New Bill Hopes To Start Pilot Program For Same-Sex Classrooms

By: Andy Alcock; Matt Galka Email
By: Andy Alcock; Matt Galka Email
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Updated By: Matt Galka
March 26, 2014, 5pm

Kids learn to interact with members of the opposite sex at school, but a new proposal could change classrooms to same-sex.

Supporters of the single-gender classroom model say children can learn better without pressure from the opposite sex.

Reverend R.B. Holmes' Steele-Collins Charter middle school switched to boys only last year. He says the benefits are already apparent.

"We felt that, in the 21st century, we need to be very focused on helping young boys, and trying to help young gentlemen become men," said Rev. R.B. Homes, Steele-Collins Charter Middle School Founder.

A proposal moving through the House would take the same-sex classroom model to public schools.

Supporters of the single-gender classroom program say it's already working at charter schools like this one.

Representative Manny Diaz fielded questions from the House on his bill allowing parents to enroll kids into same-sex classrooms.

"We know that young girls and young boys develop at different paces; socially their interaction is different when they're in a blended classroom," said Rep. Manny Diaz, (R-Hialeah).

Not every member seemed convinced of the benefits.

"Isn't it an unrealistic combination of human beings not living and working every day with members of the opposite sex?" asked Rep. Elaine Scwartz, (R-Hollywood).

The bill would still have interaction between boys and girls during lunch, recess, and electives. Diaz says the idea stems from a visit to a Hillsborough County school that is trying the model out.

"The boys were more active when it came to art classes and things of that nature because they did not have the girls there, so there was no social pressure on them," said. Rep. Diaz.

The bill would leave the details of the program up to school districts. Schools would choose if teachers would also have to be the same gender as students.

The bill's sponsor hopes to secure funding to start a pilot program in the state for the program this year.

By: Andy Alcock

Tallahassee's Bond Elementary School is unique in the Leon County Schools system.

It's the only one to offer a single gender specific classroom.

A schools spokesman says after three years of the all boys classroom, test scores are up and behavior problems are down.

But Bond isn't alone in Florida.

"The greatest contributing factor is the focus of the students," said Carla Sparks of the Tampa area Hillsborough County Schools system. "Without the opposite sex, the focus is much greater on academics," she said.

Sparks told state house members the Hillsborough County system has 12 schools with gender specific classrooms.

They include one all boys and one all girls middle school.

Sparks says since that move was made, both urban schools improved two letter grades and saw in many instances double digit gains in the FCAT standardized test scores.

In one instance 8th grade boys passing the FCAT writing test rose by 31 percent.

"That I might say is an unheard level of gain," said Sparks.

"What I'm trying to do here is spread that idea across the state," said State Representative Manny Diaz of Hialeah.

Diaz has introduced a plan to create a pilot program for single gender classes statewide.

It passed a house committee by a unanimous vote.

"This is really designed for traditional public schools and to provide parents another choice," Diaz said.

Diaz's plan may also include training money for teachers.

We're told the all boys classroom is so popular at Bond, it's become competitive to get into it.

A spokesman for Broward County Schools in the Fort Lauderdale area also told committee members the single sex classrooms have shown great results.

Hillsborough Schools administrators also plan to offer the approach at a suburban "A" school.

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