Video: Single-sex classrooms

By Martin Savidge Correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/25/2006 7:26:06 PM ET 2006-10-25T23:26:06

See Dick learning math. See Jane learning math. See the difference?

At Crossroads Middle School in Irmo, S.C., they definitely do. It's one of 241 public schools in the country offering single-sex classes for subjects like math, science, social studies and language arts. When the program started last year, 200 kids volunteered to try it. Grades shot up, while disciplinary problems fell.

"It's spectacular," says teacher Tara Safriet. "The kids are doing a great job with it."

Fifty-five percent of students in co-ed science classes got As or Bs, compared with an impressive 73 percent of students in the single-sex classes.

Dick liked it.

"I would be in a single gender [rather] than mixed, because it's easier," says sixth-grader Cameron Campos.

So did Jane.

"When you're in boys, like, if you say something wrong, you'll be laughed at," says sixth-grader Melanie Washington.

There was a time when it was common to teach boys and girls separately. Title IX changed that. Now, some fear, the new federal guidelines could trigger a partial return to the old days of inequality.

"If we find, as frankly we expect to find, girls are being short-changed, we will definitely take action," says Kim Bondy, president of the National Organization for Women.

Gonzales Middle School in Ascension Parish, La., northeast of New Orleans, started a single-sex program in 2005.  By the end of the year, there was little change in grades.

"We think the jury is still out," says Patrice Pujol, the assistant superintendent of Ascension Parish Schools. "The data that we collected last year shows mixed results."

But back in Irmo, S.C., they're sold on single-sex learning. When the option was offered this year, 900 Dicks and Janes out of 1,000 signed up to go their separate ways.

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