Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sessums Elementary becomes first SouthShore school to offer single-gender classes

The district looked at single-gender classes at Sessums because of increasing interest in single-gender magnet middle schools Franklin Boys Preparatory and Ferrell Girls Preparatory, above.

Marlene Sokol | Times

The district looked at single-gender classes at Sessums because of increasing interest in single-gender magnet middle schools Franklin Boys Preparatory and Ferrell Girls Preparatory, above.

RIVERVIEW — Kristen Burnett started researching the pros and cons of single-gender classes before she left the classroom four years ago.

She strongly considered teaching single-gender classes as she learned more about the approach and the new neurological research that identified learning differences between boys and girls.

Now Burnett will learn even more through the eyes of her daughter when Sessums Elementary becomes the first school in the SouthShore area to offer single-gender classes in 2014-15. The school will include one single-gender class for boys and one for girls in each grade.

"We're very pleased with the parental response," said principal Allison Norgard, who guided an interest meeting at the school March 27. "We still need to do some marketing, especially with our boys, but with teachers making recommendations, I'm confident we'll fill all the positions for boys and girls."

Norgard said she emphasized to parents that the choice for students depends on how they learn. Research indicates that some students have "boy" brains and some students have "girl" brains that process information differently. While the curriculum will be the same, how it will be taught will vary in the classes.

"We're very excited to be able to offer an additional choice within the public school setting," Norgard said. "Single gender is a choice. It's not right for every child."

After attending the meeting, Burnett signed up her 8-year-old daughter Ainsley for a third-grade single-gender class.

"My daughter fits the profile of the girl brain," Burnett said. "She's pretty intelligent and I think this will allow her to focus on her strengths and grow as a learner."

The rising interest among Sessums parents like Burnett doesn't come as a surprise to Carla Sparks, the district's supervisor of single-gender programs.

Sparks noted that the district looked at bringing single-gender classes to Sessums because of the increasing number of parents from Area 8, which encompasses much of the SouthShore area, expressing an interest in the county's two single-gender magnet middle schools: Franklin Boys Preparatory and Ferrell Girls Preparatory.

Both became the district's hallmark schools for its foray into single-gender education in 2011-12, but the district also has single-gender classes within 12 other traditional elementary, middle and high schools, including Schmidt Elementary in Brandon.

Sessums and Sheehy Elementary in East Tampa are among the schools that will add single-gender classes for the 2014-15 school year.

Sparks said statewide and nationally, the interest also continues to rise because of both empirical and anecdotal evidence of success.

"We are seeing less incidence of out of school suspension, higher rates of attendance among those students, greater academic success on FCAT, (other tests) and end-of-course exams," said Sparks, who testified this year before a legislative committee considering a bill that would create a statewide pilot program for single-gender classes.

Parents, students and teachers surveyed last year largely agreed that single-gender classes allow students to focus on academics with less distraction, she added.

Sparks credited two primary factors beyond simply separating boys and girls: understanding the scientific differences between the brains of girls and boys and incorporating specific character development code into the process.

While the expectations and benchmarks for single-gender students are the same as those for all students, the district trains single-gender teachers to incorporate scientific differences into their instructional delivery.

"It's not differences in the content, but the way we deliver the information to students," Sparks said.

Despite the success Hillsborough school districts appear to be enjoying, the debate over single-gender classes remains heated. A study released in February by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison concluded scant evidence exists that the single-gender approach yields positive benefits.

Other critics argue that boys and girls educated in separate classrooms promotes stereotypes and leaves the students socially unprepared for real world, integrated work places.

Burnett said her daughter can learn those social skills in other arenas.

"Many of her best friends are boys," Burnett said. "She's still going to interact with boys in the neighborhood and she's still going to have boys and men in her life. She can learn to function around them."

Although there's debate, the interest at Sessums and other district schools offering single-gender classes remains high.

Sparks said the classes at Sessums will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis and that waiting lists already exist at other schools with single-gender classes.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at hooper@tampabay.com.

. fast facts

Boys and Girls

Sessums and Sheehy Elementary are among the schools adding single-gender classes to its traditional classes for the 2014-15 school year. Along with Franklin Boys Preparatory and Ferrell Girls Preparatory, the county's single-gender magnet middle schools, these schools offer single-gender classes: Elementary — B.T. Washington, Forest Hills, James, Just, Lanier Robles, Schmidt, Shore and Woodbridge; High school — Blake.

Sessums Elementary becomes first SouthShore school to offer single-gender classes 04/02/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 3:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. What to watch this weekend: 'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'DuckTales' returns

    Blogs

    Boldly go: Star Trek: Discovery

    It's been more than 50 years since the original Star Trek premiered, but the new CBS series is set 10 years before Kirk and Spock. Star Trek: Discovery explores the war between the Federation and the Klingons while following the USS Discovery, an exploratory …

    Sonequa Martin-Green in Star Trek: Discovery on CBS.
  2. First lady Melania Trump heads to White House garden for planting, harvesting

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — Melania Trump is heading out to the White House garden to do some planting and harvesting.

    First lady Melania Trump picks peppers with a girl with the Boys and Girls Club of Washington in the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Washington. [Andrew Harnik | Associated Press]
  3. New aerial photos show Puerto Rico devastation; at least 6 dead in Hurricane Maria aftermath

    Hurricanes

    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — Early aerial images of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria here show waterlogged neighborhoods, roofs peeled off homes and shopping centers, and once-lush landscape …

    Aerial photo of flooding in the costal town of Loiza, on the north shore of Puerto Rico. [Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for the Washington Post]
  4. State rolls out food assistance program for residents affected by Hurricane Irma

    Hurricanes

    Help is on the way for Florida residents struggling to put food on the table after Hurricane Irma.

    The Salvation Army Mobile Food Pantry hlped out with free food in Largo after Hurricane Irma. Now, the federal government is expanding access to food for people affected by the storm. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  5. Kriseman proclaims Buy Local week in St. Pete to quicken storm recovery

    Blogs

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has proclaimed next week to be "'Burg Buy Local Week" in an appeal to residents to help small businesses struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman wants St. Pete residents to help small businesses recover from Hurricane Irma