Assignment: Education-Single-Gender Classroom Expansion

Asking questions, sharing ideas and making choices is a big part of high school education. At Central High School, students are given a choice in their education that is rare among school's across the country.

Opting to take an all-girls freshman English class is that choice... as there are only 12 other schools across the state that have reported offering single-gender classes.

"I thought that it would be easier for me to be with all the girls," said Kabao Yang, Central High School sophomore. "And when you're with all the girls it's easier to concentrate and it's easier for you to be yourself around the girls."

Kabao took the all-girls ninth grade English class last year. And, along with her peers, really enjoyed it.

"Not to be sexist, but boys are distracting," said Heidi Kramer, Central High School sophomore, "and they are obnoxious sometimes especially when something sensitive comes up."

"I think girls get the confidence they need to succeed later in high school in co-ed classes," said Susan Beauchamp, Central High School English teacher. "They feel more comfortable around the other girls... the other students. And more ready to speak up and speak their minds."

For the second straight year, Central High School is once again offering an all-girls and an all-boys English 9 class. And while the all-boys English class isn't as popular, the boys who are taking the class this year find it just as rewarding.

"I've actually gotten better grades in this class than in other classes," said Zack Brady, Central High School freshman. "I usually get most of the material better in this class because I'm less distracted, and he teaches differently than other teachers do."

That's because the teaching methods are specifically geared towards boys or girls. However, the material and requirements are the same.

"There is no difference in the curriculum," said Jeff Fleig, Central High School associate principal. "They're still getting the... English 9 is still getting English 9 curriculum. It's not any easier. It's not any harder."

And last year's tests show the students are learning the material better.

"We did do some testing pre and post and we did see a significant increase," said Beauchamp.

"The boys had the largest jump in terms of reading comprehension and fluency on this nationally-normed assessment which was exciting for us," said Fleig.

Last year's single-gender English 9 pilot program was such a success that through the requests of students and the interests of additional teachers, the administration decided to add more single-gender classrooms in additional subjects.

"We have three sections of all-girls weight training; two this semester, one next semester. For the incoming freshman, we offered Algebra 1. And we have one section of all girls roughly about 28 students," said Fleig

This year, upperclassmen are included in the single-gender classroom choices. The all-girls weight training class is offered to students in grades ten through 12. And the decision to join didn't weigh too heavily on the 72 students who signed up.

"I think I was more comfortable weight training with just girls," said Hannah Carlson, Central High School junior. "Cause I know I can get kind of uncomfortable when boys are there watching you."

And being among peers of the same gender is offering some students a little extra strength to tackle specific subjects.

"I think now in school we're a little more cognoscente of students fitting in," said Fleig. "We want them to feel part of the school community. We want them to feel comfortable here. And this is a way to offer them something they can become engaged in."

And if students are engaged, they're asking questions, sharing ideas and making choices... which encourages the learning.

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