Some DeSoto schools try single-sex classes


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,"

Barton said.

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.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)