Earlier this year, officials sent out surveys to students, parents, and teachers involved in single-gender classes to ask how the new style was affecting them. About 7,000 students, or 41 percent of those enrolled, responded. Most believed the program helped their classroom performance and their own self-confidence.
While admitting the results are not scientific, state Education Superintendent Jim Rex was pleased with the results. Rex has been a proponent of alternative approaches to public schooling and oversaw the single-gender programs put into place in 2007.
83 percent of middle-school students who responded said they thought the program increased their likelihood of finishing high school. 94 percent of their parents thought their children would be better prepared to graduate. 85 percent of teachers said they saw better effort from students.
The survey found that girls who responded were especially happy with single-gender classes. 79 percent of girls in middle or high school said they were more likely to have a positive self-image, versus 65 percent for boys.
Rex says the lack of the opposite sex makes students more comfortable in class.
For the parents and kids who choose it, it appears as if the majority of them feel that they’re getting more opportunities to interact, to achieve in class, and to participate more fully. I think that’s what’s leading to this increased level of self-confidence.
This is the third year of the surveys since single-gender classes first began in South Carolina. Rex says the largest jump across all categories this year was among African-American and Asian students who responded.
The number of single-gender schools in South Carolina has declined slightly and is currently at 125 statewide. Rex says he worries budget cuts may trim the number down even further.
I would not be surprised if we saw fewer choices being offered, whether it’s magnet schools, Montessori programs, public charter schools, or single-gender. I hope that doesn’t happen, but at some point you’re going to get cause-and-effect in terms of these cuts.
The state still leads the nation in the number of such schools, however.
Rex says the agency is working with the University of South Carolina and Wellesley College in Massachussetts to provide a more quantitative information– such as graduation rates and standard testing scores– than the voluntary surveys offer. However, Rex says that data will not be available for several more years, as students who went through the system reach graduation age.