By Anna Douglas  

MAY 20, 2010 9:47 a.m. Comments (0)

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After 22 years in education, Tammy Greer has seen all sorts of change, including one she never envisioned would be so popular: single-gender classrooms.

“I had never even heard of it when I started,” the Boiling Springs Intermediate principal said.

But, optional separate classrooms for boys and girls are well liked among many Spartanburg District Two parents, Greer said.

The district implemented the program two years ago, offering single-gender classes for fifth-graders only. Five school districts in Spartanburg County offer parents the option of single-gender classrooms for their children.

The first year at Boiling Springs Intermediate was a “huge success,” she said.   There were four single-gender classes, two girl and two boy classes.

This year, the interest from parents was even greater.

The school now has eight girl classrooms and six rooms just for boys.

Girl classrooms have brighter colors and are more cheerful, Greer said.  Reading material and writing assignments differ, too, in subject matter.

“The boys are really into sports and pirates,” she said.  “They don’t really want to write about their feelings as much.”

The situation is similar in Spartanburg District 5’s Beech Springs Intermediate School.

Principal Ginger Thompson said 50 percent of fifth-graders and 30 percent of sixth-graders in her school are enrolled in single-gender classes.

“We’ve had many positive comments from parents,” Thompson said.  “Children who are shyer and not wanting to participate as much seem to be more involved.  We’ve seen an increase in class discussions and a decline in discipline issues.”

Kim Hoover, a teacher at Beech Springs, teaches a single-gender class of boys.

“I see positives and negatives, as with anything,” Hoover said.  She said girls’ classes often are full of drama while boys have fewer behavior problems.

It is important parents always have the option of placing their child in a single-gender room because it’s not a program for every child, said Hoover, who’s been teaching for 19 years.

At Beech Springs, parents can choose to move their child to a co-ed classroom if they see single-gender education not working out, Hoover said.

Intermediate schools aren’t the ones offering the program.

Spartanburg District 5 also offers single-gender classes at the Byrnes Freshman Academy.

And, in Spartanburg District Seven, parents can opt to place their child in Park Hills Elementary’s single-gender program as early as fourth grade.

For three years, Park Hills Elementary has offered single-gender classes for students in fourth through sixth grade.  The program is so popular among parents that 98 percent of students are in single-gender classrooms, Pruitt said.

Because the school’s overall climate has improved, Pruitt predicts the program will continue to be offered.

“There’s a good bit of research to support (single-gender classrooms),” he said.  “Especially at the middle and elementary level, in terms of improving student achievement, this seems to be helping.”

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