As a part of his annual report, Equity Coordinator Shawn Schmidli on Tuesday presented data to the Flagler County School Board, suggesting that in each grade, students in single-sex classrooms proved more likely to make learning gains. But the most striking increase came in middle school classrooms.
In an all-male, seventh-grade class at Indian Trails Middle School, 100% of the students made learning gains over the year. In a similar female class, 73% of students made learning gains.
In both classes, students scored higher on their FCATs than students in traditional classrooms. Overall, 74% of seventh-grade girls at Indian Trails scored a 3 or higher on the reading test; in the single-sex classroom, 79% of girls did.
Similarly, 79% of male seventh-grade students at Indian Trails scored a 3 or higher. In the single-sex classroom, 100% did.
“Do you think those boys are a little bit distracted?” School Board member Colleen Conklin asked.
At Bunnell Elementary School, where single-sex classrooms were first implemented in 2011, a kindergarten class of all girls saw an increase of 11.92 in their probability of success, according to Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading scores. In traditional classrooms, female students saw an increase of 10.07 points.
In an all-male kindergarten classroom, students saw a 12.93 increase in probability of success, compared to a 10.26 score for all boys in the school. The numbers grew from there.
Schmidli’s report was for information only, a required portion of his equity report. Federal law allows single-sex classrooms, but only if school districts review their program every two years to ensure that the segregation is not propagating gender inequality. Districts must also offer coed options and provide a proper rationale for the single-sex classrooms.
Supporters of such programs say they allow teachers to cater to the different learning styles of male and female students, though critics are quick to jump on that reasoning as a propagation of gender myth.
A 1993 American University study showed that boys’ classroom comments were valued more highly than girls’ comments because teachers would respond to girls with a nod, while correcting or further interacting with boys, according to the National Education Association. However, the same study found that boys were more frequently disciplined, suggesting that separation might be ideal.
However, a 1997 American Association of University Women study found that good elements of education, such as small class sizes and good teachers, are more important to a student’s overall success than single-sex classrooms.
The American Civil Liberties Union is also opposed to single-sex classrooms, urging schools to "teach kids, not stereotypes."
Achievement gap shrinking
Minority students’ participation in honors classes and other advance programs is increasing, according to an equity report presented to the School Board on Tuesday.
The only area that saw major declines in enrollment numbers — for both black and white students — was for level 3 courses, but that is not because students are taking fewer high-level courses and instead because the state reclassified many of those courses as honors courses, Schmidli said.
Schmidli presents an equity report annually in part to monitor the district’s efforts to close the achievement gap between white and minority students.
And the data point in the right direction, Schmidli said. In the 2008-2009 school year, 30% of white students, 19% of black students and 27% of Hispanic students took honors courses. Last year, the numbers increased to 38% white, 28% black and 42% Hispanic.