News / USA

Maryland Public School Experiments With Single-Sex Classes

Segregated groupings cater to the different learning styles of boys and girls

Multimedia

Audio

Teacher Michael Bair emphasizes teamwork, reading, writing, computer skills and public speaking in his 9th grade English class for boys.
Teacher Michael Bair emphasizes teamwork, reading, writing, computer skills and public speaking in his 9th grade English class for boys.

In public high schools across America, large classes containing a mix of both boys and girls are the norm. However, in a move that's drawing high marks from students, one public school in Maryland has decided to buck that tradition.

Class experiment

At Boonsboro High School in the small, rural town of the same name, an experiment in education is under way.

Although most classes have a mix of boys and girls at varied academic levels, high-achieving students in 9th and 10th grades are placed in single-sex classes for their core subjects of English, math, science and social studies.

"What we really want to do is take that top group of kids and take them to the very highest level they can achieve here so that they're prepared for college," says Rebecca Brown, a student achievement specialist at Boonsboro High. She selects the students who participate in what the school calls the Academy. "By keeping them together in the single-gender classes, they eliminate some of the distractions, if you will, that occur in a typical high school."

Incoming middle school students with high grades and test scores, strong teacher recommendations, and involvement in extracurricular activities are invited to join. But participation in the Academy program is optional, with parents having the final say.

"This is something we don't have to push. This is something people are interested in," says Peggy Pugh, principal of Boonsboro High. "We invite them. We'll have people call and ask questions and they have the right to say 'No, I don't think that's right for my child' or 'That's not an experience I want,' and there are other people who say 'Okay, that sounds like an interesting opportunity for my student.'"

For his 9th grade same-sex English class, teacher Michael Bair selects reading material that deals with the male experience.
For his 9th grade same-sex English class, teacher Michael Bair selects reading material that deals with the male experience.

Tailored teaching

Some 347 students have taken advantage of that opportunity since the Academy began in 2004. The program is run by Michael Bair, who's been at Boonsboro for 20 years and has taught single sex classes of both genders. His 9th grade English class for boys revolves around five books he believes will appeal to boys.

"The novels they're reading now, for lack of a better phrase, they're very manly novels," says Bair. "They're novels that deal with the arrogance of man and the pride of man which is ultimately man's downfall."

Boys in the class work together in small study groups. Vincent and Logan are drawing pictures that relate to the book "The Call of The Wild" by Jack London, the classic story of a dog stolen from his home and sold as a sled dog in the Klondike Gold Rush in northwestern Canada.

"Part of the story, the main character, Buck, he gets abducted and they send him off to the Yukon in a train," says Vincent. "So I'm drawing part of the story where he's in the train. It gets you to visualize the setting of the story and gets you to think more about what's going on in the story, the important events of the story."

Logan agrees. "Instead of just doing worksheets about it, this is a lot more fun."

Close by, two of their classmates are writing an essay together.

"We're each writing a sentence," explains one. "We're taking turns writing sentences for a paragraph to say the strengths and weaknesses of the stories."

Seniors Sarah Hull and Cody James are back in mixed classes after having completed the Academy single-sex class program.
Seniors Sarah Hull and Cody James are back in mixed classes after having completed the Academy single-sex class program.

Fewer distractions

Senior Morgan Van Fleet's Academy experience is behind her. She preferred the single-sex approach because she finds coed classes too distracting.

"People [boys and girls] just act differently when they're put together," says Morgan. "To me, it almost seems like it's hindering your chances at developing yourself because you're more focused on 'Oh I wish they'd shut up, oh what do they think of me' - instead of focusing on what's the homework or what's going on in this class, what's the lesson."

Her classmate, Sarah Hull, also liked the Academy program, and feels there's a difference in the learning styles of girls and boys.

"Boys are more hierarchal - like to talk out and show what they know," says Sarah. "But girls are more quiet and like to take things in before they actually voice their opinions."

Cody James, who took the all-boy classes, thinks a more diverse group of kids should be invited into the Academy program. "Maybe instead of just putting the top percentile in there, you should probably focus more on who you're putting in, because it just ends up such as in government with just one huge argument the whole class."

Academy students aren't completely segregated. Aside from taking non-core classes together, some also meet when the school day is over - to tutor students struggling with English, math or other subjects.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid