By ROBERT LEE LONG
DeSoto Times Today
HERNANDO, Miss. (AP) - The students in Andi Harris's fifth-grade
class don't have to worry about where the boys are.
They know their male classmates are just down the hall, and
that's fine with them.
Andi and her classmates are part of a pilot project for
single-sex classes at Oak Grove Central Elementary School. Two
fifth-grade classes are participating - one for boys and one for
The pilot program is designed to improve test scores, based on
research that shows boys and girls learn more effectively if they
are enrolled in single-gender classes.
"You just don't get the distracting boys, and there is less
noise in the room," Andi said. "You can concentrate."
Walls Elementary, Chickasaw Elementary and Olive Branch
Elementary School also are experimenting with single-sex
Chickasaw Elementary has an all-girls' second-grade class. Olive
Branch Elementary has a boys' and girls' kindergarten class. DeSoto
Central Middle School was one of the first in the district to try
single-sex instruction in the sixth grade.
"It's fun because you get to be with all of your friends,"
said fifth-grade Oak Grove Central Elementary student Angelise
Hannah Weatherford, 10, was enjoying a painting lesson with her
"There's not any boys around to bother us," Hannah said.
"It's really messy when the boys are in the class."
Chickasaw Elementary second-grade teacher Amy Schultz said her
all-class puts an emphasis on the "all-girl."
"We hang feather boas from the ceiling and the girls get to be
a princess for a day," Schultz said. "It's our first year to do
this, and it's been a lot of fun."
The concept of single-sex classes in the upper grades was the
brainchild of Oak Grove Central Elementary School principal Janice
Barton said helping boys learn to succeed in the classroom was
the catalyst for Oak Grove Elementary's pilot project. She attended
a conference taught by noted educator Paul Slocum, author of "Boys
in Crisis: Hear Our Cry."
"The boys obviously needed something different," Barton said.
"I gathered all the research I could find. I learned how boys
respond and react."
Barton said research has shown that boys and girls have
different maturation rates and brain development. Girls' brains
develop faster than boys' brains, according to Dr. Leonard Sax, a
psychologist and family physician. He is the author of "Why Gender
Barton said research shows that girls tend to prefer quiet,
orderly classrooms but boys prefer more activity and louder voices.
"Yes, we're differentiating, but there is a need to do this,"
She said the program has become so popular there is a waiting
list. Barton emphasized the single-sex classes are voluntary.
"The parents who have signed off for their children to
participate are 100 percent for it," she said.