Ms. Kelly Baysura
AT THE SUGGESTION OF MR. CHARLES SEARCY, SCHOOL BOARD CHAIRMAN OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF INDIAN RIVER COUNTY (IRC), WE MET WITH THE THEN-PRINCIPLE OF THE TREASURE COAST ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, KELLY BAYSURA, TO LEARN ABOUT THE CONCEPT OF SINGLE-GENDER SCHOOLING.
Ms. Baysura was selected as IRC principal of 2016 – 2017 school year and in May, 2017 was named to a newly created position as Executive Director of the School District of Indian River County Elementary Programs, where she will oversee grades K-5 curriculum, principals and staff training.
Ms. Baysura has a wealth of knowledge about single-gender schooling, based on her experience when she was the assistant principal of the Fellsmere, FL elementary school, where single-gender schooling was initiated 10 years ago.
“Boys and girls have different levels of brain development,” said Mr. Baysura. “Boys need to move around and girls are more mature at age five.”
She cited a quote from American psychologist Dr. Leonard Sax, and author who “supports the notion of innate differences between the sexes, and advocates parenting children differently based on their gender.” (Wikipedia)
“There are NO differences in what girls and boys and girls can learn. But there are big differences in the best ways to teach them.”
Dr. Sax is the author of Boys Adrift, Girls on the Edge, and Why Gender Matters.
10 years ago the Fellsmere Elementary School gave parents three options. An all boys class, an all girls class or four classes with mixed genders.
Although the data gathered supported that students in single-gender classrooms performed better than in mixed classrooms, the single-gender program ended six years ago with the arrival of a new principal.
Ms. Baysura provided us with a PowerPoint presentation she authored in 2010 on gender differences.
- Girls tend to explain and describe their feelings, while boys find it difficult to express them.
- Girls develop language and fine motor skills about six years earlier than boys, while boys develop targeting and spatial memory about four years earlier than girls.
- Girls friendships are focused on other girls.
- For boys, self-revelation is to be avoided.
- For girls, self-revelation and sharing are a precious part of a friendship.
- Girls ask teachers for help and enjoy a close relationship with them, while boys may not ask for help to avoid being perceived as “sucking up” to a teacher.
- Girls feel “yucky” when faced with treat and confrontation.
- Boys deal with moderate stress well and may actually do better. They want to be alone during stress.
The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education (http:/www.singlesexschools.org/home-introduction.htm) estimated that in the 2011 – 2012 school year approximately 506 public schools offered some form of single gender education.
For the school year 2004-2005 it reported 850 entirely sex public schools.
It is an old approach that’s gaining new momentum. However, as Ms. Baysura points out, single-gender education “always has the potential for debate. You can’t discriminate and can’t force the parents to enroll their children in single-gender classes.”
“Single-gender education gives parents and students choices and a variety of academic experiences, but if you force someone into it the results will not follow. Teachers, parents and students need to believe in it.”
When pupil behavior spiraled out of control in 2000 at Buffalo’s Harriet Ross Tubman School 31, Principal Fatima Morrell established all-boys and all-girls classrooms in grades 7 and 8 as part of her plan to restore order.
According to Ms. Morrell, “Single gender classrooms seem to have increased student focus on learning and academics rather than the adolescent subculture associated with adolescent socialization.” She recommends that American “educators have no other option but to give the single-sex education reform innovation a wholehearted try.”
Now, what statistics have we found that single-sex education increases academic performance?
In South Carolina for the 2009-2010 school year, 160 schools offered single-gender options for students—the highest in the nation—and 100 more were considering doing so for the 2010-11 school year. Single-gender classes are offered in kindergarten through 9th grade in urban, rural, and suburban districts across the state.
In 2009 educational analysts J. Rex and David Chadwell studied how single-gender classrooms were progressing in South Carolina. Their findings were jointly written by the State Superintendent of Education and the coordinator of single-gender programs at the South Carolina Department of Educations.
The following points summarize their findings:
- “Survey responses from students in single-gender classes point to their increased participation within class as well as their increased willingness to try new learning activities.”
- “Overall, South Carolina schools are reporting increased academic performance and decreased disciplinary issues for boys and girls in single-gender classes.”
- “Girls in single-gender classrooms [at Geiger Elementary School] increased their proficient/advanced level in reading from 19 percent to 42 percent.”
- A survey showed that “an overwhelming 76 percent of parents are satisfied with the implementation of the single-gender program at their school. More than two-thirds of the parents indicate they see increases in their child’s self-confidence, independence and self-efficacy.”
- Rex and Chadwell concluded that “educators in classrooms in South Carolina have been amazed by the impact of the single-gender programs.”
Additionally, David Chadwell, the coordinator for Single-Gender Initiatives for the South Carolina Department of Education, wrote on the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) website that:
“For the 2008-09 school year we received achievement and discipline data from a small sample of schools that hints at the potential benefit of single-gender classes.
In mathematics, 14 schools showed higher achievement for single-gender girls than coed girls, and in only 3 schools did coed girls achieve higher than their counterparts in single-gender classes. For boys, 13 schools showed higher achievement for single-gender than coed; 5 schools showed the reverse.
In reading and language arts, 14 schools indicated that single-gender girls outperformed coed girls; 3 schools indicated the reverse. For boys, 11 schools said that single-gender classes outperformed coed classes; 7 schools showed the reverse.
In the area of discipline, 7 of the 10 schools submitting data indicated that single-gender classes had a lower number of discipline referrals than coed classes.”
(ASCD is a global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading. Comprising 115,000 members—superintendents, principals, teachers, and advocates from more than 128 countries—the ASCD community also includes 51 affiliate organizations.)
Researcher F. Spielhagen interviewed (2006) 24 students from Hudson Valley Middle School in New York, whose students primarily come from low-income backgrounds.
Hudson Valley Middle School
The school offered voluntary single sex classes in “academic core subjects” to its 6th, 7th and 8th graders. In the first year of this reform, approximately 75% of the school’s students chose to take single-sex classes.
“The majority of students had positive feelings about single-sex classes, with 62% stating that they could focus better without the opposite sex present. In general, younger students were more likely to find being in a single-sex class a positive experience.”
Researcher K. Bradley evaluated (2009) the academic performance, discipline rate, and attendance in single-sex classes in a single-sex public elementary school in the Southeastern part of the United States. The sample consisted of 115 first and second grade children who were either in single-sex or coeducational classes.
“An analysis of the results showed that the mean maths improvements of single-sex female students was statistically significant, when compared to the coeducational maths improvement means; indicating a higher level of improvement for females in the single-sex classes.
Mean reading improvement of single-sex female classes was also statistically significant when compared to the coeducational reading improvement means; indicating a higher level of reading improvement for females in single-sex classes.”
A 2009 study by D. Scoggins examined the differences in academic achievement in literacy and maths between fifth grade students over a one year period in single sex classes and coeducational classes attending an elementary school in Arkansas.
For the one year period, “The single-sex girls’ class academic growth measured a 6.7% increase in maths and a 9.3% increase in literacy. The self-esteem and academic self-concept of students appeared to improve, especially for girls in the all girls’ class.”
In 2010 C. Olson conducted a study with fourth and fifth grade students at an elementary school in central Florida.
Olson’s results demonstrated that the students in single-gender classes outperformed students in co-educational classes on reading and maths standardized tests.
Olson concluded that “separating the genders into different classrooms allows educators to plan a curriculum that is tailored to meet the gender differences among the student population. Teachers are able to create classroom content that engages the students based on their interests, while meeting the required standards outlined by the state.
Teachers in this environment facilitate learning to build cognition without intimidation or teasing from the opposite sex that might occur in a coeducational environment.”
In closing, Ms. Baysura again reiterated that single-gender classrooms “always has the potential for debate. But it provides teachers, parents, and students more educational options and a unique opportunity to better meet the needs of children.
This something to explore again.”
Single-gender fourth grade boys in Foley, Alabama
Photograph by Michele Asselin for The New York Times