Single-gender classes back on the schedule at Lower Creek Elementary
It looked for a while like they would be canceled, but single-gender classes are back on the schedule for the 2013-14 academic year at Lower Creek Elementary School.
Libby Brown, community services director for the Caldwell County Schools, confirmed Thursday that the program would continue through the upcoming year.
Single-gender classes are offered to students of parents who prefer them at three schools in the county – Lower Creek, Hudson Elementary and Davenport A+ School. The program was at Lower Creek first and has been there for four years. Federal legislation in 2006 allowed single-gender classes if parents opted in. Schools offering the program also offer co-ed classes.
At Lower Creek, parents are typically surveyed each year to determine interest in the program, then invited to an interest meeting for more information, said Maleah Haas, the mother of a rising fifth-grader at Lower Creek.
This past May, a sheet went out to the parents of incoming fifth-graders, allowing them to indicate whether they wanted their child in a single-gender class. There was also space for them to write in questions or concerns about the program.
But no interest meeting was initially scheduled, Haas said, and principal Leigh Anne Frye told parents in early August there was not enough interest in the program for the 2013-14 year.
At that time, 24 girls and 13 boys were registered for single-gender classes, according to information obtained by Haas through a public records request. Eight parents of boys and five parents of girls had said “no” to the program. One parent of a boy did not indicate a preference.
Frye referred comment to Brown, who confirmed Aug. 9 that Frye’s decision was related to low interest in the program.
Several parents, including Haas, were upset by the decision and contacted Frye and several officials with the Caldwell County Schools, including superintendent Steve Stone and associate superintendent for educational program services Caryl Burns. Two parents, Haas and Derrick Maltba, signed up for public comment at the next board of education meeting.
Initially, some parents felt there hadn’t been enough information disseminated about the program – mainly because there was no information meeting, Haas said.
On Aug. 8, Frye scheduled an interest meeting, and then surveyed parents a third time. Time several parents changed their answers: Parents of 24 girls and 17 boys chose single-gender classes, and parents of 17 students chose co-ed classes.
Advocates point to studies saying that before age 20, males and females develop differently and are therefore more successful when they’re separated academically. Girls’ hearing is more acute than boys’, for example, and they are more affected by color.
Opponents say the courses are little more than veiled sexism, and that they increase gender stereotyping – usually to the detriment of girls.
Haas said allowing the courses is a matter of parent choice.
“It brings parents into the process more,” she said. “But above and beyond that, it just has so much scientific research behind it that for a majority, there’s enough gender differences that not every child can overcome those differences to learn in the same style.”