Sex Public Education cited that the 34 single-sex classrooms in 2004 grew 25-fold across America over the last 10 years. Though it may be too early in the year to come to a conclusion, several parents were interested in having their children participate.
“I was excited because I’ve worked in a building where they did this,” said ESOL teacher Tricia Frank, whose son has begun middle school in all-male classrooms. “[The e-mail] asked if we wanted to opt out, and I said I really would like to opt in.”
Although Northeast Middle has never attempted dividing classes by gender before, Parkway has had experience in the past. Retired teacher Pam Jennings substitute taught a first grade class of all boys at a Parkway elementary school. After years of teaching children in this age range, she was curious to see if she could see a difference in a single-gender classroom.
“The focus, attention, and the behaviors in the classroom were excellent,” Jennings said. “I thought that the writing skills and the interest levels of the boys in writing stories and doing research was absolutely high level–much higher than I expected it to be.”
Choir teacher Brian Reeves, who also has a son in the single-gender classroom at Northeast, noted that divisions by gender have been standard practice in vocal music.
“We do that in choir. We break out students based on gender because of their voice, so I found that interesting,” he said. “What I find kind of exciting is that some teachers got together, they thought it was a good idea, and Parkway is letting them try it.”
Northeast will need to evaluate how this school year goes, and how the program worked to see if they will continue this program.
“Ultimately what matters is: Are kids learning and getting better at whatever class they are in? If it does that, if the kids learn more, I say great,” said Reeves.
By Tanner Boyd, staff writer